A Look At The Style Of 1980s Qantas Employees

A lot has changed in aviation since the 1980s. There have been plenty of new aircraft, new routes and new cabins to talk about. But what about airline styles and uniforms? Qantas shared some memories, with a look back to its 1980s crew uniforms and guidelines.

Qantas 1980s cabin crew style
The Qanats uniform from the 1980s (shown here being used for a 2020 safety video). Photo: Qantas

Bold colors for the 1980s

We love taking a look back at earlier days of aviation, and nothing shows the changing times better than images of the crew and onboard service. Qantas took us back to the 1980s with a fascinating post on their Roo Tales blog, describing their uniforms and attitudes to style back in the mid-1980s.

This focuses on a new uniform they launched in 1986. It was designed by Yves Saint Laurent and, according to Qantas, was “inspired by the bold colors and patterns that defined the 1980s.” The same uniform remained in use until 1994.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

It features dresses with bold colored patterns (mostly Kangaroo images in red, blue, and yellow), along with stylish blue jackets with terracotta and yellow cuffs, scarves, and other accessories.

Qantas 1980s cabin crew style
Qantas 1980s uniform. Photo: Qantas

With accompanying guide to style

Perhaps more interesting in Qantas’ recollections is the style guide that was issued to crew alongside the new uniform. This tells staff how to do their hair and makeup, and exactly what can be worn, with seemingly quite strict guidelines.

Qantas style guide 1980s
Hairstyling is explained in Qantas’ guide. Photo: Qantas Newsroom Roo Tales

Women should follow the rules for keeping their perm in order, and men should not have sideburns. Nail polish should either be neutral or match the terracotta trim on the uniform. And shades of makeup that clash with the uniform should be avoided (for eye make-up this includes violet, fuchsia, purple and green).

And of course, all crew should avoid “garlic or other pungent foods.” But, as a great reminder of how things have changed, smoking onboard was fine as long as it was in crew rest areas and not in view of passengers.

Qantas style guide
An extract from the 1980s Qantas style guide. Photo: Qantas Newsroom Roo Tales

Going back even earlier

Why stop with the 1980s? Uniforms and image have been an important part of aviation since its early days. Looking back through Qantas’ styles shows how things have changed.

Back in the 1930s, the earliest image of Qantas uniforms we can find shows a pilot with smart fawn suit (and shorts). By the 1950s, the time of Qantas’ first transpacific flights with the Boeing 707, crew are wearing smart dark suits and plain dresses. For more on the history of Qantas, see our previous story.

Qantas historical uniforms
Qantas 1935 pilot uniform. Photo: Qantas
Qantas 1959 uniform
Qantas 1959 uniform for the 707 transpacific service. Photo: Qantas

Things spice up a bit from the 1960s. By 1964 we see crew wearing more colorful outfits. And throughout the 1970s there is a range of uniforms, with floral patterns and striking red, green and yellow jackets. These would have been great at the time, but maybe it is best there were replaced with the new 1986 Yves Saint Laurent style!

Qantas historical crew uniform
Qantas uniform from 1964. Photo: Qantas
Qantas uniform 1970s
Qantas uniform styles in the 1970s. Photo: Qantas

If this look back at Qantas uniforms has interested you, take a look at this article for some more historic uniforms from other airlines.

Feel free to share your thoughts on these historic uniforms in the comments. Do you know of any other great 1970s or 1980s airline styles?