Red dress drama at 30,000 feet

Delta Airlines is currently experiencing some turbulence -- and airstreams have nothing to do with it. Instead, it's a little red dress that's set off controversy within the company.

The Northwest chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is petitioning Delta to expand the available sizes of its fashion-forward Richard Tyler uniforms up to size 28.

The red frocks -- which sure beat the stuffy, standard kind of attendant-wear most airlines require -- currently only run up to a size 18. Delta, having now incorporated Northwest Airlines, now counts 21,000 attendants among its ranks -- and any of them who don't fall into into that range can choose from more traditional navy options.

Delta posted a net loss of $8.9 billion last year -- I suspect they've got more pressing matters to sort out than the red-dress situation. So they should relish the chance to resolve a problem that's so simple-stupid that it never should have existed in the first place.
It's not just that cutting off stylish silhouettes at an arbitrary size marker is blatantly discriminatory. What makes this situation so irritatingly dumb is its potential to for distraction. The era of the stewardess as sex symbol has been over for 30 years (thank God).

Yes, updating uniforms to make them less depressingly ugly for the people brave enough to usher us through the skies is a great idea. But here's where Delta screwed up -- they lost sight of the fact that these are uniforms. They're meant to look the same, to communicate professionalism.

What's the point of putting thinner girls in red and curvier girls in navy? So that passengers can tell the attendant doing the safety demonstration shops at Lane Bryant and the one pushing the beverage cart doesn't?

The segregation undermines the importance and authority of the attendants, whose job has only become a more serious matter since 9/11. Glamour at any size is nice, but it's not a priority. Projecting an image of competence and unity that inspires passengers to trust the aircraft staff is.

When asked why Delta doesn't offer the red uniform in sizes above 18, spokeswoman Gina Laughlin couldn't give a reason -- instead, she tried to push the issue onto Tyler, saying that "he designed it... so his perspective on how the pieces were meant to be worn, perhaps how the pieces could be best altered to fit someone -- that's invaluable perspective."

Oh, Gina, please. Richard Tyler and any fashion girl worth her salt can tell you that a wrap dress is the most figure-flattering thing out there -- whether you're an 8 or a 28. No alterations necessary -- and no excuse not to make this right.
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