What to Wear on an Airplane

Two years ago I wrote a post for my humble little blog called, “What to Wear on an Airplane.” While the answer seems simple enough (hello, how about clothes?), that post continues to be one of the top searches that brings people to my blog. Apparently, there’s still a good bit of confusion over what one should wear for air travel. So, given that this is a time of year when many will be traveling far and wide to see family and friends, I thought I’d reprint the post here.

My parents are leaving next Thursday on a two-week European vacation. My mom has been very busy of late, running around doing all the things you do before a trip like that, including purchasing some new clothing for the occasion. I was on the phone with her yesterday and we were discussing her recent purchases. The conversation went something like this.

MOM: “I got this great raincoat for 75% off. And, I also picked up a black sweat suit for the flight.”

ME: “I’m sorry. You picked up what for the flight?”

MOM: “A black sweat suit.”

ME: “You’re not really going to wear that on the plane, are you?”

MOM: “Michelle, it’s a 10-hour flight. I want to be comfortable.”

Now, I love my mom. She has excellent taste, but I’ve got to take this opportunity to express my opinion on proper travel attire. If you board the plane in anything vaguely resembling pajamas, you have crossed the line, my friend. Sweat suits (even the ones especially the ones with “juicy” emblazoned across the bottom) are never appropriate in-flight attire.

Now, lest you go thinking that comfort is not a priority for me, there are plenty of comfortable wardrobe options that will have you looking well-rested and put together upon landing. Not to mention the fact that you stand a much better chance of being upgraded to first class when you wear something a little more polished versus something that looks like you just rolled out of bed. To paraphrase the ever-fashionable Nina Garcia, when it comes to airline upgrades, cashmere will beat out sweats. Every time.

If you are fortunate enough to be planning for an upcoming trip, here’s what I would suggest:

* Consider fabrics that have a little stretch in them. The stretch is for comfort, while also ensuring you don’t look like a wrinkled mess when you arrive wherever you’re going. Trouser jeans in a dark wash with a hint of Lycra would be perfect here:

trouser jeans

* Think layers — Airplanes are notorious for wide temperature shifts. Start with a comfortable, basic tee like this:


* Top the t-shirt with a bright-colored cardigan. The cardigan is a great layer because it’s lightweight. You can easily stash it in your carry-on bag or use it as a pillow in a pinch.


* Wear flat, comfortable slip-on shoes. Note that I did not say flip flops. Flip flops are not going to do you any favors in an emergency situation. And, if you have my luck, your gate will always be the one furthest from the baggage claim. That usually means you’re in for a bit of a hike.

* If you’re looking to invest in a new wardrobe piece for your trip, consider investing in a pashmina. You don’t have to go super-expensive, but for about $60 you’ll have a quality piece that will work as a scarf, a shawl, or a blanket (do you really want to use the airline-issued blankets anyway?). If you have kids, you can get something similar in a more washable fabric.

*Depending on the weather when you land, you’ll want to bring a coat. A short trench would also be a good investment that you could wear regularly, even after you return home.

* Finally, carry all your in-flight essentials in a great bag. You know, something like this:

yellow bag

So, there you have it. My tips for stylish travel.

Now go ask for that upgrade.

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About Melissa

Written by Melissa Angert, editor of this fashion blog and author of Girlymama. You can also find her on Twitter as Melissa Angert. She is a mom of 3 living in Providence.


  1. Are you aware that synthetic fabric melts? If, God forbid, there is a fire your fashionable lyrcra will melt into your skin and you will be in for some really painful weeks of treatment (if you survive). Airplane safety people say that you should wear natural fabrics, shoes that you can run in (with leather soles, and no metal jewelry (as it will sear your skin with transferred heat). Save the fashion for after the landing.

  2. Janel {Dandelion Dayz} says:

    I do like to dress nice for plane trips. Not overdressed but comfortable and stylish. I think you can be safe and stylish at the same time. I wear shoes I can take off and on easily through security, never wear belts or anything that will set those monitors off like heavy silver jewelry . I have one bracelet that sets it off every time.

    I seriously never even think about a plane not making it to my destination. I know it’s a reality but I just can’t go there.

  3. Fantastic suggestions! Great post.

    The likelihood of a plane crash would be like winning the lottery. Pretty sure it won’t happen so I would dress for comfort/fashion before I would safety. But that’s just me…

  4. Finally! Someone I can relate to! This is exactly how I see travel-attire! But not too many people around me agree. We will be leaving for a week long cruise next month, so I’m thinking along these lines already. Thanks!

  5. I popped over here via Jo-Lynn’es blog, and loved reading this post…I’m going to become a follower…love the blog! 🙂
    Happy New year! 🙂

    Ok, now I don’t fly much, what do you suggest for car trips? After all, there are stops along the way! 🙂

  6. As someone who traveled a bit to Europe for summers a few years ago…(on a part-time nanny salary to work as a volunteer at summer camps in Romania, so by no means as a person with $$)…I found that I was one of the few who traveled dressed up in economy (at least amongst those not traveling for work).
    I found that a nice pair of black slacks with some stretch and a smooth finish (so as not to invite lint) worn with a 3/4 sleeve white button blouse and a vest in classic and classy colors such as grey and burgundy helped me look polished and put together. I always carried along my black lightweight coat that was somewhat like a trench, but with different lines. I also wore a pair of nicely polished black boots.
    I never felt like my clothes weren’t comfortable and though I never got upgraded I do think that the combination of being nicely dressed as well as polite served me well in how I was treated by airline and airport personnel when I got stranded in Amsterdam on 9/11!!