8 November 2023

Aloha Airlines – The Collection

Flight attendant uniforms land at UH Historic Costume Collection

Aloha Airlines – The Collection

By Kellie Taguchi and Jessie Radovich

Aloha Airlines, fondly remembered as “The People’s Airline,” flew across Hawaiʻi’s skies from 1946-2008. Though the company closed its doors 15 years ago, its legacy continues with their Flight Attendant Uniform Collection. More than 60 years of flight attendant uniforms reflect current fashion trends, as well as features local designers and manufacturers.  

“The Aloha Airlines Flight Attendant uniforms are treasured pieces to employees who were a part of the company’s 62 years of history,” says donor Debbie Martinson. “It made sense for the UH CTAHR Fashion Design and Merchandising program to maintain this collection and share the story of fashion trends and the value of branding through identity apparel. As an FDM alumna and former Aloha flight attendant, it was rewarding to partner with my coworker, Crissie Gilkey, to facilitate this donation.”

The UH Historic Costume Collection, where the uniforms will be housed, was declared a “state treasure of historic importance” in 2009 by Senate Resolution no 57.  The Collection houses over 10,000 items of dress related to the people and history of Hawaiʻi, including subcollections of Hawaiʻi, Asia, Western, and Global dress. Significant items include Chinese Dragon Robes, a kimono purported to be given to Commodore Perry, and the largest collection of Aloha wear at a state university.  

“The addition of the uniforms of Aloha Airlines adds a significant element to the Collection and helps preserve the history of Hawaiʻi's air travel,” says Andy Reilly of FDM, who is also the the Collection curator. “Although no longer with us, Aloha Airlines holds a special place in people's hearts and minds.  I am very thankful to the employees of Aloha Airlines who preserved the uniforms for future study.”

Select pieces from the collection are on display on the 2nd floor of Gilmore Hall. Visitors are also welcome to participate in CTAHR’s Aloha Shirt design competition.  FDM faculty will select the top designer from three age groups to receive a CTAHR swag pack. For more information about the exhibit and other opportunities, please visit CTAHR’s Discover Mānoa website.

The Fun Birds, introduced in 1969, was inspired by the Flower Power theme that was taking off in the fashion industry. It was a true fashion statement of the ‘70s with bell-bottom pants, mini skirts and bikini bottoms, hipster belters, and a vinyl cape.

Local fashion designer Baba Kea created the Clouds in the Sky collection in 1976. Uniforms featured a bold print with distinctive color-tones and styles. The orange skirt featured a slight empire waistline and was reversible with the cloud print.

Waves in Teal and Tan was introduced in 1983. This line featured the obi belt look, with a splash of orange that was consistent with Aloha Airlines’ iconic color. This collection was also reflective of the company’s new flights to Guam and Taipei. The long dress style was designed to emulate elegance, similar to other Asian airlines like Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

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