In an upbeat 2008 article, "When fashion meets the skies!" the in-flight magazine of Turkish Airlines (Türk Hava Yolları, abbreviation: THY), called Skylife, celebrated 75 years of stewardess fashion with pictures and prose. Some excerpts from the airline's fashion history:
Hostesses first graced our planes with their presence in the late 1940's. Since that day fashions have come and gone in Turkish Airlines' cabins, bringing everything from military-style uniforms to shocking pink mini-skirts, and now tulip motifs in shades of turquoise. …
When hostesses were first introduced bringing Turkish hospitality on board the planes, the importance of presentable cabin personnel was soon realized. It was a time when the silhouette of the elegant woman, born of the deprivation years following World War II, was at the forefront of world fashion. Turkish Airlines hostesses, who first took to the skies in 1947, therefore greeted their passengers with a degree of chic that make jaws drop even today. …
In line with the trend set by Mary Quant of London, Turkish Airlines hostesses' skirts suddenly got shorter in 1968 and, in a extraordinarily bold move, went from sky blue to shocking pink. Those uniforms, which our middle-aged passengers still remember today, were not very practical, but they did fit in perfectly with the spirit of the times by delighting customers with a youthful splash of color.
Turkish Airlines' uniforms changed too in 1973 when the blouses worn with the two-piece beige and tile-red suits were polka-dotted, reflecting the influence of Op Art. The hostesses of the day also wore brown workers'-style caps as fashion turned to the earth colors that signalled a more down-to-earth approach than that of the previous period. …
Turkish Airlines in 1989 adopted a red and blue hostess uniform in the form of a suit with either a red jacket and blue skirt or vice-versa. Following these uniforms, which combined the ostentation of red with the dignity of blue, the stark lines of the decade of the nineties began to leave their mark on Turkish Airlines as well. Since 1993 fashions have been more sedate, with hostess uniforms in tones of navy blue and turquoise.
No women's legs to be seen in the 2013 THY uniform overhaul.
That was then. Now has the AKP era has descended on airline fashion, reports Hürriyet Daily News
today in "New Turkish Airlines uniforms raise eyebrows
The public has found the new clothing very conservative, stirring controversy on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. … The most-criticized parts of the uniforms are the hats. Some have claimed the hats – along with the whole outfit – are reminiscent of costumes in the Ottoman-era TV serial The Magnificent Century (Muhteşem Yüzyıl). … Daily Habertürk published comments from other Turkish designers, such as the famous Yıldırım Mayruk, who said Dilek Hanif's designs are nothing but a "joke." Designer Vural Gökçaylı said the clothes do not reflect Turkey. "The clothes look like they belong to Kuwait or Saudi Arabian Airlines. However, they should reflect Turkey and Turkey is not this."
The new uniforms have also prompted some jokes at THY's expense.
Translation: (voice from the plane") "Could I have permission to land?" (pious controller:) "Horrors! First by God's grace then ours ... Besides, from now on, call this a minaret not a control tower!"
(1) Those hats may look like sixteenth-century harem caps to some; to me, they resemble female versions of the fez, outlawed by Atatürk in 1925 and now making a surreptitious comeback.
(2) In miniature, this shift in fashion represents the larger imposition of piety throughout Turkish life by Erdoğan and his colleagues or, otherwise put, the reversal of the Atatürk reforms of the 1920s and 1930s.
From Dilek Hanif's Spring-Summer 2012 Haute Couture collection.
(3) Dilek Hanif, the designer of the new THY uniforms, usually has a much more modern sensibility. The spring-summer 2012 presentation of her work at Maison Chaplin describes it as drawing "inspiration from the 1990s, evoking in her creations the careless spirit, the bold lines, and the joyful vibrations that characterized the fashion. The sophisticated material and colour contrast combines different fabrics and hues, creating sparkling tattoo-like decorations on sensual transparencies, and deep cuts that unveil the skin in elegant, yet seducing silhouettes." At right is one of her creations from that collection. That she would design a THY uniform so contrary to her usual work says much about Turkey today.
Once on the topic of THY, one of the more interesting and symbolic of Turkish institutions, a few more facts:
- It serves alcohol on its flights but not pork products, an oddity I documented recently in "Talking Turkey." (It did not serve pork products even before the AKP era began.)
- It offers kosher, Hindu, and Jain meals.
- It boasts of a network that goes to more countries than any other airline, 91 countries vs. Air France's 88. Which raises the question: Must an airline with global aspirations serve alcohol?
- The Turkish government owns 49 percent of THY's stock and, according to Orçun Selçuk, writing in Today's Zaman, the airline "is openly used by the government as a tool to buttress the expansion of its foreign policy." In addition, he writes, it serves "as a tool of soft power aimed at increasing the attraction of Turkey among foreign publics."
- It takes pride in being "Europe's Best Airline" as judged by Skytrax, a British consultancy group.
- Its main business class lounge, at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, is (in this traveler's view) by far the world's most outstanding, what with its innovative design, its children's play area, library, billiard table, television panel, movie theater, piano bar, mosque, showers, sleeping suites, and the range and quality of foods. It has a capacity of 2,000 guests. Indeed, the American Express magazine Departures featured the THY lounge as #14 of its 100 "peoples, places & things that matter in 2013."
"Departures" celebrates the THY lounge in Istanbul.
(February 10, 2013)
Feb. 11, 2013 update: I noted above that Turkish Airlines serves alcohol but that requires several nuances, according to an article today in Hürriyet Daily News:
Turkish Airlines already does not serve alcohol on some international routes, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and some other Arab countries.
The good life on Turkish Airlines, coming to an end.
- News comes today that alcohol will no longer be served on domestic routes other than those involving six cities (Istanbul, Izmir, Bodrum, Dalaman, Antalya and Ankara), on the basis that demand is too low to justify the service.
- "Recently, THY aroused public criticism with several passengers having reported that when they asked for alcoholic drinks the cabin crew denied their requests, saying that alcohol had been forgotten to be loaded with the plane's cargo."
Comment: As with fashion, the drip-drip-drip, indirect process of transforming THY continues, citing such matters as "low demand" and "forgotten to be loaded."
Feb. 13, 2013 update: For a more detailed analysis of the THY fashion fluster, see "New Turkish Airlines Uniform: Eye of the Beholder" by Tulin Daloğlu.
Feb. 19, 2013 update: Hamdi Topçu, chairman of the Turkish Airlines board of directors, offers a lame excuse about the fabric of the Hanif uniforms not being right. The good news appears to be that the stewardesses will not look like Osmanlı harem chicks.
Feb. 25, 2013 update: A New York Times story on THY's fashion problem, "Turks Debate Modest Dress Set for Takeoff," cites a written statement by Topçu confirming that the airline follows the AKP government's wishes.
Hamdi Topçu, chairman of the Turkish Airlines board of directors and loyal servant of the state.
The Turkish Airlines vision matches … our government's vision. There is no difference between them and us. It is the government that appointed us. The Turkish Republic's government, which came to power with democratic elections and gained the confidence of its people, represents this country's values.
Apr. 30, 2013 update: Red, pink, or claret lipstick is the next to go for THY's four thousand female flight attendants, according to a new directive from the Cabin Services Department. Only pastel tones are allowed in makeup. Also prohibited: tattoos, a high bun or wig. May 10, 2013 update: THY has backed down from the red lipstick and presumably the other bans.
Related Topics: Sex and gender relations, Turkey and Turks
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