Have you ever been in a fitting room with 10 items that you thought were your size, only to have to switch them for two sizes bigger? It's infuriating.
An even worse experience is watching the chief stew pull out all the uniform sizes from under the bed, only to discover that none of them fit you. It’s embarrassing.
This situation happens surprisingly often on yachts.
Chief stewardesses tend to be thin, no doubt through a combination of hiring preferences and sheer stress; most are a maximum size 6.
As a result, their own uniform never seems to be a problem for two reasons:
1) At that size you'll look good in a bin bag and
2) They chose it.
Uniform is frequently a big gripe when speaking to crew. There are a few facts that need to be faced when considering the uniform order:
Your crew aren't all the same height
Even if they were, the chance of them being the same proportions is extremely unlikely. I've been the resident seamstress on a few boats and it's not just the stewardesses who suffer with this; I've had to take up and let down hems on countless horrible deck trousers because they've been a standard length and were intended to fit the 5'10 bosun and the 6'2 deckie. For or the girls it's worse again: the length of skirts and dresses need to be appropriate.
There's such a furore about professionalism in yachting, and to feel professional we need to look it too. At 5'5 I never had a problem with the length of uniform, but on one boat with day and evening dresses, the 5'11 stew had major issues. Bear in mind that if a dress is thigh skimming when you're standing straight, it's not going to give the right image when you're bending over a bed.
When you're shopping on the high street there's a little variation between sizes in different shops, but crew uniform seems to take it to a whole new level. On average I'd say go two sizes up. I don't know why it is that all of the brands seem to make their clothes so tiny (are they all made in Asia?) but the sizing has given countless crewmembers a complex. ‘I'm not a 12 - I've never been a 12 in my life!’ wailed one new stew, horrified by the fact that not only did the size 8 trousers she’d requested not fit, but that nor did any of the other sizes the boat had in storage. Cue looks of disapproval from the chief. "Why do my girls insist on pretending they're smaller than they are?”
For my own part, I don't believe that they do, but to be safe, if you have time before joining a boat, find out what brands they wear, and go and check what fits you. Captains and chief stews: recommend your new crew do this to save problems later.
Polo tops don't suit everyone
There are only two types of polo. You have the non-fitted ones which are skin tight over the chest area and baggy around the midriff, with the end result of looking the shape of a cardboard box. The other is the fitted version, which is slightly more flattering, but only if you like an 80 year old guest staring at your cleavage which has inevitably popped an extra button open.
Consider the other options, because there are so very many now. Polo tops may be the obvious one because it's the yacht uniform default, but a light and breezy chiffon top with a smart skirt (or skort if you must) would be so much more chic. (N.B. The same goes for shirts with epaulettes). Yacht uniform companies are evolving to provide a wide range of uniforms that suit every body type; crews are no longer bound to the same stereotypical few items.
Deckers Uniforms, for example, has come up with an elegant range of custom ladies’ evening wear, where skirts, dresses, blouses and cardigans can be modified to suit the owner's individual taste in stylish yet practical fabrics.
Kate, manager of Deckers in Antibes says that
"Personalised storyboards can be produced for visual presentation, followed by sample mock-ups and advice on individual stitch, zip and button detailing”.
This approach means that a yacht can move away from their tired polo and skort/short formula with confidence.
White shorts are the world's worst idea
This is particularly true for deck crew. One boat I worked on went through 26 pairs with 5 deck crew in one season. The female deckhand was having to squeeze herself into the only remaining sizes because the chief stew hadn't the foresight to realise under all of the shiny white surfaces and clean teak on deck, sometimes crew need to deal with oil, and grease, and rust. I found myself lending her my interior shorts on the sly so that she didn't have to work in spray-on shorts in the Greek summer heat.
In general, finding uniform to fit everyone properly is a minefield. Add a mid- season crew switch into the mix and it's enough to give even the most organised stewardess a conniption. So if you’re new crew - try a few things on at uniform shops to gain a sense of your ‘yacht size’.
And if you're a chief stew? Consider all the options. If you have the flexibility from the boss and the captain, use it to kit out your crew in the most practical and flattering way. A confident crew is a happy crew and when you don't see your own wardrobe all summer, it's a small mercy to feel happy and comfortable in your uniform.