How to Dress for the Airport

by Carla Pacheco -

While dressing up for the airport doesn't result in the suprise upgrades that it used to, tramping through security in teddy bear pajamas are going to raise a few eyebrows. 

To be fair though, between airport security and the cramped airplane seating who doesn’t want to be as comfortable as possible?

How about a compromise? Here’s the best way to dress for flying. 

The Right Footwear 

Now is not the time to break in those lace-up, thigh high boots. You want to get through security as fast as possible so instead opt for a comfy and easy alternative like ballet flats or boat shoes.

Go with anything that can be easily slipped on and off and that isn’t too tight. Your feet expand over long flights increasing your risk of deep vein thrombosis.

However, you also might want to consider wearing your heaviest shoes to save your luggage some weight. This shouldn’t mean high heels though, because heaven forbid there’s an emergency it’ll be difficult to be quick on your feet.

Also skip the flip-flops and sandals as your feet might freeze on the plane. If you’re especially sensitive to cold temperatures bring a pair of socks to put on.

That’s why you should also …

Wear Warm Layers


Even if you’re flying to Tahiti it’s a good idea to bring something to put on during the flight. Cabins are infamous for dropping to freezing temperatures and your seat neighbor might not want to snuggle for 10 hours.

Wear a light jacket or sweater over your shirt. You can tie it around your waist or luggage so it doesn’t take up any room when you’re not wearing it. I have this huge pashmina scarf I always bring that can also serve as a blanket, shawl and sarong. You can also just layer up extra shirts or other clothing you’re bringing.

Loose Fitting, Natural Clothes

Jeans can be stiff and tight and therefore uncomfortable on long trips. Try to wear a looser pair or one with just a small amount of spandex woven in (like 5% or less). You can also secretly undo one bottom - it makes a world of difference.

Some travel experts also recommend staying away from synthetic clothing - in the event of an emergency, it’s much more flammable than natural fibers.

On a side note: Girls! Wear a skirt or shorts long enough to cover your bum when you sit. You donot want to be sitting directly on these seats, trust me.

No Offensive Shirts or Clothes

You can get booted off the plane. Don’t believe me? Southwest airlines kicked a woman off a flight a few years back over a political message on her T-shirt: the faces of Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice hovering over the words “Meet the Fockers.”

Unfair? Maybe. But unlike the government, private companies are not obligated to honor any “freedom of speech” doctrine, so just play it safe.

No Heavy Metal 

This is an oldie, but make sure not to wear items with metal because they can set off security and get you retained. Avoid belts and wallet chains because you’ll have to take them off in security.

Wear minimal jewelry - instead put it safely in your carry-on so you can keep a close eye on it without having to risk a body exam at security. Sometimes it can’t be helped - like for an underwire bra. Do what you can and you should be fine.

Be Clean!

This one might sound silly, but don’t be smelly. You’re cramped in a small, confined cabin that recycles air and already smells stale - do your part to make it a little more pleasant for those around you.

This includes going easy on the perfumes and cologne. A few hours of breathing in “Obsession” would give anyone a headache. Remember, the ideal seat mate doesn’t smell like anything - he or she is perfectly neutral.

This is trickier on the way back when you might have whittled down your clean clothes with nothing to wear on return. Try to save one clean shirt for your last day, or wash your clothes when you travel. And don’t skimp on the deodorant.

Other Things to Remember

Depending on the country you’re traveling to sometimes it’s safer to dress down in order to attract less attention.

Also, be culturally aware and sensitive to your destination. If you’re headed a conservative country respect the dress code and cover up.

Your skin dries out on an airplane because of the altitude, so consider bringing lotion and chapstick - yes, even the guys.

Wearing clean black clothes is an easy way to add a touch of elegance to your look, plus they hide stains much easier.

Remember, the goal is to look neat and presentable. Once you figure out an airplane look you’re set for all future flights.

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