Time and again you read about how airline travel just “isn’t what it used to be.” Usually when someone makes this claim, they’re either making reference to the lack of service on board, or, more often, to the way that people dress when they prepare to board a flight. While I’m certainly not proposing that we fall back on dressing in full three-piece suits, skirts, heels, hosiery and pearls for long-haul flights as people once did, there can be no doubt that when you are happy with the way that you look, you just feel better. Long flights are hard enough on our physical and mental well-being, so making effort to wear something that gives you a little sartorial boost can only be a good thing.
Do you count yourself among the throngs of yoga pant-clad airline travellers who swarm airports with an overstuffed carry-on tote containing everything from a “just in case they lose my luggage” outfit to the pillow from your bed? (Eew. There’s something that feels overly intimate about seeing some stranger’s pillow from their bed on an airplane…) If this sounds like you, allow this crusty old fashion writer to throw a few easy fashion tips your way, gleaned from years of both fashion writing and international travel.
Tip No. 1: Loose-fitting and comfortable clothing comes in many forms
Our sartorial sensibilities have been staring at skinny jeans for so long that we’ve sort of forgotten that “tight” and “chic” are two completely different things. Personally, it took me a few years to catch on that skinny jeans on an airplane are a special kind of torture, and that I actually had other, less restrictive options for long-haul flights; palazzo pants, culottes, and midi-length skirts are great options for flights, as they allow you to move and breathe, and can be layered up and down, depending on the season. A maxi dress is a great option if you are going from a colder climate to a warmer climate, as the addition of a cardigan or jacket and a simple change of shoes can take you from winter to summer in two minutes or less.
Tip No. 2: An interesting, well-made cardigan or wrap in a good quality fabric is your best friend
If there is one thing you can always count on, it’s that it will be cold on the airplane. You can take off in 100 degree heat, but the minute you hit altitude and the drink carts come out, you will be reaching for that overhead air-blower-thingy wondering why in the blue blazes it needs to be that cold on board the aircraft. This is where your trusty go-everywhere cardigan comes in handy. A draped, loose-fitting cardigan in a quality material like ultra fine merino wool or cashmere (although this writer personally finds cashmere a bit too delicate for air travel) is your best friend for this environment. Choose a lightweight fabric that folds easily into your carry-on tote or luggage, and is easy to slip on and off without disrupting your seat mates.
If cardigans are not your speed, try a pashmina-style wrap in a similar fabrication. One of the lovely things about a wrap is its multifaceted usefulness. One of my favourite airplane tricks is to use a wrap in place of an airline blanket, and when I feel like getting up out of my seat, I simply turn my wrap into a scarf until I get back to my seat, without ever missing a beat.
Tip no. 3: Invest in a good-quality, multi-tasking handbag
With the exception of a few budget airlines in the European countries, most airlines allow you to have one carry-on bag plus a personal item like a handbag or laptop. This is an opportunity to really let your “personal item” work for you. A spacious, well-appointed handbag like a Louis Vuitton Speedy or a Prada Saffiano tote can easily double as a small carry-on; it fits under the seat in front of you (and yes, you’ll still have legroom…trust me, I do it all the time and I’m nearly 6 feet tall!), and can easily hold a stop-sized amount of toiletries, headphones, passports, and a book or e-reader. Depending on the size of the bag, you might even forego a proper piece of luggage altogether.
A few pointers; choose a bag that you can wear cross-body. If it has satchel-like handles, make sure that it either comes with a strap or has an “O” or “D” – shaped ring that you can use to attach a strap. When you’re travelling, it’s just too easy to set something down and forget to pick it back up again. If that something happens to be your handbag (flush with passports, money, smartphone, and anything else you may hold dear), you may find yourself unable to proceed to your destination. One last thing to remember when looking at bags; , it doesn’t need to be expensive to be good, it just has to be of good quality.