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What to Wear to the Airport (and on the plane)

Heading off on vacation this summer? Lucky you! Vacation time is the best time of the year, as far as we’re concerned: the problem is you have to get their first, and travelling by air creates all kinds of sartorial issues. Read on for out tips on what to wear to the airport, and on the flight to your (hopefully) fabulous destination….


What to Wear to the Airport

Airports. They’re one of the best places in the world for people-watching, and you’ll see all kinds of outfits in them. Before we go any further here, though, the first thing you need to know is that this kind of thing?

What to Wear to the Airprort: Victoria Beckham

Doesn’t actually happen.

Well, not for the majority of us, anyway. It does happen for Victoria Beckham, obviously, but Victoria is fond of saying that the airport is her runway, and trust us, once Mrs B gets on that plane, even she slips into something more comfortable before climbing back into the stilettos to disembark on the other end.

What you’ll find is that most people at airports tend to look something like this:

What to Wear to the Airport: Britney Spears

And honestly, by the time you roll off the end of a long-haul flight? You really won’t care WHAT you look like.

Still, you’ll be happy to know that there IS a middle ground, somewhere between stilettos and Uggs. Here are our tips on what to wear to the airport:

1. Comfort comes first

Unless you’re going business class, flying isn’t particularly comfortable, so while it may be tempting to take tips from Victoria Beckham and make the airport your runway, you’ll soon come to regret that when you’re cruising at 30,000 feet, your feet are swollen in your stilettos and your tailored dress is crushed to pieces in your tiny airline seat.

Of course, comfort means different things to different people, so it’s really up to you to decide what you’ll be most comfortable in for a flight. Personally, we favour trousers over skirts and dresses because we tend to find that skirts will ride up, twist round and get creased much more easily than a pair of pants, but a knitted dress that won’t lose its shape could be just as comfortable: up to you.

Consider fit and fabric very carefully, too. Jeans are great, but if the denim is stiff it can start to chafe when you’re cramped up in the same position for hours, and a long flight definitely isn’t the time to break in a new pair of jeans, or try to squeeze yourself into your tightest pair. Tight waistbands are probably best avoided here.

2. Layer up

Most advice on what to wear to the airport revolves around layers, and for good reason. Airplanes are subject to random changes in temperature, and it could be either freezing cold, stifling hot, or anything in between. Most airlines will provide you with a blanket, especially if you’re flying overnight, but some kind of soft, pashmina-like scarf could come in very handy, and it’s also a good idea to dress in light layers, so you can easily adapt to the temperature of the aircraft.

3. Dress for the colder of the two climates you’re flying between

It’s all very well knowing what to wear to the airport itself, but you also have to consider what you’ll be doing once you reach your destination. Airport dressing can be particularly challenging if you’re flying to somewhere either much hotter or much colder than your starting point. In these cases, our advice is to first of all take heed of point 2, and layer up, but to base your outfit around the colder of the two temperatures. You just never know how long you could end up waiting at the airport, and it’s easier to remove a coat or a sweater in the heat than it is to stand shivering in shorts and sandals in the snow! Bear in mind, also, that most airports are temperature controlled, so even if you’re flying to or from the tropics, you won’t be dealing with hot temperatures until you leave the airport.

4. Wear shoes you can slip in and out of easily

You’re probably going to have to remove your shoes to go through airport security. Lines tend to be long, so you don’t want to be having to fiddle with lots of straps and buckles, especially if you’re rushing to catch a flight. Your feet may also swell during a long flight, so wear shoes you know will be comfortable, not ones you’ll have to squeeze yourself into and then hobble around in. If you really want to wear fancy shoes, it can be a good idea to pop a pair of flip flops of fold-up flats in your carry-on, just in case they start to hurt: you can always switch shoes before you go through security or once you get onto the plane. A pair of warm socks can also be a good addition to your carry-on luggage, in case you get cold mid-flight.

5. Keep accessories to a minimum

Belts, buckles, necklaces and other accessories are all just more things you may have to remove and then replace for the security checks, and they’re more things to get in your way or make you uncomfortable during the flight. Keep it simple, and keep the accessories for when you reach your destination.

6. Ditto with makeup and hairstyles

Short flights are fine, and if you’re only going to be in the air for an hour, the answer to the question “What to wear to the airport?” is often “Whatever you like.” A long flight, however, can leave you looking and feeling like… well, like you’ve just spent 10 hours in a cramped, enclosed space, breathing recycled air and having the back of your seat kicked repeatedly. You probably won’t be looking your freshest, and a thick coat of make-up can actually make you look worse. Your skin can get dehydrated anyway on a flight, and if you take a nap while wearing lots of eye make-up and lipstick, you won’t wake up looking the way you did when you fell asleep. Elaborate hairstyles, meanwhile, can be difficult to maintain mid-flight and are just one more thing to worry about.  Again, keep it simple and carry moisturiser and chap stick in your carry-on to keep your skin soft.

7. Put a change of underwear and any other essentials in your carry-on

Unfortunately, air travel these days isn’t always straightforward, and if you end up facing a long delay, it’s good to know you have some clean clothes, plus essential toiletries and medication in your carry-on. Be careful to check what you can and can’t take on board before you fly, however: regulations exist on things like liquids, and sharp items, and are strictly enforced, so check these carefully before you fly.

Did we miss anything?

What do YOU wear to the airport?

(P.S. If you’re still wondering what to wear to the airport, check out our Celebrity Airport Style Gallery some inspiration (or not) from the stars!)

Gallery: What to Wear to the Airport: Celebrity Style

[Celebrity images: Fame Pictures, top image: Ipolstock |]
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