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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flag Carrier's Fashion Revamp

Jetting back and forth between Moscow and the Crimea for vacations in the late 1980s, Valeria Sokolova, then a young girl, had to suffer spending hours on state airline Aeroflot.

"There was a huge difference between Aeroflot's promo campaign -- where there were lots of smiles and the notion of service -- and the reality, when it was very Soviet," said Sokolova, 28, who now works at an AIDS charity.

The toilets on the Tu-154s and Tu-134s she flew on "were like the saloon itself -- not much attention was paid to them. They stank sometimes, and there was no toilet paper -- when it was finished, no one cared about filling it up again," she said.

If passengers were lucky, there was an obliging crew to ease their discomfort.

"Some of them were nice, some of them not so nice," Sokolova said. "Aeroflot took everything for granted because they were the only airline."

The airline has paid more attention to service since the Soviet collapse: In recent years, it has unveiled a perky, orange, silver and blue corporate color scheme, revamped business class, added children's meals, and even told its flight attendants to smile more.

"During the Soviet Union, the most important thing was to carry out the flight," a spokeswoman said. "Now, it's to care about the passengers."

Aeroflot has taken the battle for customers' hearts to another front: uniforms. Late last year, the company held a fashion show to celebrate completing the two-year introduction of a new get-up. Aeroflot asked a prominent designer, Viktoria Andreyanova, to create outfits for its cabin crew, as well as pilots and ground staff.

The move capped -- and was probably intended to help reproduce -- a boon year for the airline, when first-half profit soared 79 percent to $135.5 million, with passenger numbers rising by almost 2 percent from January to September.

Michael Eckels / MT
A model shows a new Aeroflot uniform.
Andreyanova produced fall-winter and spring-summer sets, and crews can pick and In the winter, for example, flight attendants can don a dress with a plait of hair printed down the side, a pashmina-style sky-blue scarf, and a luxurious hat ringed with fur, a style Andreyanova said was favored by 19th-century wives of boyars. There's also a flowing jacket, cinched neatly at the waist.

There are fewer quirks in the men's selection. Captains and male flight attendants also have a blue scarf, as well as a matching tie. Andreyanova sent a model down the catwalk in the apron that the men working in the galley will wear.

Uniforms for staff working on the airport tarmac seem fit for urban teenagers: reflective metallics everywhere, visors for summer, polo shirts and -- less cool -- dungarees and elasticized pants.

Flight attendants at the show said they were happy about the change.

"When a person gets on a plane, the first thing they see is a flight attendant -- and if she's not in a beautiful uniform, it also won't be pleasant for the person," said Olga Litinskaya, 32, a flight attendant for 14 years. "And if there's an attractive girl or an attractive young man in a beautiful uniform, any person will be in a pleasant mood."

Still, Polina Sokhranova, junior fashion features editor at Vogue Russia, said after reviewing a picture of an all-blue summer outfit that Andreyanova had missed a golden opportunity.

V. Titova / Itar-Tass
Winners of an Aeroflot flight attendants' competition in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1980.
"Any uniform should look beautiful, elegant and well-tailored on every person," she said.

"I think this is the main point of it. This time, it seems to me the point was lost."

Sokolova, the young Aeroflot passenger, was less critical.

"It looks sexy. ... The light color gives a positive impression, much better than if this was deep blue or black, for example."

The cabin crew's outfits succeed an attention-grabbing red jacket with gold buttons and black lapels, in use from 1998 to 2004.

Also at the presentation was a show of vintage uniforms from Aeroflot's museum. From 1966, attendants wore short, gray jackets and pillarbox hats, while the 1970-75 uniform was a questionable foray into fuchsia, with an unfitted jacket and navy newsboy cap.