Gear · Travel

What to Wear on a Plane and What to Avoid

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After years of travel, much or it by flying, I have learned many a hard lesson about what to wear on a plane. There’s a lot to consider, comfort, getting through security, and how you look all play a role. Here are our top tips about what to wear on a plane (and what to avoid).

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1. Dark Colours Instead of Pale Colours

I don’t know about you, but I am a spiller. Little splashes or drips are pretty common when you are flying and these show up so clearly on white or pastel clothing. Even if you aren’t going to spill on yourself, there are plenty of surfaces in the airport and on the plane that you may sit on or brush up against that can be mucky. Instead, choose deeper, darker colours which won’t show marks so easily. I know that your nice, white trousers or pretty pink skirt is perfect for your dunny destination but you don’t want to ruin them on the way.

Yup, I learned this one the hard way in this light fit

2. Wear Separates Instead of a Jumpsuit

Plane bathrooms are not the cleanest places. Bumpy flights, a few free drinks or just poor aim can leave some sprinkles on the floor. You don’t want your clothes touching that floor. Plus, planes can be rather chilly and taking your whole jumpsuit off to pee can be really cold. Stick to separate items that can be removed individually, won’t wipe up any puddles by mistake and won’t leave you exposed.

As much as I want to wear my dungaree dress on board (as it is a pain to pack), I never will. The extra metal pieces on dungarees and some pinafore dresses can set off the security metal detectors. Then, what do you do when they ask you to remove it? It is not worth the stress.

3. Midis Instead of Extreme Lengths

When it comes to your clothing length, it is all about moderation.

  • Too Long – Wearing a floor length skirt can have a few little issues that are worth considering. I have worn a maxi with some leggings underneath and it wasn’t the best plan. As with the jumpsuits, a maxi skirt can run across the floor and get really dirty. I was paranoid every time I came off a moving travellator or escalator (which there are lots of in airports). It is also worth considering how you get in and out of your seat. If you are climbing our you will be trailing so much material behind you which can get tangled in arm rests, headphone cords, phone cables and other people.
  • Too Short –  This applies to both tops and bottoms. It seems that skimpy is a no-no. One lady was asked to put on a hoodie to cover up her black sports bra and biking shorts on American Airlines in 2022 and she isn’t the only one. There have been a fair few news stories of people being asked to cover up for their flights. Personally I get cold on most flights so having a bare back seems like a bad plan. (I have had to talk to one guy and ask him to put on a top, and it is really awkward!) In terms of bottoms, it is best to cover your thighs. Partly for temperature reasons, partly because plane seats aren’t too clean and partly because you may be uncomfortable if you legs are stuck to the fake leather seats. Skip the short shorts, despite the joy of singing the song.
Who wears short shorts?

4. Comfortable Undies Instead of “Lingerie”

  • For the Gals – When it comes to your underwear, comfort is key! Much fancy underwear is quite structured with underwires and extra hooky bits. This makes the metal detector more likely to go off and that disrupts your journey a little. They can also start to rub or dig in on a long haul flight when you are sat in strange contortions. I would also advise skipping anything lacy or with a strong waistband which can also start to rub or get stuck to you in strange ways. Instead, opt for seamless, wireless and smooth wherever possible.
  • For the Gents – Avoid tight waistbands on your pants/boxers. Something that is tight when you start will definitely start to dig in on a long haul flight, especially after the salty in flight food. It is also important that you aren’t wearing undies that you know ride up. You won’t be able to readjust too often when you are sat next to fellow passengers.

5. Stretch Denim Instead of Real Jeans

There are plenty of blogs and articles that say don’t wear jeans. However, I am often in my jeans/jeggings when we fly. If you love your denim, avoid proper denim which can be stiff and have uncomfortable seams. Instead, opt for slightly loose jeans with plenty of stretch, or are jeggings (with the appearance of denim but a thinner stretchy cotton). Choose a style that aren’t tight around the waist. Even better if they are high waisted so they skip all of that bloat.

6. Loose Waisted Bottoms Instead of Tight Trousers

As above, opt for looser styles of trousers or midi skirts with stretchy waists. Steer clear of extra seams that can dig in and especially any trousers with a zip on the side or back. You’ll see lots of people in joggers which are great for flying but if you are flying somewhere warm, you might regret the fleecy lining when you land. Linen and cotton are best. It is also good to stay away from tight leggings for a rather gruesome reason. If you are in a fire, the plastic in the polyester can melt onto your skin. As soon as I read this, I stopped choosing leggings…new fear unlocked.

7. Layers with Openings Instead of a Solid Top

By this I mean a cardigan or hoodie with buttons or a zip. You never know what temperature the plane will be and layering gives you different levels of temperature regulation. If you can only have a jumper on or off it reduces your options. I love to fly in a loose cardigan which are super comfy, don’t cling, can be whipped on or off, or just hang open.

8. Slip On Flats Instead of Complicated Shoes

After passing through security regularly for travel, and even more so working at the airport, I have observed the drama that some footwear can cause. So what should you avoid?

  • Getting through security is annoying enough, without struggling in and out of your shoes. In the USA, you are always required to remove your shoes (unless you have TSA pre-check) so don’t wear anything like flipflops or sandals that will leave you walking across the airport floor barefoot. In the UK, it is only if you have a certain kind of shoe. Anything with that is a boot, has extra buckles or metal flourishes, a high heel or a wedge will need to be removed.
  • We would also recommend avoiding any shoes you can’t run in, just in case you need to hightail it to the gate.
  • In the case of evacuation, you want shoes that will stay n your feet which is why we think flipflops and sliders are a bad plan, they are too easy to lose. You will also have to leave your high heels behind so stick to flats.
  • You cannot fly barefoot, so as cool as you’ve became on your Bali beach retreat, you will have to cram those toes back into a shoe before you get to the plane.

So what should you wear?

  • Trainers are fine as long as they aren’t laced, as this holds you up after security. There aren’t always chairs to sort yourself out.
  • Flat slip on shoes are the way to go! You can get them on and off quickly and they will stay put when you need them to.

9. A Simple Outfit Instead of Excessive Accessories

I may sound like a broken record but make your life easier when coming through security and leave the chunky metal stuff at home. You will have to take off watches, sunglasses and other metal heavy objects so make sure you have something you can get off easily. If you really want to look swish for your flight, and be sure it doesn’t get lost or left at security, bring everything in a jewellery box or roll and pop it on once you are through. The same goes for belts. If you don’t actually need one to hold up your trousers, then leave it in your carry on until you are airside.

Big dangly, heavy or hooped earrings are dangerous for flying. Turbulence can send them flying and they could get caught in your own hair or on someone else’s flailing arms. Keep earrings to studs or smaller options. You might want to skip them altogether as the post might stick into your neck as you try to sleep. It is also worth thinking about your necklace. It can also get caught in the case of a bumpy ride.

10. Plain Clothes Instead of Controversial Options

Although most airlines have no official dress codes, some do have notes in their conditions of carriage.

  • Coming straight to the airport from the pool or the beach feels pretty good. You have squeezed every last drop out of your vacation. However, you really need to change for the flight. You may fall foul of the conditions of carriage with some airlines and you will be outright breaking the dress code on Hawaiian Airlines. (I wonder how many instances of this they had so that they had to add it). Put on some proper undies, replace the board shorts with linen ones and stop trying to convince them your swimming costume is a bodysuit.
  • You can be refused carriage if you are wearing clothes with offensive words or images. Bear in mind that what you find rude may be different from those around you. Avoid slogan tees and political slogans, and stick to plain clothes. Unlike getting dress-coded at Disney, you may not have the chance to buy something in the terminal which is deemed acceptable and could miss your flight.
  • This is just my opinion, but turning up to a flight in your pyjamas is only acceptable if you are a kiddo. As a grown up, you can change into your PJs onboard once you are in the air if you need to.
Leave the swimwear in your bag

11. Deodorant Instead of Too Much Fragrance

When it comes to your personal pong, the aim is to smell fresh and inoffensive. Skip any heavy fragrance that can get up the noses of those sitting near you. I have some perfumes that I know would permeate the whole cabin so I skip it entirely. It can be tempting to douse in the duty free but just one gentle spritz is more than enough. My other half loved to over-spray in the airport shops so words were had. It was like sitting next to a teenage boy who had just just discovered Lynx. Now we go for clean over perfumed. – Photo by paulprescott

12. Glasses Instead of Contact Lenses

The air in plane cabins is really, really dry. This is kryptonite for contact lenses. As soon as you board, swap the contacts out for your glasses. You can always replace them before you land if you have an image to uphold. Just remember to sanitise your hands thoroughly between touching plane things and your eyes.

13. Loose Hair Instead of Fussy Styles

Keep your hair loose or down when you fly. I like to have my hair down or in plaits (pigtails). Ponytails can get in the way of resting your head against the seat and clips will dig into your head as you try to nap. It is also worth considering what would happen if you bump your head during any turbulence. Stick to soft accessories rather than chunky claw clips or metal clips with bows on etc. Again, I know it is slightly ghoulish but better to be safe than sorry. Finally, getting your hair done in a fancy up do is a fools errand. It is so likely to be messed up on board. Keep it simple.

14. A Big Pashmina Instead of a Buff

To minimise packing, many people recommended bringing a buff. A small piece of material that you can wear as a scarf. However, I find a large pashmina -style scarf is a lot more versatile. If you need it, it can be an extra blanket and if you don’t, you can roll it up for an extra pillow. If you are going between different climates (a cold and grey London to a glorious sunny Caribbean for example) this is an easy way to stay warm at the chilly end without packing loads of extra bulky layers.

A pashmina and a light down jacket are my travel uniform for cold mornings

Final Thoughts What to Wear on a Plane

Do I follow all of my own rules? Nope! Am I still learning lessons every time I fly? For sure! Sometimes needs must. When travelling with tiny hand luggage (when on budget airlines) sometimes you have to wear bulky or uncomfortable clothes, heels or even wellies as they just wont fit within the size limit. Still, at least there are some best practices that I can aim for.

Rosie xx

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