August 17, 2013

My little Singapore Girl*

Singapore Girls in lobby of hotel in Copenhagen, 2008

In the Summer special of the Volkskrant was an article about the stewardesses of Singapore Airlines. These flight attendants are better know as 'Singapore Girls'. The name Singapore Girl is not a nickname, but is the official term for crewmembers of Singapore Airlines (SIA).
There is a lot of controversy around this name and what it stands for. SIA is the only airline company that actually hires on appearances and is being open about it. Is this a bad thing? If you know you get hired because you fit the code (size 6, flawless skin and always helpful and gallant).

The title Singapore Girl was new for me. I knew them as the pretty girls from Malaysia Airlines that had batik uniforms. My grandmother told me about these pretty girls and they always travelled with their airline company when they went to Indonesia.
The first time I saw them in real life was in the lobby of a fancy hotel in Copenhagen. I think I might have squealed and I photographed them like paparazzi. I thought it was maybe a little weird for them, but my mother said that they were used to it, being the pretty girls of Malaysia Airlines and all.

When I went to Indonesia, I didn't look for the cheapest flight, but just booked Malaysia Airlines. Family tradition and to see the batik uniforms up close. Oh my, these pretty girls were beautiful, helpful, spoke great English and when my veggie-meal was not on the list, the most gorgeous of them all arranged a Indian vegetarian breakfast and told me it was from her country and hoped I liked it. If anything, these Singapore girls can only be bad for one's self esteem.
Below some advertisements of SIA, mostly from the seventies, the last one is from my 'Guide to Java' from 1974.






But of course what I love about the Singapore Girls the most is their Batik uniforms. I couldn't find information about the chosen pattern or if the original ones were actually batiked (they look printed on pictures), so I will keep you posted if I do. Below are some nice things I did found out, and if you are in the Madam Tussaud in London, please send me a picture of you with the Singapore Girl!

In her distinctive uniform, a sarong kebaya in batik material, the Singapore Girl is one of the airline industry’s most recognizable figures. Her timeless elegance has graced the Airline’s innumerous global marketing campaigns, constantly winning over travelers around the world.

Malaysia-Singapore Airlines ceased operations on 1 October 1972 and Singapore Airlines took over as its successor. Singapore Girl was coined in 1972 when Pierre Balmain, a French haute couture designer, was hired by Singapore Airlines to construct and update the Malay "Sarong Kebaya" as part of the cabin crew's uniform. His talent as a designer lay in his ability to make simple, tailored suits as well as grand evening gowns, all with the same aesthetic of slender and elegant lines. Balmain designed the iconic uniform of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Girl, loosely based on the traditional Indonesian kebaya.
Since then, the uniform has gained worldwide recognition as part of SIA's recognizable signature branding.

In 1993, she became the first commercial figure ever to be displayed at Madame Tussaud’s, the world-famous waxwork museum in London.
Madame Tussaud’s said that she was selected to reflect the ever-growing popularity of international travel.

Exquisitely designed by Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain, the signature uniform in batik material reflects the Airline’s Asian heritage. Today, the design first introduced in 1968, is universally recognized as the Singapore Girl’s very own.
The Singapore Girl’s sarong kebaya comes in four colours, each representing a different rank.
Blue – "Flight Stewardess"
Green – "Leading Stewardess"
Red – "Chief Stewardess"
Burgundy - "In-Flight Supervisor" **


* Blogpost title based on the song 'My Little China Girl' by Iggy Pop
** Information from the Singapore Airlines website www.singaporeair.com and Wikipedia

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