Byline: Dianne M. Pogoda

NEW YORK — Honoring tradition with an updated spirit. That was the challenge Karen Averill set for herself when she was charged with creating uniforms for the new Pan Am airlines.
Averill, vice president of personnel, corporate training and in-flight services for the airline, tried to tie the modern style to that of the original carrier.
“When we started to develop the idea for the new uniforms, we wanted to use the purser concept,” she said, in an interview from Pan Am’s world headquarters in Miami. “In those days [as early as the 1920s], the pursers were all male, and they wore white jackets.
“We wanted a striking color, so we chose a very deep navy,” she said, noting the color is deeper than a traditional military navy. “The navy plays against a cream-colored blazer, with gold and burgundy braid trim.”
These colors invoke the notion of red, white and blue; Pan Am was known as “America’s flag carrier,” she added.
Female flight attendants wear the cream blazer over their choice of a dress, skirt, pants or cuffless walking shorts, all of which are in navy. There are strict guidelines about where the skirt hits the leg — generally, it’s a 21-inch skirt, falling within a few inches of the knee.
Male flight attendants, as well as gate crew and other uniformed terminal personnel, are in all-navy suits.
The fabric is a wool blend for ease of wear and maintenance.
To finish the look with a Sixties-style flair, women wear navy gloves.
“But the blazers and gloves are strictly for boarding, deplaning and in the terminal,” Averill said. “The attendants wear aprons when serving in-flight.”
The women also wear silk scarves on their shoulders, in a bold navy, cream and gold pattern that incorporates the famous Pan Am globe logo. There are also optional pieces, like sweaters and vests, that attendants may wear.
The carrier began flying again in September 1996 after being out of business since December 1991.
The uniforms won a 1997 “Image of the Year” award, given by the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors.
“We were really proud to receive that award, especially in our first year back,” said Averill, who began her career as a flight attendant for National Airlines. “[Designing the uniforms] was a natural step for me; I know what it’s like to work a cart, or how high my skirt goes when I reach an overhead compartment.”

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