Delta Unveils New Uniforms

Casual gray culottes are out. Sophisticated red wrap dresses are in.

Fashion, function and flying came together Monday when Delta Air Lines' front-line personnel donned their new uniforms.

Designed by Australian Richard Tyler, the women's collection of 25 items includes navy and red wrap dresses --- flight attendants will wear the red version --- pants, blazers, shirts, a peacoat and accessories. The men's line of 15 pieces features blazers, trousers, dress shirts with plain or French cuffs, a reversible all-weather coat and a hat. Employees do not have to pay for their uniforms.

Flight attendants, customer service agents and Crown Room club representatives --- about 20,000 strong --- will sport the new attire. Delta officials would not disclose the cost for its uniform change, or hiring Tyler.

Although Delta is still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings --- and looking for ways to cut $3 billion in annual costs --- the company feels this is the right time to introduce new uniforms.

"When companies are in the position that Delta is right now, you need to differentiate yourself in the market," said Patrick Childress, a Delta spokesman, calling the new uniforms part of a rebirth for the airline and a morale booster for employees.

"Any time you can wear something new, it helps your attitude," said flight attendant David Lang, based in Orlando. He said he "would wear [the uniform] out to dinner, without the gold wings, and feel perfectly dressed."

For Tyler, it's a throwback to the days when people dressed up to board a plane.

"The clothes are chic and glamorous, with incredible tailoring and subtle detail," said the California-based designer, in Atlanta for the collection debut. "I wanted the flight attendants to look as if they were in a runway show on the plane."

Added touches include ribbon collar details, welt seams on the pockets and jigger (concealed) buttons on jackets. Tyler also considered functionality.

"I used a stretchy fabric so it would be comfortable. Also, I cut the women's white shirt a bit longer --- to be worn out --- so when attendants are stretching to get into the overhead bins, they won't show any skin."

For flight attendant Leslie Donnell, the new styles are a vast improvement. "The last uniforms simply hung on you," she said. "They were square-cut and didn't accentuate your figure. These new ones fit your body and look feminine."

One accessory certain to raise eyebrows is the snappy women's fedora.

"You don't have to wear it," said Donnell, "but wearing a hat does make you stand out. A hat finishes off an outfit and takes you back to the elegance of early flying."

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