Celebrating 50 years: Bill Blass designed American Airlines uniforms

This March marks 50 years since American Airlines selected Bill Blass, one of the nation’s most widely acclaimed fashion designers at the time, to design an elevated flight attendant wardrobe.

In the 1970s airlines were regulated by the government. To differentiate their offerings, airlines focused on highlighting the physical elements that made up their brand. Part of this included what flight attendants wore – they were and still are the human manifestation of the brand.

Across the industry, world-renowned designers were recruited to design uniforms that would stand out.

“Mr. Blass has earned world renown for his casual, functional approach in creating exciting fashions… he will bring this excitement to American Airlines,” Kenneth L. Meinen, American’s vice president of passenger service said in a press release in 1972.

The Bill Blass uniforms would be used by flight attendants from 1974-80. American selected a handful of flight attendants to participate in photoshoots to showcase the wardrobe. Armie Snarley, an American Airlines flight attendant at the time, was thrilled when she got the call to join in.

“They flew us to several bases to take photographs, including San Francisco, New York and [Washington], D.C.,” Armie said. “Those uniforms lifted our morale. They showed the company wanted us to feel good. And when you feel good, you do good.”

Armie had a 38-year career with American and her picture is displayed in the Museum along with the Bill Blass uniforms.