Nursa'adah and Misa in the trademark sarong keyayas
In 1968, the former Malaysian Singapore Airlines called upon French Couturier Pierre Balmain to design uniforms for their cabin crew, with just a minor tweak to the collar in 1974 they have been in continuous service ever since. Balmain based his design on the traditional Malay sarong-kebaya, adding borders round the hem, neck and cuffs (cut from the edges of the traditional batik fabric) and altering the fit for ease of wear. Part of their continual allure is down to Balmain insisting that the uniforms were fully tailored (rather than off the peg), and to this day Singapore Airlines’s in-house tailors have a minimum of two fittings with each crew member and provide her with 4 new uniforms each year.
In 1972 Singapore and Malaysia agreed to set up separate Airlines by splitting MSA in two (just as Singapore itself was given independence from Malaysia), and the newly formed Singapore Airlines kept the Balmain design. It was at this time that the Singapore Girl was born, featuring for the first time in the airlines promotional activity and going on to become an ambassador for the young island nation and a global icon. The Singapore Girls featured in the advertising campaigns over the past 4 decades have always been crew plucked from the aisles, just like Misa and Nursa’adah who flew into Heathrow specially for Wallpaper* and are never seen dressed in anything else.