In my old life, the start of September meant the start of business trips. For others it means heading off to college, or traveling to New York Fashion Week, or getting a post-Labor Day vacay under your belt for a reduced rate. Add it all up, and September is a big month for travel.
Layovers, stale airplane air, jet lag, bad circulation from sitting for long hours… travel can be pretty uncomfortable. A way to make it more enjoyable is to dress appropriately. By dressing with care for your next flight, you will feel great, look great, and may even receive better customer service. Taking cues from celebrity travel veterans like Jennifer Aniston, I have complied a list of items for a chic and comfortable flight: Pashmina. A pashmina is a large shawl, usually made of cashmere or cashmere blend. I love pashminas because they are so soft, warm without weight, and so versatile. For a flight, I wrap it around my neck as a decorative scarf. Once on the plane I use it as a cozy blanket, and once I have reached my destination I tuck it in my bag to be a wrap for chilly evenings or an overly air conditioned interior. A solid colored pashmina makes a great shawl with a cocktail dress, and can double as a winter scarf.
While real cashmere pashminas aren’t cheap, they are a great investment because they are sturdy, warmer yet just as lightweight as synthetics and blends and can be easily washed (gentle cycle or in the sink and then line dry). I wear pashminas that I have had for a decade and they still look like new. For budget-friendly options, check Nordstrom‘s sales where they often have a few select colors for up to 50% off. I have also found 100% cashmere pashminas on eBay for the same price as synthetics.
Slip-on Shoes. Whether it’s getting comfy on a long flight or have a speedy trip through the security checkpoint, it’s smart to wear slip-on shoes when flying. I recommend pairing these shoes with some sort of hosiery so your bare feet aren’t on the airport ground or the plane’s grubby carpet.
I like driving mocs for this purpose–they are comfortable, flexible, but have a lot of style. They can look great with trousers and jeans, and are a wardrobe classic (won’t be out of style in a couple of years). While brown or black are an elegant choice, consider a signature color like red, orange, or green to add a pop of color to denim and neutrals.
I also like wearing slip-on boots. While they aren’t as quick to get on and off as driving mocs, they are a smart choice if you plan on taking such shoes on your travel. If you wear your biggest and heaviest shoes on the plane, you have more room in your luggage for other wardrobe pieces.
Pants with Stretch. American women usually consider casual wear as a pair of denim, but this can be some of the worst fabric to wear on a flight. It can dig into your stomach, and stretch out at the knees and rear after sitting for a long period of time. However there are great fabrics that aren’t rigid denim or flannel pajamas.
Stretch denim is a great alternative–a skinny pair with pull-on boots looks on trend while being as comfortable as a pair of jersey leggings. They also look quite smart with ballet flats or driving mocs and your pashmina looped around your throat. A straight or subtle boot-cut silhouette in stretch denim also looks great with driving mocs and flats, but with a more tailored look on top.
While denim is a popular favorite, I often like to dress up more than that for a flight. Often airlines have say on who they decide to upgrade or who gets the next flight when yours is cancelled. Whether you like the fact or not, when you are dressed up more you’re more likely to get perks. Matte jersey and Ponte de Roma are fabrics with stretch and are terribly comfortable. Wearing matte jersey pants with a top in the same fabric is elegant, flattering to curvy figures, and as comfortable as loungewear. Ponte de Roma is a heavyweight tightly-woven knit that is refined and elegant. Narrow and wide leg trousers look great in this fabric, will be as elegant as traditional pants, but will hold up through the flight and remain comfortable the entire time.
Wear Layers. When flying, I wear layers so I am comfortable no matter the temperature of the plane, the airport, the shuttle or my destination. A refined knit top with an interesting neckline topped with a sweater jacket or blazer of merino or Ponte and then your pashmina means you will comfortable, stylish–and able to adjust no matter the temperature.
Pack a Survival Kit. While what you wear is important, what you pack can make you even more comfortable, and protect your ensemble. These are the items I put in my air travel survival kit:
- Tide to Go Pen. I can quickly attack any stains so I look just as fresh at landing as I did at takeoff
- Face Spritz. I swear by the Vitamin E Face Mist from The Body Shop–it smells great, hydrates skin in drying airplane air, and won’t ruin your makeup. I also like it as a way to set makeup and also doubles as a hydrating toner after cleansing. The bottle is also small enough to be TSA-approved!
- Lip Balm. Plane air is stale and drying and can wreak havoc on your skin…that includes your lips. Regularly applying lip balm will save your face. While a classic balm will get the job done, I love Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm because it hydrates while providing sheer color (my favorite is Rose, which makes your lips just bitten).
- Sewing Kit with Safety Pins. I always carry a sewing kit in my purse and have found I use it most when on travel. Grocery stores often sell a mini-kit with a couple needles, mini scissors and thread in the most used colors. If it doesn’t come with safety pins, I add a half dozen in various sizes to use if I lose a button, a hem falls or a seam breaks.
- Hand Sanitizer. Recycled plane air means more of a chance of getting sick. Protect yourself with a handy little bottle of hand sanitizer. Not only do I use it on my hands after using the restroom and before eating, I have also used it to wipe down the seat tray before use.
- Gum. Great for when your ears pop from the altitude, also good for dry mouth and freshening breath.
- Toothpaste, Toothbrush and Dental Floss. I find nothing revives me better after a long flight than a good tooth brushing. It freshens the breath, hydrates the mouth, and wakes me up. I have a great travel toothbrush from Colgate that packs the brush right into the handle–less bulk in your bag! As for dental floss, nothing is worse than knowing you have something in your teeth and not being able to remove it!
- Eye Drops. I wear contacts and find they start getting irritating about an hour into a flight. A tiny bottle of hydrating drops will keep my contacts and eyes comfy even for an international flight. For those who don’t wear contacts may still be plagued with dry eye on a long flight, there are many brands available at your nearby Target or grocery.
How do you dress while traveling?
Alison Gary has over ten years experience as a personal shopper, stylist, and visual merchandiser. Her blog Wardrobe Oxygen provides fashion advice to all women, regardless of age, size, budget, or lifestyle. She is a full-time working mother, blogger, wife, and frugal fashionista located in the Washington D.C. area.