Monday, 25 November 2013

Uniforms I Have Known

I recently asked Curtise about her new job, whether she would have to wear a uniform etc. and this got me thinking about all the uniforms I have worn over the past ...ahem, thirty years.  Regular readers may know that I've worked at Gatwick Airport doing one thing or another, nearly all of my working life...would you like to see what I was wearing?
 If so, please sit back,relax and enjoy the picture heavy ride.

My first uniform was Air Europe's where I worked as a 'Cabin Attendant'. Here I am as green as they come in 1984, aged 21.

This was a high quality uniform - Aquascutum no less! And after take-off we wore a grey pinny to ensure it stayed clean... disposing of sick bags was a regular chore.

Make up regs were very strict - foundation, blusher and toning lipstick were the order of the day.  At Air Europe all cabin crew were made to retire at the ripe old age of 36 as they were considered too long in the tooth to continue! WTF?   

A year later I found myself working for a smaller airline - British Island Airways and compared to Air Europe their uniform felt very drab indeed.

Hostie or Private Eye ?

  Brown shoes were virtually impossible to find in the 80's (apart from Van Dal!) and almost always I had to buy a different colour and dye them.

After a couple of years we got a new uniform which was very of it's day. In summer, a shirtwaister dress with shoulder pads and detachable neck bow and in winter a skirt and boxy jacket.I was glad to see the back of that Stetson when a new style hat was issued too.

"...your lifejacket is equipped with a light and a whistle"

I had a lot of fun at BIA where I learnt to schmooze with the Flight Deck crew....

and post flight, drink copious amounts of alcohol whilst counting the bar takings.....hic.

By 1989 things were looking dodgy at BIA so I jumped ship to Caledonian Airways.

Here I am (front row) after receiving my 'wings'

The tartan uniform was very recognizable after a certain TV advert and was made by Kinloch Anderson; kiltmakers to Her Maj and the royal family. Being 100% wool it wasn't half sweaty arriving in Barbados!

'Cally' was a much larger airline and for the first time I was flying on wide-bodied aircraft to long haul destinations.  Uniform regs were exceedingly stringent. 
 'Short hair must not touch the collar, ponytails must be no longer than 10" and tied back with a black velvet ribbon 1" wide.  Earrings must be gold or pearl studs only'

At our initial interview we were weighed and once 'on the line',  monitored.  Anyone seen to have put on weight was called into the office, put on the 'fat list', grounded and instructed to diet....  it seems utterly unbelievable nowadays.  The largest sized uniform was a 16, I wore a size 10 but was still told by the old bat who ran uniform stores " you can't afford to put any weight on those thighs" 

After a long haul flight we let off steam at room parties in the crew hotel and many a drunken shenanigan took place.

I could tell you lots of stories about what happened to rude passengers....but I don't want to put you off your tea!

Over the years I worked my way up through the ranks from 
No.2 (not the most pleasant job title) responsible for the on-board bars...

to Cabin Service Co-ordinator, leading a crew of eleven on an aircraft configured to seat 393 passengers.  After promotion to the most senior rank I had the dubious honour of wearing a plain navy jacket and my jabot was now edged with lace!

The millenium was a milestone in more ways than one, it marked the end of my flying career. In Sept 1999 I was informed that my rank was being discontinued and that I could continue with the company as a Purser or take voluntary redundancy, I chose the latter.
Fast forward 14 years and in that time I have held positions as a check-in agent,

 Flight Despatcher - the most unglamorous uniform of all
(hi viz, ear defenders and hobnail boots!) 

 and .  Here's my latest uniform,

Have you worn a uniform?   Would you like to wear a uniform to be rid of those "what shall I wear" hassles or do you hate to be indistinguishable from the rest?

See you soon.


  1. I think that the "private eye" one is the most fun! My uniform is jeans and jumper in the winter and cotton trousers and a tee shirt in summer - it is great to be based at home!! Different of course when I am out and about. xx

  2. O, Fiona, these pix are gold! Love 'em!!!
    You've had some pretty sad uniforms, but I LOVE the Caledonian Airways one, it totally rocks! Especially when you got promoted to a JABOT! Swoony!
    They didn't half have a pile of stuffy regulations, though. Hope that's improved! XXX

  3. I loved your post and the great photod. Can't say the same for most of the uniforms! We fly United and are always amused by the "gracious elderly ladies" who serve us but can't manage to shut the luggage bins anymore. Linda@Wetcreek Blog

  4. I loved this! you have always been such a glamourpuss despite some of the dodgy uniforms (looked like Princess Di had designed most of them!)
    Tartan wool in the Caribbean! Madness!
    I remember the being weighed bit from Pan-Am tv series. Bet the pilots didn't have to suffer such indignity.
    That turquoise cardi, pencil skirt and purple blouse is horrendous!
    I hated wearing a uniform. The morning suit with dickie bow was slightly more bearable than the navy and pink checked thigh length collarless jacket and pencil skirt. I felt it robbed me of my personality.

  5. What a brilliant post, Fiona, I'm so glad you unearthed all your photos! Vix is right, you have always been drop dead glam, and it would take more than a dodgy brown 80s uniform to hide how great you look! The drunken shenanigans are surely deserved after wearing tartan to Barbados, and enduring rude and/or vomiting passengers; the fallen-down-the-side-of-the-bed pic is priceless!
    The whole weight thing, and being "retired" at 36 is shameful, and the strict rules and regulations are so, so petty and pointless.
    Yeah, not really loving the new Gatwick uniform - the plain grey dress is dull but OK-ish, but the bloke's shirt and the woman's blouse/cardi/pencil skirt combo are shocking!
    I wore a uniform at school, and when I worked as an Occupational Therapist in physical health settings (but not in mental health - an interesting distinction), but that's all. I'm happier not wearing one and doing my own thing, although I do appreciate that dressing appropriately in some environments is important. There are often unwritten, unofficial dress codes at work, aren't there, even if there are no clear rules and regs, as at Debenhams. Speaking of which - need to sort out what I'm wearing later, I'm on a late shift tonight! xxxx

  6. Can you even believe that rules like that were once considered ok?!!! I love putting clothes together in different ways and uniforms just ruin the fun but I can see the point of them as a way to identify staff. Vicky x

  7. This is such a great post. I've so enjoyed seeing all your photos and hearing your story. My favourite has to be you in the kilt with the upside down bed practically licking the bedside table. Is that the look you are trying to recreate with that one you bought from Cow vintage? xxx

  8. What a great post Fiona. I really enjoyed reading about your career & the photos are great. How times change eh? I once watched a tv show where retired femail cabin crew talked about what it was like "back in the old days" & the tough rules & regulations that used to be in place. I was amazed how strict they were.
    Sally x

  9. I love the tartan but yes not exactly practical for hot countries, I can't say I think much of the new Gatwick stuff......

    I've never had to wear a uniform other than having to wear steelies every day they left us to it.

  10. loved this Fiona,such an impressive array of uniforms! Like a bit of tartan myself, but can imagine it wasn't all that practical, though you do look great in it. Can't get over the 'fat list' and the other eyebrow raising rules - seem incredibly antiquated now, but wasn't so long ago really.
    I've never worn a uniform for work, but obviously married to someone who does, and boy, is there a lot of it. Luckily he can keep some where he stays during the week, because don't think we'd have the room for it all here! x

  11. What a fabulous post, Fiona - really enjoyed reading it. Happy memories, I'm sure.

  12. This was such a great read Fiona! Oh my, those tartan uniforms were a shocker! I love the dress in the latest uniform but the other outfits?! Was the designer on drugs? I never wore a uniform as a nanny but we had them whilst we trained and they were GROSS. A wide nurses dress with huge pointy collars and a zip front and a cheerful tabard over that. xx

  13. What a fantastic post ! Air Europe was the first ever airline I flew on boy that takes me back. I have to say you look fabulous in all of the photos despite the uniforms . The private eye one is a cracker great posing there. I do however love the down the side of the bed one you still managed to look fantastic on that !


  14. OMG you took me back to my flying days....too many years ago to talk about here :) I had 8 years worth of uniforms...thankfully starting after the terrible Gold/Black though we also had some horrid hats!!!!
    I laughed myself silly over the standard for earings....ours was the same gold studs or pearls.....no hoops and no diamonds!!!!! Ponytails were not allowed at first but they did eventually make the can do list!!!
    I've got some of those crew room photo's too......We used to make up the best cocktails using carry off plastic bags as containers....shh don't tell customs!

  15. love those pictures! Werent times different then, you can't believe employers would get away with those things these days!
    I wear a uniform to work, well a tunic which is provided then our own shoes and trousers but they must be black, in care work its a good thing!
    When I do my private care job I don't have a uniform, some people who employ private carers like them to wear uniforms as it make them look more 'nursey' and then others don't like a uniform as then they are seen more as a 'PA' or a friend than a carer, it depends on the individual.
    At the Flagship place though I think its important to set ground rules. You wouldn't believe that people would turn up to help someone have a shower in flip flops!!

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  17. Hi Fiona....you probably don't remember me...it's David...we joined KT in the same year back in 1989.
    Gosh, this brings back memories...there you are with (I think) Andrew on the right, after receiving your wings. Recognize so many faces but can't remember the names unfortunately. I wasn't with KT for long. After meeting a Dutch girl in CAI (using the KT ticket they gave me when I left!), I decided after a brief stint with EK (again, cabin crew) just before the first Gulf war, to emigrate in 1991 to the NL. Never flew again but worked for GF (res), UA (res), MH (traffic) and US (sales) at AMS CTO's and at SPL. Then left aviation behind in 2005 and now run a holiday home here in the far north of the NL with same Dutch girl and two teenage daughters. I often wonder where everyone is now...see that BCAL have a staff website but nothing set up for KT!

    1. Hello David
      Lovely to hear from you but without a surname... difficult to remember! Yes that is Andrew in the photo next to me. I still see a few people from KT at LGW and keep in touch with several, there was a reunion about four years ago and it was great to see so many old faces. I am not on fb but I believe there is a KT facebook page. Feel free to email me.


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