Bairbre Power: Aer Lingus female crew can now fly by the seat of their pants
Aer Lingus gives trouser option to female crew in its first new uniform design in 22 years
Aer Lingus crew will today start collecting their new uniforms that go into service on February 10 with one significant addition - trousers for the ladies.
The Irish company is the latest international airline to drop the 'skirt only' rule for female staff. According to Louise Kennedy, designer of the new-look tailored uniform which boasts another 24 new pieces, it is very timely and says "in 2020, they should in be in trousers".
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This is the 11th uniform for Aer Lingus crews and the second one designed by Thurles-born Ms Kennedy. Her last one certainly earned its wings, lasting for 22 years.
The keenly awaited trousers are navy and smartly tailored with a slim fit leg featuring a pin-stitch detail down the front. The modern shape is flattering, with a zip front and no pockets, worn with a neat belt. The fabric used is a blend with elastane for extra stretch and polyester to reduce creasing.
They were revealed with a catwalk show featuring cabin and ground staff, and the reaction to the 'no skirt' rule was positive to say the least.
While she didn't wave goodbye to the iconic green associated with the airline, Ms Kennedy introduced a 'Kenmare green'. Brighter than the current teal, the new shade was used for a skirt and a collarless jacket with concealed buttons and bracelet-length sleeve with braid trim.
However, the biggest change in the new uniform is the widespread use of a 'midnight' navy which, for the ladies, features in trousers, coat and also a dress, which was high on the list of staff requests.
There were consultative workshops with staff on what they wanted, and the styles were road-tested to see how they performed in different climates such as hot Miami and colder Chicago.
In addition to the clothing, there are three new styles of shoes for the females, with a ballet-style flat and the same patent-toe style also comes in two different heel heights.
The new female uniform will be manufactured in sizes eight to 26 and the jacket sizes for men will be 34 to 50.
The uniform includes new jacket and coat designs for male crew and easy-care shirts and blouses for the convenience of all crew. Pilots will be getting a new uniform by year end or early next year.
"I spent more time in galleys listening to crews on what they wanted," said Ms Kennedy.
The attention to detail included walking with crew from their cars to the terminal "in order to see what would be required from their coat in wet weather and how deep the hood should be".
The shower-proof coat features distinctive stab stitching on the collar and a quilted lining that buttons off. Touches of Ms Kennedy's signature handwriting from her own brand pop up like the cut outs on the necklines of the navy top. A handbag with its part-chain strap found its origins in the shape of her 'Kennedy' leather handbags.
"I was passionate about this project and I fly with Aer Lingus every week. We approached it like it was one of our own capsule collections. The pieces can be paired as you wish but at the end of the day, we had to make sure the crew would all look like members of Aer Lingus."
The tender for the uniform project was won by Cepovett, a French company that specialises in airline uniforms and looked after its manufacture in various countries.
The first Aer Lingus uniform designed by Sybil Connolly was brown. It switched to green in 1948 and Ms Kennedy follows in the footsteps of designers Irene Gilbert, Neillí Mulcahy, Digby Morton, Ib Jorgensen and Paul Costelloe.