travel clothes to wear to the airport

What to Wear on a Plane – My Travel Clothes Obsession

Wondering what to wear on a plane? Well, hi, nice to meet you – I’m Amber, and I’m just a little bit obsessed with travel clothes.

Honestly, I probably spend more time working out what to wear to the airport than I spend working out what to pack, and Victoria Beckham? If you’re reading this? It’s YOUR FAULT. Yes, you, with your long legs and your immaculate airport outfits, strutting along in your in 5″ heels, and making the rest of us wonder why WE always end up looking like a pile of rags by the end of a long-haul flight. (With “the rest of us” being “me” in this scenario, obviously. )

(I’m not joking, by the way: I LITERALLY always look like a pile of rags by the end of a flight, and I know this because my mum told me so, during a particularly memorable layover at Heathrow, on the way back from the States one year. “Wow, you look like a pile of rags!” she said, catching sight of my pale and crumpled self lying with my head on Terry’s lap. She tried to say she “didn’t mean it in a bad way,” but what other way IS there, I had to ask myself?)

Anyway, my point is that, despite all of my obsessing over travel clothes, I’ve long since given up any hope of looking like Victoria Beckham at the airport. Or at any other time, for that matter. I have, however, come up with something of a travel clothes formula over the years, and I present it to you now, because it’s not like I can think about anything else right now, is it?


what to wear on a plane: travel clothes suggestions01.
Keep it simple

Maybe I’m just unlucky, but most flights I take seem to take off at stupid o’clock in the morning, which means I’ve approximately ZERO chance of looking good for them. To try and make things easier on myself, I like to keep my travel clothes as simple as possible: and, I mean, I try to keep MOST of my clothes as simple as possible, but there’s no way I’m putting together some kind of elaborate airport outfit at 3am, so I always choose something super-simple, and which will look good with eye bags and slept-on hair. Or just the super-simple bit, anyway.

Layers. No, seriously: layers.

So, I’m not a big fan of layers. I hate feeling “bundled up” in my clothes, and having to add and remove ten million items to adjust my temperature, but travel clothes are the one exception to this, because you just can’t really risk anything OTHER than layers when you fly, can you? I almost always find planes absolutely freezing (like, “borrowing everyone else’s blanket and piling them all on top of me” freezing…), but every so often you’ll get a flight that’s hotter than the surface of the sun, so what’re you gonna do? You’re gonna wear layers, obviously, D’UH.

I like to wear a jacket of some kind, even if I’m travelling somewhere hot: underneath it I’ll normally wear a sweater layered over a t-shirt/tank, and I’ll often bring something like a hoodie (yes, really) or other warm piece of knitwear in my carry on. Because, yes, I get THAT cold. But sometimes I also get absolutely boiling, so go figure. Almost all of my airport outfits also involve trousers of some description: it’s normally way too cold on the plane for me to want to have bare legs, and I find tights uncomfortable even at the best of times, so there’s no way I’m wearing them on a cramped, 10-hour flight. Speaking of which…

When it comes to travel clothes, comfort comes first

As much as I’m sometimes tempted to dress up for the airport, I’ve learned the hard way that by the end of that flight I’ll be long past caring what I look like, so comfort has to come first – even if “comfort” means wearing leggings as pants. (OK, maybe not “as pants”, exactly, but as long as your top is long enough to cover the crotch, I’m not judging…) My basic rule with travel clothes is that if they wouldn’t be comfortable enough for me to lounge on the sofa in, or sit all day at my desk in, they probably won’t be comfortable enough for a long-haul flight, either. Works for me.

Travel clothes have to be crease-free

After comfort and warmth, the most important thing for me when I’m deciding what to wear on a plane is that my travel clothes be made from fabrics that don’t crease too easily. You’re literally going to be sleeping in these clothes, after all (Well, YOU might be: I won’t. Because who can sleep in a tin can that’s hurtling through the air at 500mph? Not me…), and crumpled clothes are one of my biggest pet peeves, which is why I always try to choose airport outfits that won’t crease. Because of this, I almost always end up in jeans: I know a lot of people find them too uncomfortable to fly in, but I’ve never found that to be the case – as long as they meet the criteria above, they’re good. The jeans in these photos have a lot of stretch to them, so they’re really easy to wear AND I know they’ll look the same at the end of the flight as they did at the start, which is why I find it hard to go past them when I’m picking out travel clothes.

Wear your heaviest item

I don’t always do this, because as I said in my hand-luggage post, we normally have a pretty generous luggage allowance to play with, but one of the reasons I’ll often wear jeans and a jacket on the plane is that I like to have those items with me when I travel, just in case we get bad weather, or end up doing something that requires something other than the many skirts and dresses I’ll have packed. They tend to be amongst the heavier/bulkier items I take with me, though, so I wear them on the plane, and free up some space in my suitcase.

Flats. Always flats.

This will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, but I’ve totally been That Girl wearing her highest heels to the airport – partly because of the whole, “but they’re the heaviest item!” thing above, but also because, well, Victoria Beckham. (Seriously, when I was younger, my parents used to make me walk a few steps behind them, so they could pretend they weren’t with me…) I don’t do that now, though. And I wish I could say “with age comes wisdom” here, but in my case it’s more “with age comes laziness”.

Airports quite often involve a lot of walking (and sometimes flat-out running), and while I will defend anyone who particularly wants to walk miles in heels (Yes, some people can walk perfectly easily in heels…), I’m not going to pretend flats aren’t a better choice if you’re going to be running around an airport or trying to force your poor, swollen feet into narrow stilettos at the end of a ten hour flight.

Also: I may have been That Girl in heels, but I’m pleased to say I’ve never been That Girl holding up the entire security line while she unbuckles her elaborate, strappy sandals, then puts them back on again: slip-on shoes forever!

What to wear on a plane going from a cold climate to a warm one?

One of the biggest issues with travel clothes is deciding what to wear when you’re traveling between two very different climates. My rule of thumb here is to dress for the colder of the two climates you’ll be experiencing, and, as with the tip above, WEAR LAYERS which you can add or remove as required. I once made the mistake of traveling to the airport in sandals and short sleeves in December (because I was flying somewhere hot), and let me tell you, that was one of the most miserable journeys of my life: I’d have been much better off in a thick jacket and sweater which I could have removed on the plane, or when I reached my destination – lesson learned!

What to wear on a plane if you’re in business or first class?

This is a question that comes up a lot, and the answer is that you wear exactly what you’d wear if you were traveling economy. Victoria Beckham aside, people just don’t dress up to fly any more, so choose comfort first, and rest assured that your fellow passengers will be doing the same.

* * *

And now, having written an entire post about what to wear on the plane, I have to admit I have absolutely no idea what I’m ACTUALLY going to wear on the plane. I should probably start to think about it. While I’m doing that, you can tell me your travel clothes tips…

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  • Maria


    When I travel I usually tend to avoid uncomfortable items that dig into my body, especially trousers whose button goes straight into your stomach, ouch! That’s why I’m starting to love jeggins/treggins with side zips and no buttons on the front; they still look like trousers, but are comfortable to sit in for long periods of time! Also, comfortable shoes: having fussy feet, they’re a must for me, even if I’d like to wear heels without doubling over from pain after 30 minutes I’m walking in them! 😀

    August 28, 2015
  • I also use the majority of these for plane travel, especially the comfiest and heaviest items thing, and yes, I have been THAT girl in the airport in massive chunky wedges because they were the heaviest thing I wanted to take too! My current favourite for air travel (and has been for a few years) is maxi skirts or dresses with layers – I feel like if it’s warm on the plane, I can sort of pull the skirt up around my legs while I’m sat down (hoping that doesn’t sound too weird now!) and if it’s chilly (which it usually is), I can secretly have a pair of flight socks underneath and no one knows!
    I was actually planning a similar post to this, just getting round to it is the problem right now, so you are awesome for doing one! I do need to get some posts scheduled for my holiday in a couple of weeks though, eek!

    August 28, 2015
  • Also on layers – because we live in a country with no summer and tend to be escaping by plane into one with one, it’s crucial to dress for winter as you’re leaving, and be able to remove everything when you land in a climate that feels comparatively like a sauna!

    I always put my hair up – but not in a ponytail as then you can’t rest your head back on the many travel seats you’ll be in over the course of the day. My hair and its decline into ‘scary bush’ over the course of one day is something I really don’t want to be worrying about. So I either put it in a side plait which is super fast to do (bonus for early mornings) or a bun on top of my head – either of these options gives me reclining ability.

    Er, that didn’t help you with the clothes thing… Like you say, leggings!! And I do usually travel in my denim jacket too as it’s bulky to pack but a really good light jacket to have if the weather turns while you’re away.

    August 28, 2015
  • Hollie


    I am ALWAYS that woman in the airport in 5 inch heels. And like you I also hold Victoria Beckham to blame for my need to look good at the airport.

    On so many occasions I’ve turned up to the airport with a group of friends who are all wearing trackies and trainers and I’m dressed to the nines in bodycon dress, heels and sunglasses, because why the hell not!?

    I have two pairs of designated airport heels which I know are comfy and if needs be I can turn into Usain Bolt and sprint through the airport.

    The only thing I really don’t recommend travelling in is leather trousers. 23 year old me learnt that lesson the hard way.

    August 28, 2015
  • Yes! Although am I the only one who gets so darn swollen on a plane that I have to wear my loosest shoes and pants? Even with travel socks my feet swell and I gain about two inches round my middle. So gross. I’m actually thinking in future I might just wear wrap dresses instead cause I end up majorly uncomfy normally.

    August 28, 2015
    • Sally


      You’re not alone! I used to swell like a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. I think it was my 47 billionth flight that made me crack down and figure out how to stop it. I do three things without fail on any flight longer than 3 hours. I take two extra strength GasX tablets, or any other gas cutter that is handy at the time; I make sure to drink lots and lots of water, even if it’s just small sips every 10 to 15 minutes; and I flex and tighten my muscles like I’m trying to get in a workout sitting down. Not only does the last help with preventing blood clots, but it helps move any built up lactic acid out of your muscles, keeping the swelling to a minimum.

      Unfortunately, I still get a bit of tightness from swelling in my ankles, but I don’t walk around nearly as much as I should on the longer flights. I’m working on it.

      August 28, 2015
  • Suya


    The outfit with the pink jacket/bag is absolutely spot on for travelling – simple, comfortable and stylish. Copying that for my next flight for sure!

    August 28, 2015
  • Fran


    I find that what works best for travel is what one finds most comfortable, so for me it’s a stretchy dress, tights and flats and a cardigan. Obviously the skirt has to be one I can sit on, because, airport germs, ewww. 😛 I have this dark blue DP dress which I love and I like myself in, and now it’s sort of become my go-to travel dress. It’s really comfy and it looks good on me, so I always know I’ll be fine and look as nice as one can look when travelling.

    Btw, the first outfit looks really nice on you!

    August 28, 2015
  • Sharon


    Definitely layers and slip on shoes. My favs just now are Markies boat shoes. Wearing them as I read this in Barcelona airport awaiting a flight to Edinburgh. 30 degrees down to 13 if the weather forecast into be believed. Emergency jumper, lightweight jacket, shawl and umbrella in the carryon bag for when we arrive home.

    August 28, 2015
  • so totally hooked on the blush outfit, its perfect. For travel no question, leggings or pants, flats and layers. I freeze on planes.

    August 28, 2015
  • Jaynie


    I tend to stick to the same outfit pretty much every time I fly in winter, simply because I know it works. The one chambray shirt I’ve got that neither wrinkles nor absorbs strange airplane smells (as all my other comfortable tops seem to do); that cream sweater from zara that doesn’t get ragged after a long day; that blue scarf, because it doubles as a blanket; those black skinnies that are the most comfortable thing I’ve ever owned; boots (because they’re heavy) and my hair in a bun courtesy of spin pins, so that I can easily redo it when it’s been messed up by sleep. Actually I think it was via you that I discovered those hairpins, so thanks for that. I was never able to do buns at all before.

    Summer I find much harder. Hot in the place you’re leaving, hot in the airport, hot in the place you’re flying to, and, for some reason, like being inside a refrigerator on the plane itself. I made the mistake of not bothering with a jacket recently and spent eight hours shivering, despite the fact that I’d claimed two blankets (and had my trusty scarf!). And I don’t normally get cold that easy!

    My only other consideration is that the clothing doesn’t stain easily. I have been known to spill my drinks during turbulence…

    August 28, 2015
  • Heather


    I am obsessed with the ‘glamorous’ side of travel. The side I rarely see. I always feel crumpled and dirty and tired after flying. I keep my travel colors simple and add a bright scarf for color and warmth if needed. And yes it is always flats for travel. Never tennis shoes (sneakers as we call them here in the US). I have a pinterest board for the ‘glamorous travel’ I aspire to. You can check it out

    August 28, 2015
  • On one of my trips home (to LAX) from Heathrow, I flew back on the same flight as Victoria Beckham and yes, in fact she looked incredible after getting off our 11 hour flight and I looked like something the cat dragged in. Still trying to perfect my airport style, but keeping it comfortable is key.

    August 28, 2015
  • Love your looks Amber! The pops of red are far more interesting then black (yawn) bags. But my favorite outfit on you is the soft pink ensemble. Thank you for the inspiration – bravo!

    August 28, 2015
  • I’m with you on the layers, including a jacket, but my most often companion is a cashmere sweater and a large scarf for snuggling.

    August 28, 2015
  • Miss Kitty


    Yay! Your post came just in time for some style inspiration for me. I’m going on a flight from NZ to Australia in a couple of weeks, and I never know what to wear! I don’t like looking like a total frump, but I hate being uncomfortable for hours sitting squished on a plane. You’ve given me some ideas – thanks! Now where is my pair of red flat shoes hiding…

    August 29, 2015
  • Bianca


    Hello Amber! During long 10 hour flights I wear normal crease-free pants (or jeans) and I take a super comfy, stretchy, light fabric trouser (+ hoodie) with me in my hand luggage. When I enter the airplane I change clothes in the toilet. 30minutes before landing, I go back to the toilet and put my normal airport clothes on again. 🙂

    August 29, 2015
  • Bianca


    Shoes: flats; always flats. Confort comes first. ?

    August 29, 2015
  • I just write a post on that. Mine would be a light jumpsuit and some wrappy thing like a kimono and a scarf or a shift dress and leggings

    August 29, 2015
  • Camilla


    I always bring a pair of comfy, thick socks. I can’t stand being cold on my feet and I don’t think anyone can judge you for wearing something like that on a long flight! I also always have a silk face mask so I can have a snooze without getting lines all over my face. I usually carry a spare top with me in case I spill something (I’m soooo clumsy!) and some of those stain removing tissues as well, can’t be too careful!

    August 30, 2015
  • I absolutely love all of your suggestions and outfits! That last one with the pink matchy-matchy nudes is my favorite, not that I didn’t love the other ones too.
    I wish I looked like Victoria Beckham when traveling, but I think no one does. She’s also my favorite! 🙂 It’s natural to look tired after a long flight, but I’m sure you’ll at least be super stylish!
    Perfect advice!

    August 31, 2015
  • Emilia


    My go-to travel outfit, after years of flying the Australia-UK route, is leggings under a sweater or a jersey wrap dress, with big comfy cardigan for wrapping up once it gets chilly, and a scarf ditto. Shoes are either flats, for slipping on and off, or boots for the heavy reason (watch out for swollen feet though). If I wear boots I take a second pair of ultra light flats in my hand luggage for walking around the plane, with thick socks for sleeping.

    A wrap dress is always comfy and easy, in jersey it doesn’t crumple much, and in a non-synthetic fabric won’t give you static or make you sweaty – very important for long haul! I used to change in toilets then just kept refining the flight wardrobe until I didn’t need to. A pretty silk scarf is an easy way to either spruce up your outfit once you hit the ground, or tie around whatever mess the flight’s made of your hair. And don’t forget giant glamorous sunglasses, no matter the destination weather, for hiding no-sleep eye bags and making you look mysterious once you get off the plane.

    If we all flew first class like Victoria Beckham I’d bet we’d look a lot better on arrival!

    August 23, 2016
  • sarah


    I love your totally fun written but unhelpful blog! I am still figuring out flight wear. I used to think a glass of bubbly in and I wouldn’t care and step off like a queen. Nope. Oh a whole world of nope! My only advise is THE biggest Jackie O sunglasses you can get away with and hide till you get to your port of call!

    January 24, 2020
  • Laurette


    Normally, when I fly, I’m greeted at the other end. Naturally, I prefer to have my heels on when that happens. But when I fly, sometime between security and boarding, the heels come off, and the ballet flats come on. Right before landing, my heels are on again. That works very well for me.

    June 26, 2024