Catwalk in the Clouds | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 18.02.2002
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Catwalk in the Clouds

Fasten your seatbelts – Lufthansa's stewardesses are walking the aisle in new, more feminine, uniforms.


Pret-a-Porter á la Lufthansa

Lufthansa’s stewardesses have stepped out in style, debuting new, sleeker uniforms designed by a leading German fashion designer, Gabriele Strehle.

With trousers both flared and straight, skirts up to mini and down to knee-length, after 13 years of mere minor concessions to major fashion trends, Lufthansa’s uniforms have now seen a complete overhaul, from style and sizes to materials and designs.

600 000 metres of specially-made cloth were cut up to make 490 000 garments for 25 000 Lufthansa employees, including pilots, stewardesses and check-in staff, who are to be clothed with the new outfits in the coming months.

No revolution

Fashion designer Gabriele Strehle set about revamping employees’ rather stuffy suits in 1999 – after an international competition was launched to find a designer.

Strehle worked on the outfits using the motto "evolution instead of revolution" – retaining traditional colours and elements with a novel "feminine style" and new items such as an elegant summer dress, said Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Sattelberger.

Strehle’s more "feminine style" includes, dark-blue, figure-hugging jackets, slim-cut trousers and the retro-style classic pill-box hat. But her plans and ideas were limited right from the start – an aspect which is clearly reflected in the new uniform collection.

Due to fire prevention regulations that emphasize the use of natural fibres, there was little room for improvement in the materials themselves. But the textiles also had to be abrasion resistent, especially the trousers and skirts, which undergo heavier washing than jackets, without being too stiff and dull.

The materials Strehle came up with were subjected to months of testing to ensure that the employees new uniform would stand the test.

The new uniform includes trench coats with detachable linings, dresses with zips behind the buttons to prevent nosy guests taking the odd peek through openings and trousers without side pockets to prevent ugly bulges and superfluous creases. The collection is topped by a series of accessoires, such as the pill box hat that was worn in the 60s when being a stewardess was a dream job for many women.

All items have generous side seams to allow for swollen limbs and an inconspicuous adjustment mechanism in the trousers and skirts allows the wearer to loosen up on long-haul flights.

Prior to the official overhaul, 200 Lufthansa employees were fitted with uniforms in the basic design, in order to test the new outfits in everyday life.

One of the main problems uniform wearers have faced – standard cuts that made for poor fits - was solved by the designers by introducing several ranges of outfits: Classic skirts for those with curvy hips and wrap-around models for the slim-hipped, trousers come in both pleated, wider cuts and straight cut starting below the waistline – following the current trend in women’s trouser cuts.

Upcoming military-style

Is Lufthansa following or setting a trend? According to the fashion projects’ manager Oliver Lucas, the trend in the Lufthansa outfits lies in the "balance between design, functionality and economy". For Lucas, the chosen material, which is comfortable, wearable and looks good, is the best example.

Indeed, the uniform look appears to be all the rage in this spring’s collections, a trend which can be seen in the collections of Prada, Donna Karan – and more affordable retailers such as the chain store H&M.

But the more feminine style does not neccessarily mean Lufthansa’s stewardesses are now all the more sexy.

Spokesman Thomas Sattelberger compares the uniforms to the company’s business cards – cards which stand for seriousness, sympathy, service and style. Not for sex.

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