During her time with a Malaysian carrier, flight attendant Dominique Choe had always worn her uniform – a brightly hued skirt and jacket – with a sense of pride. Thus, when a politician made comments recently about how revealing some local airline uniforms are, she was not pleased.
“This is subjective. I think our local airline uniforms are carrying out their respective airline’s image well,” says Choe, 27.
Tumpat PAS lawmaker Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi had asked Transport Minister Anthony Loke to comment on whether the minister felt that uniforms of Malaysian flight attendants were too revealing, compared to their international counterparts.
Loke responded by saying: “If you think it is revealing, then don’t look at the air stewardesses.” He added that there are no plans thus far by the Government to amend policies related to the uniforms of flight attendants.
Choe, who has eight years of experience as cabin crew, served with a local airline for the first three years of her career between 2010 and 2013. She currently flies with Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) and wears a jacket and pants paired with a hat and scarf for work.
“My old uniform is still my favourite,” she says with a laugh, adding that it is important for an airline to reflect the culture of its home country.
“The cabin crew uniform should always represent the image of the airline. For example, Malaysia Airlines has been using the kebaya as their uniform to represent our national airline for years. This is an icon that people can easily recognise around the world,” she offers.
Choe adds that she never felt or was made to feel uncomfortable while she was wearing her former uniform.
“I believe when you love what you’re wearing, it gives you the confidence from the inside out,” she says. Choe notes that the professional training received helped her conduct herself professionally while in uniform.
“Of course, there are guidelines to be followed. Female flight attendants are required to change their high heel uniform shoes to flat cabin shoes once they reach the aircraft. Also, the skirt cannot be too short,” she explains.
Soraya Mustafa, 25, says she has never received any negative remarks from passengers throughout her five years with a local airline. She adds that she feels comfortable whenever she dons her uniform.
“It has been designed for maximum comfort and the convenience of the crew to perform their duties. The uniform does not hinder me from performing any duties and that’s that,” she says.
As a Muslim woman, Soraya says the matter of modesty is between oneself and the Almighty.
“All crew hired by our local airlines are well-informed of the uniform’s design beforehand. Some issues with designs are mostly petty and is not because of practical issues,” she shares.
Stressing that some people need to “stop creating issues out of nonsense”, Soraya says it’s impossible to please everyone.
“Once in a while, these people need to walk in someone else’s shoes too,” she adds.
Meanwhile, another flight attendant, who only wishes to be known as The Girl In Sarong Kebaya, says she is extremely proud of her uniform, which is a, well, sarong kebaya.
“On many occasions, I have received random compliments from strangers in different airports or hotels. Some even ask for a photograph. Parents love to ask their kids to grab a photo with us (flight attendants).
“It also makes me feel very confident as the form-fitting uniform really enhances our image yet is not too revealing as most of the skin is covered. When we are walking in a group in any foreign airport, we do catch a lot of attention mainly because of our kebaya,” she says.
The 30-year-old flight attendant also reveals that her uniform was designed for easy movement should there be any eventualities.
“Each year we have a (refresher) training session where each female cabin crew will have to jump into the pool, swim and rescue our buddy while dressed in the kebaya. So it is both elegant and functional at the same time,” she reveals.
Above all, she says that being in her uniform spurs her on to carry the country’s image in a good light.
“We are encouraged to carry ourselves with pride and dignity, for instance to walk elegantly, talk softly and not laugh too loudly in public,” she concludes.
Some names have been changed for anonimyty.