PIA style through the years

Slogan - - COVER STORY - By Sarah Fahim

PIA has been the na­tional car­rier for more than six decades. The at­tire of the PIA cabin crew from its ear­li­est years has moved through nu­mer­ous stages of style.

The uni­forms of the PIA crew ini­tially con­formed to west­ern trends. PIA air hostesses and male flight at­ten­dants had no cul­tural distinc­tion in those days ex­cept the colour green. The fe­males wore be­low-theknee skirts and white blouses with a cap. The male ste­wards wore con­ven­tional male suit­ing. To the pas­sen­ger, they were crew who dressed up like the cabin staff of any other air­line. Th­ese were times when cabin crew in other air­lines, es­pe­cially some Euro­pean car­ri­ers like Air France, had al­ready caught the fancy of fash­ion de­sign­ers.

Grad­u­ally, em­i­nent names of the fash­ion world be­gan to be pa­tron­ized as de­sign­ers of cabin crew out­fits by PIA as well. Laila Shahzada, a Pak­istani designer and Chausie For­taignelle, an Amer­i­can woman of French ori­gin, who was also a cabin crew trainer at PIA, pre­sented the first set of PIA uni­forms for the flight at­ten­dants in 1956. The cloth­ing fea­tured gray tweed jack­ets, a shirt, blouse and a match­ing cap for both males and fe­males. The de­signs by Laila and Chausie were worn by the crew un­til 1960.

PIA peo­ple took pride in the dig­nity th­ese uni­forms man­i­fested, es­pe­cially the cul­tural edge. PIA was also the first re­gional air­line to in­cor­po­rate lo­cal and na­tional el­e­ments in their crew out­fits. This trend was sub­se­quently fol­lowed by Air In­dia, Bri­tish Over- seas Air­way Cor­po­ra­tion (BOAC), Malaysian Air­lines and Sin­ga­pore Air­lines.

PIA stew­ardess Naseem Feroz was cho­sen to model for PIA’s cul­tur­ally ori­ented uni­forms. In her in­ter­view with Chausie For­taignelle, Naseem openly ex­pressed her reser­va­tion for west­ern­ized uni­forms and short hair. She said:

“I showed my deep reser­va­tion to both of th­ese de­mands, although Ms. Chausie did men­tion that PIA was in the process of designing a new uni­form. A cou­ple of days later, a let­ter of ac­cep­tance ar­rived from PIA, de­spite my re­fusal to give in to the de­mand of short­en­ing the hair and wear­ing a west­ern out­fit.

“I was cho­sen to be the model for the new PIA uni­form. This com­prised a green tu­nic, green hat, white shal­war and du­patta, black shoes and a purse. PIA was the first air­line in the world to in­cor­po­rate lo­cal at­tire as its uni­form. At all the in­ter­na­tional air­ports, where PIA op­er­ated, the ’PIA Girl’ stood out. They were the real brand am­bas­sadors for the coun-

try and PIA.”

From 1960 to 1966, Feroze Cowasji’s de­signs fur­ther por­trayed cul­tural vi­brancy in PIA uni­forms. The world-renowned French designer, Pierre Cardin was asked to present his de­signs in 1966. He was cho­sen from a com­pe­ti­tion and it was ev­i­dent how the air­line of a de­vel­op­ing coun­try did not mind spend­ing ex­ten­sively on the crew out­fits of the na­tional car­rier that car­ried the Pak­istan flag around the world.

Cardin chose fawn for the sum­mer and moss green for win­ter for the PIA fly­ing crew. This con­nected very well with the sea­sonal essence and was the haute cou­ture of cabin crew dresses in those days. The short and con­ve­niently fit­ting ‘Aline’ tu­nics and slim, cig­a­rette trousers of PIA quickly gained pop­u­lar­ity around the world. A folded du­patta com­ple­mented the uni­form while the trousers be­came known as ‘PIA Py­ja­mas’.

The py­ja­mas are fa­mous even to­day. The short hem­line of the tu­nics and cuts gave a mod­ern­ized flavour to the cul­tur­ally pe­cu­liar Pak­istani shal­war kameez. Cardin’s chic uni­form de­signs re­de­fined the man­ner in which so­phis­ti­ca­tion could be in­cor­po­rated in prac­ti­cal air­line out­fits.

Fol­low­ing Pierre Cardin, the Bri­tish fash­ion designer Sir Hardy Amies added an­other novel flavour to PIA clothes. He was known to have de­signed for Queen El­iz­a­beth. He lent his ser­vices to PIA from 1975 to 1986 by amal­ga­mat­ing the pur­ple and ma­genta fronts in the fe­male at­tire with green shal­wars and printed flo­ral du­pat

tas. Ac­ces­sorized by black bags and soft, leather san­dals, the at­tire was a com­plete pre­sen­ta­tion of trends and fads that could have eas­ily been in­cor­po­rated in a con­tem­po­rary fash­ion de­sign ex­er­cise.

Na­heed Az­far de­signed for PIA crew from 1986 to 2003. Her fash­ion en­sem­ble com­prised moss green, light pink and gold rose tinges for the sum­mers and PIA green and bur­gundy for win­ters. She was asked not to use red tones, kur­tas and tightly fit­ted out­fits as Gen­eral Zia ul Haq would not put up with such lib­er­ties.

The de­sign­ers kept the com­fort of a work­ing woman in mind as her work hours stretched be­yond the or­di­nary. With wide painchaas and striped du­pat­tas, the de- signs were cer­tainly not a state­ment in eth­nic­ity. The at­tire used by PIA cabin crew un­til 2014 was re­designed by Rif­fat Yas­min. It was based on a mus­tard, sea­green and rust shal­war kameez with printed flo­ral pat­terned du­pat­tas adding a con­tem­po­rary touch.

PIA uni­forms haven’t been up­graded in over a decade now and the tones and cuts have be­come com­mon to the ex­tent that there is not much distinc­tion left be­tween a fe­male pas­sen­ger’s at­tire and that of a PIA air host­ess. As such, there has been a de­mand for fresh, un­con­ven­tional and up-to-date cuts that would give in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­ity to the at­tire of the air­line’s cabin staff who are ex­pected to rep­re­sent cul­tural chic, style and grace.

There is also an ef­fort at the top level in PIA to in­fuse a new, self-mo­ti­va­tional spirit in the crew which would trans­late into their tak­ing pride in their jobs and pass­ing on the car­maderie, cour­tesy and friend­li­ness to the trav­el­ling public. It is be­ing hoped that a freshly de­signed dress of the cabin crew (which would also trickle down to the ground staff) would do the trick!

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