The 'Singapore Girl' and Pierre Balmain

1970s 'Singapore Girls', via
Flying out from Heathrow Airport with Singapore Airlines, we heard an announcement that there were suites on our flight. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘You must be really fancy to have a suite!’ Then ahead of us, we saw the most amazing looking woman. An exquisitely beautiful Asian lady in a blue, flower-patterned long skirt and top, her hair in a glossy, flawless chignon.

“I bet she’s got a suite,” I said to the Mr, “A lady like that can’t possibly be flying economy.”

When we got to our gate, she was not alone. There was a whole gang of identically-dressed women, plus a couple in red and green versions of the same outfit. What could it be? The world’s most elegant finishing school on an outing? The International League of Hotness on tour? Actually, it was the cabin crew for our flight.

Back in 1968, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, the airline that split to become Malaysian Airline System and today’s Singapore Airlines, got Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain to design the uniforms for its female cabin crew. He came up with a slinky, yet covering, batik outfit based on the traditional sarong kebaya. The airline has its staff's uniforms individually fitted every six months to ensure an immaculate fit, and employs grooming consultants to help staff pick the ideal makeup for their colouring. I'm guessing that they also teach the staff how to do their hair, as while the adverts often show ladies with their hair down, all the ones I saw had either bobs or perfect updos.

Other airlines may have changed their uniforms over the decades, but I can see why Singapore Airlines has stuck with the sarong kebaya: it’s elegant and lovely and somehow timeless. I suppose its simplicity of line owes a lot to the 1960s as well as tradition; the uniform is devoid of pointless frippery, while the classic batik pattern hasn’t aged the way many prints would have done.

The ‘Singapore Girl’ became quite an icon in the late 1960s and 1970s, and when you’ve seen the cabin crew, it’s easy to understand why.

On the way back to England, our flight to Heathrow was diverted to Manchester because of a storm, so it took about five hours longer than expected. They must have been very tired, but our cabin crew remained elegant and helpful to the end - a real credit to the airline that employs them.


  1. I entirely agree. They are the most elegant flight attendants in the sky; their uniforms only enhance their natural demeanour. They are simply beautiful.

  2. This is my 'you learn something new every day' for today!

  3. I flew Singapore airlines in 2005 for a flight from NYC to Frankfurt. It was awesome! The flights attendants (a pretty equal mix of men and women) were so helpful and super cool. I even remember having a conversation with one of them when I got up to move around; I always get up and talk to flight attendants on long-haul flights. Sometimes, they have the best stories.


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