UNDER WRAPS: SOUTHWEST’S STEWS PUT IT ALL BACK ON

For about the past year, Southwest Airline’s stewardesses have been stewing about the skimpy hotpants outfits the company forces them to wear. Seems the girls got fed up with being leered at by middle-aged businessmen, who comprise the bulk of the company’s commuter market.

And despite resistance from the airline, which seems to firmly believe that legs sell more tickets, it now appears the flight attendants have finally gained the right to cover up. Beginning this fall, the three-year-old orange outfits will be retired, and replaced by new brown and beige ensembles which feature long pants for the winter and an optional wrap-around skirt which can be worn any time. Pressure from the flight attendants’ union did the trick: When four organizers met with company officials earlier this summer, they came armed with a petition -signed by 230 of the company’s 317 attendants-and an obscure New York case in which a female employee successfully sued a real estate firm based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“That’s not bad,” said one attendant who helped organize the anti-hotpants movement, “considering the company’s been defending their position for nearly 10 years, and we only began working on our changes two months ago. We got what we wanted. We got ourselves covered up.”

Well, sort of anyway. While the airline did substantially meet the girl’s demands, there are a couple of catches. For one thing, if a stewardess wants the long pants or the skirt, she’ll have to pay for them out of her own pocket. For another thing, the skirts are slit up one side, meaning the red-eye special from Dallas to Houston won’t be entirely without skin.

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