Much has changed in aviation since the 1980s. There were many new planes, new routes and new cabins to discuss. But what about airline styles and uniforms? Qantas shared some memories with a look back at occupation uniforms and policies of the 1980s.

The 1980s Qanats uniform (shown here being used for a 2020 security video). Photo: Qantas

Strong colors for the 1980s

We like to take a look back at earlier days of aviation and nothing shows the change better than pictures of the crew and on-board service. Qantas took us back to the 1980s with a fascinating post on their website Roo Tales blogwho described their uniforms and approach to style in the mid-1980s.

This focuses on a new uniform that they launched in 1986. It was designed by Yves Saint Laurent and, according to Qantas, was “inspired by the bold colors and patterns that characterized the 1980s”. The same uniform remained in use until 1994.

It offers dresses with bold color patterns (mostly kangaroo images in red, blue and yellow), along with stylish blue jackets with terracotta and yellow cuffs, scarves and other accessories.

Qantas in the style of the cabin crew in the 80sQantas uniform from the 1980s. Photo: Qantas

With accompanying style guide

Perhaps more interesting in Qantas’ memories is the style guide that was given out to the crew with the new uniform. This tells staff how to do their hair and makeup, and what exactly to wear, with what appear to be pretty strict guidelines.

Qantas style guide 1980sHairstyling is explained in the Qantas guide. Photo: Qantas Newsroom Roo Tales

Women should follow the rules to keep their perm in order, and men shouldn’t have sideburns. Nail polish should either be neutral or match the terracotta trim on the uniform. And shades of makeup that clash with the uniform should be avoided (in eye makeup, these are purple, fuchsia, purple, and green).

And of course the entire crew should avoid “garlic or other spicy foods”. But as a great reminder of how things have changed Smoking on board was fine as long as it was in the crew rest areas and out of sight of the passengers.

Qantas style guideAn excerpt from the Qantas style guide from the 1980s. Photo: Qantas Newsroom Roo Tales

Back even earlier

Why stop with the 1980s? Uniforms and image have been an important part of aviation since its inception. A look back at the styles of Qantas shows how things have changed.

In the 1930s, the earliest image of Qantas uniforms we can find shows a pilot in an elegant fawn suit (and shorts). In the 1950s, the time of the first transpacific flights from Qantas with the Boeing 707Her crew wears chic dark suits and simple dresses. For more information on the history of Qantas, see our previous story.

Qantas historical uniformsQantas 1935 pilot uniform. Photo: Qantas
Qantas 1959 uniformQantas 1959 uniform for the 707 Trans-Pacific Service. Photo: Qantas

A bit of spice from the 1960s. In 1964 we see the crew wearing more colorful outfits. And by the 1970s, there were a number of uniforms with floral patterns and flashy red, green, and yellow jackets. These would have been great back then, but maybe it would be best if they were replaced with the new 1986 Yves Saint Laurent style!

Qantas historical occupation uniformQantas uniform from 1964. Photo: Qantas
Qantas uniform 1970sQantas uniform styles in the 1970s. Photo: Qantas

If this review of Qantas uniforms got you interested, take a look at this article for some more historical uniforms from other airlines.

Feel free to share your thoughts on these period uniforms in the comments. Do you know any other great airline styles from the 1970s or 1980s?