Flying in Red: Sexy or Safety?

Is it so hard to size this up?

Is this so hard to size up?

Is it so hard to size this up?I just found this article a bit interesting.  (ETA: Which I noticed was covered by Life on Fats too) Maybe because it gives me hope that the issue of size discrimination is making even the tiniest (hah!) of waves in the mainstream ideology.

The union that represents flight attendants who worked for Northwest Airlines before it was bought by Delta Air Lines is crying foul over Delta’s failure to offer bigger sizes for its signature red dress uniform designed by Richard Tyler.

When he was hired to create his uniform collection, Tyler said he wanted them to “look sexy and great.”

Patricia Reller, who handles grievances for the union’s executive committee, said Friday that even if there was only one flight attendant who wore a size over 18, that person should be able to wear the stylish red dress.

Perhaps this just nags at me because despite the interesting bit about weight discrimination making a headline in the light of someone actually fighting FOR increasing the available size range up to the still limited size 28; I am bothered by the fact that designers are determined to make flight attendant outfits “sexy” in this day and age, still showing that a woman’s value is best expressed in her ability to attract the hetero-male gaze and encourage thoughts of sex.  Especially telling is the idea that while the designer intended to create a look that was sexy that this certainly must not translate to sizes above what union reps are calling a very small size 18.

There is also a confusing bit thrown into the article which I’m guessing was a cut version of a discussion between Delta and the unions about whether offering larger sizes was an issue of boosting morale versus fighting to keep attendants at a smaller size which would be capable of:

According to Delta, flight attendants must be able to perform the safety and security functions of their job, including being able to reach and close overhead bins, reach and close any of the aircraft doors and be able to sit on the aircraft jumpseat and fasten the flight attendants seatbelt.

So is this a cut and pasted response to some question about whether the act of offering the larger dress size (just for the “sexy” red dress mind you; all other clothing options do already appear up to the recommended size 28) encourages having flight attendants who might be so “huge” they are incapable of doing those basic functions?? Or is it a mix of that fear and the denial of this “sexy” dress option to unacceptably fat fatties (because, like, who wants to see someone that large in a smexy outfit, natch)?

I also find it intriguing that this entire issue around the red dress’ sizing is noted as a possible pre-election rile-up attempt by the union.

Lots to think about here. On the one hand, even if this is just a pre-election attempt by the union to get some hot-button issues going to rile folks up I’m excited to see such an issue even brought to light. On the other hand is this another case of airlines just being discriminatory; saying that sure you could work at Delta up to size 18 but beyond that you just get the “un-sexy” outfits, no red dress for the uber-fatties because like, dude who wants to fly and see that, right?

So, mixed feelings on this one. Anyone else?


11 thoughts on “Flying in Red: Sexy or Safety?

  1. Dude – I do NOT want a flight attendant trying to help me out of the burning wreckage of a plane with that dress on – totally impractical for what, really, is the MOST IMPORTANT part of their job – saving my ass in the event of an emergency.

    • noceleryplease yeah I didn’t even get into how impractical I think dresses or skirts of most any kind would be for this position (personally while I know some would argue they are incredibly capable of full movement in a skirt I would like pants to feel full flexibility!).

      Twistie indeed great minds! 😉 And something that has occurred to me is that none of the articles covering this press release mentioned how many flight attendants are even above that size restriction? Not that any set number makes such a silly size limit for ONE particular design make more sense but I realized that despite the reps back and forth…no one even mentions what the percentage of flight attendants shopping these sizes might be aside from the generic “There might be lots, especially since it is a small size 18” bit. There must be some sort of statistics about how many items of each size are bought from the uniform shop at the very least. I’d just be interested to know, especially given some of the comment threads at other blogs suggesting that attendants above size 18 don’t even exist/shouldn’t exist due to the narrow aisles or weight limits or some such nonsense…

  2. Great minds, dearie! I also covered this on Manolo for the Big Girl over the weekend.

    I pretty much covered it as a case of ALL uniform pieces should be available in ALL sizes offered. As the union rep said, if even one flight attendant over size 18 wants to wear it, she should have the option since it’s part of the freaking uniform.

    Oh, and I have to say that while that dress could indeed be amazing on a lot of women in terms of general attractiveness, ‘sexy’ isn’t actually the first word that pops into my brain looking at it. What I keep thinking is ‘strong.’ It’s sartorial power, and honey, nobody not in the FA movement wants us fatties to have that.

  3. Why does sexy even factor into the design? If that’s going to be a part of the design of the uniform, then how about some sexy cops, sexy fireman and sexy doctors?
    I know, I know… some of them are already sexy, but you know what I mean ! 🙂

  4. I totally agree that “sexy” should not be the goal for flight attendant uniforms and that whatever uniform is offered should be offered in all sizes.

    That said, that is a gorgeous dress, and would look smoking sized up for a larger figure. Man, I gotta take some sewing classes.

  5. You know what I’d like to see? Male flight attendants having to wear that. What ever happened to pants suits? And flight attendants spend far too much time on their feet to wear heels. Also, flight attendants probably get sexually harassed by customers on a regular basis, Delta’s goal is to dress them in a manner that says “that’s ok, they’re here for that”?!

    Now, it’s a cute dress. I wouldn’t wear it in a million years because I don’t look good in straight lined dresses, but it’s cute. I can see SJP wearing it in the inevitable Sex and the City movie sequels and haplessly falling on her ass after having ti many martoonies. But those aren’t mental images I think should be associated with professional women in the workplace.

  6. Thanks for the linkage April! It’s interesting that the dresses debuted three years ago, but we’re just now hearing about the size issues.

    It’s not surprising that they’ve designed these impractical outfits for the attendants. The profession has been extremely sexualized for decades.

    • No problem Bree! And I think the issue is being brought up due to the merger of Northeastern (or western?) with Delta since Northeast/west (whatever) has a union which is recognizing this as a potential issue of contention. Which for me is what is very encouraging…someone fighting for equality across fashion sizes (even if only up to the still limiting size of 28) is progress in a tiny way to my mind.

  7. Pingback: Airlines: They just don’t make sense « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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