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Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter... on airline uniforms

She was told regularly that her skirt wasn’t short enough and her make-up had to look like a blind clown had done it’

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When SkyUp surveyed its crews, it turned out that its female employees were fed up with their high heels, tight blouses and pencil skirts.

When SkyUp surveyed its crews, it turned out that its female employees were fed up with their high heels, tight blouses and pencil skirts.

When SkyUp surveyed its crews, it turned out that its female employees were fed up with their high heels, tight blouses and pencil skirts.

Women wear flat shoes SHOCKER! And now Ukraine’s SkyUp airline is allowing female cabin crew to wear trouser suits and trainers from next month and it’s made international news. The industry which thinks a heel is a going to work shoe, rather than a going out shoe, has decided some women in the air should be allowed to wear what women on the ground wear every day. Otherwise, it’s 1950 and we’re still putting our nylons through the mangle. Ukraine’s military reached even further back when they insisted this summer that female soldiers should march in heels, which presumably accessorised their combat scrunchies and attack bras. The lads were eventually forced into an embarrassing climbdown from about three inches. That seems laughable, farcical and outdated but none of us bat an eyelid when flight attendants spend hours striding up and down a plane in court shoes I wouldn’t even wear in court. Norwegian Airlines admitted in 2019 that female cabin crew had to have a doctor’s note available for scrutiny at all times to get out of their heels hell. A note from your mum didn’t count. Why exactly heels are a necessity for the person who will save your life in a plane emergency isn’t clear. If a firefighter came at you in stilettos and a punchy lip colour it would not inspire confidence, but in a flight attendant you’re refusing to leave the plummeting plane until she’s used a blotting strip and fixed her bun. The airline industry, or what’s left of it after Covid-19, is moving towards 21st century tastes, but at a pace that makes a baggage carousel look rapid fire. Japan Airlines was one of the first to withdraw the heels rule for women which raised a few delicately pencilled eyebrows in a country that’s not exactly a bastion of feminism. A mate who temped in Japan still recalls her daily once-over when she was told regularly that her skirt wasn’t short enough and her make-up had to look like a blind clown had done it. Aer Lingus, Etihad, BA and KLM are among the companies which have introduced — deep breath and drum roll — trousers for female cabin crew, a revolutionary idea that landed somewhere between granting women the vote and the invention of the pill. A pencil skirt is some figment of fevered male imagination which hasn’t been worn willingly by any female employee since Miss Moneypenny purred at an early James Bond, but thousands of female cabin crew still have to squeeze into one every day. Its creation of an hourglass silhouette is perfect for showing off your ass as an asset, but a bum-skimming outfit shouldn’t be mandatory for the woman who may have to clamber over seats in the event of an emergency. Even the relaxing of make-up rules made headlines when Virgin was one of the first to say female employees didn’t have to trowel on the foundation and mascara. America’s United Airlines now allows all cabin crew to wear subtle make-up and nail polish and have small tattoos — but I’m guessing that was aimed at letting the guys have some slap rather than letting the girls have a cosmetics bag that doesn’t need wheels. Ukraine’s SkyUp’s announcement has made waves because it’s combined comfy shoes and comfy suits. When they’re serving a clientele which hasn’t worn proper clothes for 18 months — well it’s the least they could do.

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