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High fashion: The man with 1,000 stewardess uniforms

Story highlights

  • Airline uniforms are the passion of collector Cliff Muskiet
  • The KLM employee has collected more than 1,000 stewardess outfits since 1980
  • He says the uniforms offer a window into different eras of aviation history

Airline uniforms may not be the fashionista's definition of sartorial elegance but the flight attendant's garb represents the epitome of jet-set style and glamour for one aviation enthusiast.

Cliff Muskiet has been collecting female flight attendant ensembles since the early 1980s and has accumulated over 1,000 outfits and accessories, which he proudly displays on his website uniformfreak.com.

"I love airplanes and everything that comes with it," says Muskiet, who also works as a flight attendant for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

"When I think of an airplane, I automatically think of a stewardess. When I think of a stewardess, I automatically think of a uniform. When I think of a uniform, I want to have it," he adds.

See also: High-end designers create uniforms for the masses

Muskiet often receives requests to display his collection at industry shows and exhibitions. He says the uniforms offer a window into different eras of style and commercial aviation history.

"You can see the fashion change through the years when you look at the stewardess uniforms," explains Muskiet.

"I love the 1970s psychedelic patterns and color combinations: yellow, red, orange, purple, green, white, blue. Every color was used and everything was possible," he adds.

Over the years, some of the world's most prominent fashion designers have created outfits for airline companies, including Giorgio Armani (Al Italia), Nina Ricci (Cathay Pacific) and Christian Lacroix (Air France), says Muskiet.

See also: 'Safe-list' flyers get security fast track

But just because big-name designers put their names to particular items it doesn't mean that the uniforms they produce are always a work of beauty, he explains.

"Yves Saint Laurent, for example, has made beautiful clothes for women, but the uniform he designed for Qantas in the 1980s was so horrible," says Muskiet.

Muskiet highlights 1970s uniforms from Japan Airlines, El Al and Iberia as some his all-time favorite items.

He says the combination of aesthetic style and neat accessories, as well as the embodiment of the carrier's national identity -- although this is not absolutely necessary -- can all be important factors in creating a uniform that will resonate.

See also: Air France, flying chic for 70 years

"Look at Emirates, they wear a Western uniform and the color is horrible," says Muskiet.

"But the red hat with veil is eye catching. The veil is that national identity as well as the color of the uniform: beige is the color of sand."

Muskiet says his collection will continue to grow for as long as airlines are willing to let him get his hands on their attire. In doing so, he hopes to preserve and further chronicle the historic link between airlines and the styles they continue to spawn.

"There has always been something glamorous about aviation and airline fashion," he enthuses. "These two go well together."

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