Dressed To Fly…

lightweight knits for travelOr, “comfortable airport style” doesn’t have to be an oxymoron…

I’m just back from New York, and in less than two weeks (!!!) we’re off to Japan. From LA to NY it’s usually about 6 hours gate-to-gate, and from here to Tokyo, it’s closer to a 12-hour flight.

I thought I’d show you the types of pieces I’d normally wear for longer flights, and share some of my tips for looking put-together while maintaining maximum comfort.

travel outfit to and from airport

Wearing: earrings | top | pants | scarf (similar) | shoes
Bags: wheeled carry-on | tote (similar)

A lot of ink has been spilled about how people dress (or don’t) to fly these days. I’m all about comfort but I still believe that comfort doesn’t have to be sloppy. Granted, I can understand the “why bother” attitude when flying these days can feel not much different from being packed into a sardine can. But I also believe that we “create the quality of our own experience” and that looking and feeling smart and put-together improves my travel experience.

  • Shoes. I don’t like to wear sandals for travel days, even during warm seasons. For one thing, who wants to walk barefoot through airport security if you’re asked to remove your shoes? And I find that the floor of airplane cabins can get cold and am much more comfortable with closed shoes and usually some hosiery. (If you don’t want to wear a full sock, these shoe liners are brilliant.) Your feet can swell during a long flight, so take that into account when choosing travel day shoes. You may have to walk quite a distance to and from your gate, so I’d suggest sticking with a low-heeled shoe.
  • Knits. I love knit tops and pants for travel. Look for fabrics that breathe and won’t wrinkle. Above I’m wearing the Covered Perfectly Fit and Flare top, which is made from their super soft micromodal fabric. (This one was gifted from Covered Perfectly, and I did have it shortened just a little bit. Taller women, I think you’ll be happy with the length of these tops.) It’s so soft and stretchy it feels like wearing pajamas! The pants are my trusty Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants, which can go straight from your arrival gate to dinner. I always avoid wearing anything too tight or constricting on a long flight.
  • Layers. During cooler months I’d probably include another layer or two, but this time of year it’s mostly just during the flight that I get cold. Cashmere is always a good bet; it’s not only warm, but lightweight, non-bulky and breathes. Here I’ve included a lightweight cotton scarf that I’ll drape around my neck once I get into the airport’s air-conditioned interiors. And then a cashmere cardigan or poncho (the one I’m wearing below was purchased in Paris from Crimson Cashmere) to ward off the cabin chill during the flight.
  • Accessories. Don’t bother to wear a lot of metal jewelry; you’ll just have to remove it to get through airport security anyway. Keep it in your carry-on, and put on once you land. I usually don’t wear much makeup on travel days (just some tinted sunscreen), as I like to be able to freshen up and add moisturizer throughout the flight. If time allows, I might touch up my brows and apply some mascara and lipstick before we land. Out of consideration for those sitting close by, I skip fragrance until after disembarking.

layers for cold airplane cabin

I’ll keep this poncho stashed in my tote until after takeoff, then on it goes for the rest of the flight!

What do you like to wear for long travel days?

Stay in touch

Sign up to be notified of new posts and updates from une femme d’un certain âge.

Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See my complete disclosure policy here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. “Out of consideration for those sitting close by, I skip fragrance until after disembarking.”
    Thank you for thinking of this. I’ve seen so many “Tips for flying” that include things spraying rosewater or a “mist” on your face while flying, without suggesting even doing the spraying in the bathroom cubicle. I don’t want someone next to me spraying anything near my face!

    1. That comment stood out for me too. If only more people were so considerate! I’m so sensitive to fragrances – at best sneezing and nose running, at worst, ill with a migraine – so I seriously wish more people were tuned into how many products they use are loaded up with synthetic fragrance of one kind or another and might be having an adverse effect on others. Once you start noticing, you’ll see it’s everywhere and this includes stinky fabric softener, laundry detergent, hairspray, deodorant. Thanks, Sue, for mentioning this!

      1. I could not agree more. I’m like you, the migraine like headaches from fragrances of any sort. I’ve had two sinus surgeries (you never want even one of those) .Plus an aggressive daily medication regime. So many people these days have become fragrance sensitive. Your post was well said.

    2. I was so happy to read this, too! On a recent trip to London, someone near me (not next to me) wore a very strong perfume and I had to resort tying a handkerchief over my nose (this is why I keep a nice sturdy cotton hanky in my purse in the first place).

  2. Great post. I would like to know what you packed in your tote? I’ve been on some small planes lately and they have taken our luggage before we enter the cabin. Therefore I like to make sure I have my cosmetics with me. My travel handbag is getting heavier and heavier. Is your handbag packed in your suitcase or in your tote?

    1. I highly recommend Olay 4-in-1 Facial Cloths. They are small, disposable cloths imbedded with cleanser, and are excellent for travel. No liquids to deal with in the security line! I sent a package with my daughter on her medical mission trip to Nicaragua, and she used them for face & body cleansing. They are getting a bit hard to find (hope they don’t discontinue!) but I’ve been getting them online.

  3. I always get over-heated on long haul flights, so I usually wear a knee length stretchy type skirt with a 3/4 sleeved top, flat shoes (no stockings, of course). The only jewellery – watch, earrings and my lucky charm necklace which was given to me on my 21st birthday which I wore on my first overseas holiday and have always worn (when travelling) ever since.

  4. First of all, you had me at that Goyard tote! Secondly, I’m loving that cobalt blue top on you. It’s beautiful!
    OK. I agree about traveling in a comfortable and fashionable way. And lately, I”ve been traveling like a slobbette. I wore shorts and a Breton-stripped shirt and dragged the airport floors in a 20-year old pair of Bass Weejuns on our recent return from France. But, I usually travel in either a knit dress (Lilly Pulitzer has some great ones) or J. Crew Pixie Pants and a comfortable shirt. Like you, I don’t wear sandals when flying because I get grossed out by others’ feet and just feel sandals are inappropriate. (Although I do believe I have flown in my Rondini’s once or twice. I’m being very Trumpycritical). My footwear of choice is usually a pair of ballet flats but as of late loafers.
    I ALWAYS wear a pretty matching bra/panty set–just in case the worst thing happens and my body needs to be matched up. In my purse, my travel essentials are rosary beads, chapstick, and hair ties to put my hair up while in flight because I get really hot.
    Great post!!!!!!!!!!

    1. “I ALWAYS wear a pretty matching bra/panty set–just in case the worst thing happens and my body needs to be matched up.” That’s the funniest air travel fashion tip I’ve ever read! 🙂

      1. Bonaparte was mortified the first time I traveled overseas with him. I honestly thought he would end our relationship at that. But it’s true. My kids think I’m “not right in the head” but I think of it as being pragmatic. Plus-I get to buy pretty underwear!!

  5. I so agree — my travel experience is better when I dress nicely, especially if something goes awry and I need to talk with a TSA officer, flight attendant, or agent. Maybe it’s just psychological on my part, but it feels like I get treated better when I’m wearing something a little more smart.

    I wear a very small cross-body purse just large enough for my boarding pass and passport and a little cash. The rest of my usual purse contents goes in my carry-on (usually my laptop bag) but the cross-body bag holds everything I need in the moment so there’s no scramble at security or the gate.

    1. A cross body bag has been invaluable to me when navigating airports. The important stuff like a boarding pass, cash, credit cards, ID, etc. are on your person, hands free. I wear one under a cardigan or jacket when boarding and stash it in my tote under the seat during the flight.

  6. I agree with Catherine. That blue top looks wonderful on you, Sue. Closed shoes in airport security…yep..a must for me too. I usually wear my Stan Smith Adidas. They’re comfy and still look good. And about the jewellry. I take a lot of short flights these days, back and forth from New Brunswick to visit my mum. And I’ve really begun to notice the amount of jewellry people wear and then don’t even begin to remove until they’re standing at the counter filling their bin. I take mine off and pop it into a little plastic bag in my purse, then put it back on when I’m through the line. Like traffic jams on the highway… when someone slows the line down it is reflected exponentially on the people behind. Okay enough grumping… hope you had a fabulous time in New York. Can’t wait to here more about it.

  7. When I flew to HongKong last November (and back of course) on Cathay Pacific, the planes were both terribly cold. Because I was returning home to early winter, I had a primaloft lined jacket rolled up in my bag, and i wore that most of the flight. Temperatures were fine at the beginning of the flight, but were definitely turned down during the “night time” part of the journey. Passengers in first class were given down blankets, but those of us in coach had very decorative loosely woven synthetic throws that provided no warmth at all. If that is your airline, you may want an extra layer, and serious socks.

    My travel costume is much like yours, except that I feel no need to wear jewelry while traveling. If I am traveling for a special event, I will carry it with me in my purse or carry on bag, but I cut way down on accessories for travel; like multiple changes of clothing: they are fun to have, but not necssary for the enjoyment of the trip, and there is too much opportunity for loss or theft, even in the nicest of place.

  8. I dress for comfort and style – I wore easy black slacks and a tunic when I went to China in May – I am always hot, but still bring a pashmina to use as a blanket. I have to have headphones, raw almonds, and some face wipes with me. I always carry on – even for two weeks in Europe so I try to really minimize my second bag which is usually a longchamp tote. I try not to wear anything too bulky as it gets in the way of the seat belt and tends to bunch up.

    Love your blog!

  9. If it is an overnight long haul flight and I am in business or 1st, I take modest PJs. I sleep better and there is something refreshing about putting on barely worn clothes before landing. I agree with the group, comfort, style and black! Safe travels to you.

  10. Thanks for this blog — I’m prepping my packing list for an upcoming transatlantic cruise right now. My air travel costumes vary, depending on season, flight length, cabin choice, travel purpose(s), and what I’ll be doing immediately after landing. But here are the basics:
    * Black clothes (any lighter colors don’t hide travel boo-boos like black does)
    * Neck scarf (Hermes silk is very warm and dresses up any outfit)
    * Shawl / jacket / poncho that doubles as a blanket
    * Flat walking shoes
    * Lightweight socks
    * Travel tote (moisturizers, makeup, hairbrush, book/Kindle, iPad, all electronics chargers, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, meds, good jewelry, sunglasses, reading glasses)
    * Small crossbody purse, which I put into the travel tote (printout of all travel-related reservations and phone numbers, cell phone, passport, DL, money, credit cards, insurance cards, passport, pen, notepad, lipstick, car and house keys)
    * Carry-on suitcase (that holds anything else I need for a few days if my luggage is delayed)

  11. A friend of mine said to me once, “Always carry a shawl and a fan”. That has proven to be the best traveling advice! Not only on the plane but always in my bag!I find air conditioning, a sudden shower, a grandchild that falls asleep in your arms, a draft on your neck or on your legs, a windy outlook that blows your hair in your face…most of these are unexpected and the shawl comes in handy! The fan gets a lot of use, often before take off when the air is turned off, in a hot taxi, a hot theater (London!), a hot climb to the top of some scenic spot…also unpredictable needs. With those two items you are much more comfortable! I often use them both on the same flight. We travel often, and if I don’t need them, my four daughters will ask for them in a pinch.

    You have to LOOK for a good folding fan. Museums often have nice ones. The best are in Spain, so stock up if you go. Look for one that is short enough to fit your purse. I have a small pouch with a large but lightweight shawl from a museum, and my fan. I transfer it around to my current handbag or carry on. It also contains a patch of moleskin for blisters, which tend to occur far away from the hotel, and tylenol.I like a large lightweight shawl because it can be folded double if you need warmth, but it isn’t bulky.

    I like to travel with a pack of Ritz Crackers. I put one column in my carry on or bag. Airline meals are unpredictable in timing, and often I don’t really care for the food. I am ok with a few crackers to tide me over. I like to have them in the hotel so I can take my daily pills with some crackers before going down to breakfast, or in the evening when it has been a long time since dinner and I need to take pills before bed. Knowing I have these, children and grandchildren often ask for some if they feel too hungry or are even getting sick because they haven’t taken time to eat. A few crackers and a tylenol can save the day from being miserable for them.

    I love traveling with my Iphone. I can have a small bag and my phone…but I can read my book on the Kindle app, write my journal on the nvALT app and it will transfer automatically to my computer when I get back home and in a close proximity to the laptop.

    I can take and edit photos, with T Mobile I can send texts to my traveling companions in any country, or I can text and send a few photos home everyday to people at home. I have the Ubber app. so I can find a ride anywhere in a short time, in a clean car. I can check the weather so I know what kind of jacket to bring for the day.

    I can text my guide(if you travel without a guide, get the bus drivers cell phone number, we have learned from experience, they will leave you if you have not agreed on a time to be back),if I am left behind somewhere (perish the thought!) I can find my husband when we are separated in a large museum.

    I can keep my toddler grandchildren, or any grandchildren for that matter, happy while waiting for a four course dinner on a trip; I have a select collection of fabulous games for each age group. Or I can show them my “Art/Culture” pins for different countries, architecture styles, or art history periods, to get them prepared for what we are seeing next.

    When bored in airports I can scan Pinterest, read my emails and your blog. I can research the area I am traveling to and not have to carry a heavy guide book. I can write parts of my personal history from prompts I have stored in my “notes” sections.

    I can photograph documents or text of signs by painting in the museums to have with the picture of the oil painting. I can take a picture of where I parked my car in a complicated parking complex, so I can get back to it more easily. I love to take pictures of the food we are served when we travel, it is amazing. (We travel with Tauck Tours, and they take you to very lovely hotels and restaurants). I can take a picture of the program of a Broadway show to remember the event.

    The only thing I do not do is take “selfies”. I sometimes take pictures of all the outfits I am planning to take on a trip when I organize a head of time, so I can pack in a hurry, and pick up anything that is needed to finish the outfit.

    I can look up history of a country while eating lunch there in a park. I can get a map to where I need to go, or find restaurants that are nearby. I have most success in asking the concierge for a restaurant and often they will book your table; they can get you one because they call frequently and you are just passing through.

    I am a novice with the phone. But even I get tremendous benefit from it without carrying a bag of books, maps, a big camera, a guide book, and a journal like I used to do when we traveled.

    ps I always wear black basics, and take different colors of tops to add variety, each with a scarf and necklace to match. I recently invested in black waterproof ankle boots, which are easy to pack and are indispensable for rainy days.I found a waterproof, not water resistant, short black jacket with a hood…no need for an umbrella unless there is a downpour. A small umbrella fits in the pocket.It is large enough to put a fleece or sweater layer under it on a cold day.

    1. You are so right. That iPhone has become my greatest travel accessory. It goes without saying that Google Maps and Around Me are indispensable. Just be sure to buy additional data if you travel overseas. I found that out the hard way!

      1. We traveled to France last summer using a SkyRoam hotspot with our iPhones for a wifi connection. This allowed us to turn off our roaming service and still use maps for navigation, FaceTime, email, text and WeChat to communicate. Coverage was very good in most places, especially in larger cities. It was indispensable in the rental car and allowed us to travel very independently. The cost is around $8USD/day and the unit was about $75 to purchase. So much less expensive than the overseas program offered by Verizon.

    2. Totally get your iPhone addiction!
      My iPhone is practically welded to me when I travel, but I found out the hard way when travelling to Costa Rica this summer just how humidity-sensitive it is… so now (using old iPhone until I can afford a new one) I will be using a protective cover when travelling in the tropics.
      Now to the clothing issue… I do not look great in black (seems to highlight all the wrinkly bits) but I find a combination of pale grey and navy always looks cool. Cashmere and other natural fibres every time. Always comfortable, always look stylish. I’ve stopped wearing jewelry when travelling, I can’t handle the faff of taking it on and off. Footwear is anything I can slip on and off without fiddling with laces or buckles. And no belts. They get you at security every time just when you think it’s all going well.
      Carry-on must is Elizabeth Arden 8-hour cream, it does just about everything. Also (weird I may be) is a nail file. There is nothing worse than having a fingernail that snags on everything and not being able to do anything about it.

    3. Agree with you on the fan. I usually bring 2 in case I break or lose one. Spain does make great fans. There are several websites that feature hand painted Spanish fans, as well as on Etsy.

  12. Those Smartwool socks are brilliant! I’m ordering now. We are similar with the chill on feet during flight, and they will be great for the air-conditioned office as well. Also, the black Eileen Fisher pants are workhorses. Love them. I learned the hard way on a flight across the country that a rayon ‘sweater’ provides zero warmth. I froze. The plan is to have cashmere for the warmth next time (and of course the luxury!). I will save the bracelets and chunky rings for landing. I find that they interfere with comfort when crossing my arms as I invariably do to catch a little nap. All that said, it’s becoming less enjoyable, at least seated in coach, to fly these days. Tighter seating and seemingly less quality overall does not encourage wearing one’s nicer things, though the flight attendants remain helpful and cheerful – bless them. Still, I’d rather be over-dressed than under-dressed. (And may the Universe hear me when I say, Only 1st class from now on.) 😉

  13. I always dress nicely for flights–usually in knits and in black, but as nicely as I can muster. My husband does the same–always in a sports coat. We usually hit the ground running on the other side and like to be dressed appropriately. I, like you, would never wear sandals on a flight. I wear my black onyx earrings instead of metal earrings.

  14. I have pretty well figured out my plane travel outfit: for cooler weather destinations, it’s black EF knit pants, a black & white knit top, and a black cardigan, usually with a scarf, although they make you take those off at security. I wear black slip-on shoes (with socks, because bare feet in security line, ewwww), and bring my black cashmere shawl for extra warmth if needed. I went to London last June, and didn’t want to do the whole black scheme, so I wore navy “tech fabric” ankle pants from Athleta (LOVE those), a navy tee, beige EF linen cardigan that never wrinkles, and beige Sperry Topsiders. And a beige & blue scarf. The outfit worked great except for the shoes, so I’ve been on the hunt for a very comfy, slip-on pair of beige-y sneaker-type shoes. Jewelry is minimal, usually hoop earrings, small necklace, watch, and wedding ring.

  15. It’s all about warmth and comfort on a 9 hour flight: EF black knit pants, black tunic top, and gray merino zip sweater; gray paisley pashmina scarf; travelsox; black closed-toe slip on shoes; minimal jewelry; – and now I’ll be sure to wear the pretty underwear. 🙂 As soon as we are seated, I use Herban Essential towelettes on the tray table and drink some water with Emergen-c. In the last 6 years of traveling overseas I have only had one cold!

  16. Lately I’ve been choosing to wear a black jersey jumpsuit from Ralph Lauren. It has a bateau neck, 3/4 sleeves and a long zipper up the back. I’ll add a cardigan sweater coat (doubles as a blanket or pillow in flight). The jumpsuit requires a bit of maneuvering in tight spaces (if you get my drift), but it’s so comfortable and pulled together that it’s truly worth the extra effort. And no jewelry I would ever hate to lose!

  17. The cobalt blue top looks wonderful on you! Over recent years I’ve found the temperature on planes to vary wildly, even within the same flight and layers are essential. Looking forward to hearing more about New York and would love to see what you wore, even though it wasn’t your first choice.

  18. Lovely! Elegant! Why oh why couldn’t I have seen you in the airport on Thursday evening rather than the woman in the pink printed pajama bottoms dragging on the ground?

  19. My favorite travel accessory is my TSA pre check – at about $20 a year, it’s the biggest bargain around. I don’t have to take off my shoes, sweater or display my toiletries.

  20. So many smart clever readers sharing ideas, I LOVE this forum! Like so many, my hubby and I did TSA precheck and added on Global Entry. We skip the LONG LONG lines at customs coming back to the US and hit up a little ATM- like kiosk where we are fingerprinted and photographed to confirm our identities. It did not cost much more than the precheck alone and has been very worthwhile!
    I forgo sandals for air travel for two reasons, the cold frigid floor of the plane and also in case of an evacuation, shoes are just much more sure and safe. Along that line of thinking I also always have a rosary. The only jewelry I wear would be small post earrings and my wedding set.
    I like to wear what I term “street legal pajamas” for travel. This would be nearly anything from EF, but also include stretch wool trousers. I love merino wool for warmth , it sheds wrinkles, easy to wash in a sink . I like to wear a more fitted sweater , as a poncho or wrap seems too easy to migrate into a seat mate’s area and get schmutzed.
    I love your smart wool invisible socks but I prefer the ones that are cut higher on the foot, they fit well with loafers and with oxford shoes, called “hide and seek”. These stay put on my feet and don’t go roaming around under my toes while I rush to catch a connection.
    I have learned the hard way NEVER to wear anything bedazzled to the airport. I had a lovely EF sweater that had a metallic thread in it and had to doff that to get thru the security. The machine seemed to read my torso as solid metal.
    The hardest part I find to be logistics- the purse, ID, cosmetics, car keys, electronics etc. I always pack a nylon tote in my carry on roller. That way, when I have a Teeny Weeny jet to connect on ( and I always do, as I live in a small city) I can put my electronics ( reader, phone, Ipod, chargers ) and cosmetics in the tote and have them gate check the roller bag. The tote goes under my seat , never overhead. There is always some dufus who feels like he ( yes, sadly usually a guy) can sling his over weight packpack on top of my tote in the overhead, squishing my belongings.
    I don’t like to wear much makeup on a long flight but sunscreen is a must. I also wear Loreal tube forming mascara that refuses to budge until I wash it off. So I look a little put together! Lip gloss or chapstick is needed too. Hand cream . Also cleansing wipes, immediately wipe the food tray and armrests with a wipe. They are filthy .

  21. Cleansing wipes, cleansing wipes, cleansing wipes. I usually bring two scarves, the huge big one that can be used as a blanket/hood etc., and a silk one to go around my neck for extra warmth. Always Smartwool socks and plenty of layers, a comfy wire-free bra, camisole, long sleeve tee, thin lightweight sweater, bulky sweater and the scarves. I also make sure to wear stretchy pants that do not have wide legs. I do not want the pant legs dragging on any public bathrooms. If I could, I’d buy shoes to throw out each time I used an airplane bathroom! Cleansing wipes, cleansing wipes, cleansing wipes!