Marking more than 70 years in the aviation industry, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has seen a multitude of eras that defined its rich heritage and achievements over the decades. Be it lore or reality, the airline synonymous with the nation’s burgeoning growth has always been a beacon of hope and has truly carved its own niche within the popular visual culture of Pakistan.
A part of this induction into Pakistan’s visual culture is also due to the many stylings of the uniforms the air hostesses and stewards of the airline have worn over the years, making PIA a breathing example of the ingenuity of Pakistan’s craft culture that perfectly coalesces the traditional and modern into one.
Exploring such looks through the decades, Edition looks at the fashionable pieces that have defined PIA…
1954 – 1956 – The Roots
Playing to the international market of the time, the first uniform comprised a skirt, jacket, blouse with a matching cap, which perfectly fit the aesthetics of that era of early-age aviation. It remained the design from 1954 to 1956 as the nation grew into creating its own identity within craft.
1956 – 1960 – Modern & Traditional
Bringing a sense of Pakistaniat into the mix, this uniform was jointly designed by well-known Pakistani dress designer Laila Shahzada and Chausie Fountainer, an American woman of French descent. In this design, a white shalwar and dupatta were set off by a green shirt with white cuffs and collar, while the shoes and bags were black. The most exciting item of this uniform was a jaunty green cap for the hostesses that added its own flair to the whole look.
1960 – 1966 – The International Standard
One of the most loved ones out of the many uniforms of PIA, this was one was created by Pakistani dilettante Feroze Cowasji. He introduced this design by making minor changes in 1950s uniform designed by Laila Shahzada and Chausie Fountainer. The most apparent change in Cowasji’s design was a further abbreviation of already slim folded dupatta which made it super chic.
1966 – 1975 – The French Connection
Pakistan meets France? That’s right! In 1966, Pierre Cardin, the renowned French fashion designer, came up with the legendary fawn colour uniform for summer and moss green uniform for winter. The outfit consisted of a short, comfortable fitting A-line tunic, slim-line trousers and imaginatively moulded dupatta that not only covered heads but also turned heads. The uniform became an instant hit, and the slim-line trousers immediately were dubbed as ‘PIA Pajamas’.
1975 – 1986 – The Queen’s Way
PIA has never shied away from experimentation, which is exactly why British dress designer Sir Hardy Amies, best known for being royal dressmaker to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom, was called upon for the uniform that came in 1975. The purple and magenta kameezes had embroidered fronts, with green shalwars and pretty printed dupattas inspired by the folk wear of Pakistani village women. Teamed with black bags and smartly styled comfortable black leather sandals, these bright uniforms introduced a cheerful note on board PIA.
1986 – 2003 – The Vibrant Aesthetics
A uniform that lasted decades and etched in our memories the most, it was created by a well-known Pakistani dress designer Nahid Azfar and was introduced by the airline in October 1986. The shalwar kameez outfit was made available in 4 colours. Moss green and old rose for summer and burgundy and PIA green for winter. The bags and shoes were in burgundy, and for the winter there was a burgundy coloured overcoat
2003 – 2016 – The Coloured Life
A uniform that remained polarized between those who loved the colours and others who found it veering away from the PIA identity, this one was created by Riffat Yasmin in 2003. The shalwar kameez outfit for Air Hostesses were in three colours, mustard, sea green and rust, while the dupatta was printed with floral patterns. A braid with floral designs sewn on kameez front and sleeve edges was also seen in these uniforms.
2016 – Present – Classic Meets Modern
The uniform which makes the contemporary meet the traditional in the most beautiful of ways, this look was created after much contemplation and display. The current uniform came about by mixing the ideas of Nomi Ansari and Sania Maskatiya. The maroon uniforms have a straight princess-cut and are paired with a tailored jacket that can be taken off. The print of the head-scarf is designed by Sania Maskatiya, taking inspiration from her ‘Uraan’ collection.
Which PIA uniform is your favourite? Tell us in the comment section below.