What to Wear on the Plane Explained

Your trip is planned, your bags are packed, vacation starts tomorrow. Is there any better feeling  in the world? But before you can sip a welcome drink at the hotel, you’ve got a long haul flight to take, and there’s just one thing left to plan: what are going to wear on the plane?

I was eighteen and flying to Paris for my first trip to Europe when I encountered this dilemma for the first time. I wanted to be comfy and warm in transit but arrive looking fresh and impossibly chic. One simply can’t arrive in Paris wearing sweatpants. I think the French police might arrest you!

This was my first long-haul flight, but I knew airplanes are freezing, and after spending eight hours crammed into a tiny seat I would be wrinkled mess; clothes littered with pretzel crumbs and spilt orange juice. Or wine, depending if the Air France flight attendants were playing by the rules of the U.S. or their homeland…

I also knew overnight flights arrive early in the morning. So early that the hotel room wouldn’t be ready for check-in. That meant no chance of a quick shower and change before I began exploring. That meant my first breakfast in some charming cafe in Paris where I could possibly lock eyes with a handsome French man across the room reading Baudelaire, and voila meet the love of my life, would happen in wrinkled, stained, plane clothes? Sacre Bleu!

So I came up with a genius idea that I still use when I travel today.

The Secret: I wear my travel outfit to the airport – warm, sensible, and comfortable. But in my wheeled carry-on is a outfit for arrival. Once I land at the airport I pop into the lounge and do a quick change.

This way, if the room won’t be ready, or if I’m not going right to the hotel, or I just want to go through customs in style – I’m set. This is also smart in case my luggage is lost (which has happened to me twice). I have a spare outfit to get me by.

So you need two outfits – one effortlessly chic, preferably on theme outfit for arrival, and one for the plane.

After years of traveling, I have developed the formula for the perfect long-haul travel outfit. Tested at least a hundred times, this look will get you to your destination looking wrinkle-free, comfortable, and classy.

The Perfected In-Flight Outfit

1 – Comfortable Pants

My go-to is my black, Beyond Yoga Space Dye Leggings are stretchy and comfortable, they won’t get baggy or wrinkle after hours of flying, and paired with a sweater they look surprisingly fancy. Leggings also make your butt look way better than sweatpants. If you don’t think it’s acceptable to wear active wear in public, watch this video. If you’re still not sold, any comfortable pants will do –  just no pajamas, please.

2 – Cotton Tee

This is your base layer. I wear a cotton tank top in the unlikely event that the airport or plane is too warm. Or if the weather where I’m going to or coming from is hot. Cotton is breathable, soft, and won’t wrinkle. I love the tanks and tees from Aviator Nation. They are so soft and easy to wear with a pair of jeans later on in your trip.

3 – Cashmere Sweater

This is your top layer. Instead of a bulky jacket, I bring my favorite, oversized cashmere sweater. Cashmere is incredibly warm, cozy, and always looks sophisticated. I like to wear a pullover so there are no buttons or zippers that can become uncomfortable when I’m trying to sleep. Of course, any cozy sweater will do the trick, but if you have cashmere sweater already, it’s the perfect top layer for flying. If you’re going anywhere with cool weather, it will also come in handy on your trip.

You can even get it monogrammed. If initials are too preppy for your style, do something fun, like YAY, OMG, or OUI.

My top tip is NEVER bring a coat on the plane. Even if it’s cold on one or both ends of travel, I wear it to the airport, and then pop open my suitcase before checking it, and pack it right on top. I can get it out again upon arrival if I need it. It’s not comfortable to wear it in-flight, and you don’t want to be that person who takes up the whole overhead bin with your bulky coat. No one likes that person. And no one likes a wrinkled coat.

4 – Sneakers

I wear sneakers because they are comfortable, I don’t have to take them off to get through TSA Pre security, and then I won’t have the pack them so it leaves more room in my luggage. Also, some airports are massive, and if I have a connection I’m in good walking shoes. If you’ve ever had a connection at London Heathrow you know what I’m talking about! I usually wear my running shoes or my Stan Smiths. But choose whatever you want to bring for where you’re going.

Prep Your Face & Hair

I always get on a long-haul flight freshly showered, with just-washed and styled hair. Again, since long-haul flights usually get you to your destination early in the morning before your hotel room is ready, you won’t have access to a shower when you arrive. I style my hair and pin it into a loose top knot during the flight. When I arrive, I let it down and it still looks great.

I also always board a plane with a clean, moisturized face with no make up. If that sounds like lunacy to you, then try to minimize your make-up as much as possible. Honestly, no one knows you up in the air and your face will feel and look a lot better on the other side if you give it a chance to breath up in the air.

Right before I leave for the airport I wash my face and put on my night cream as if I were prepping for bed. I always pack a moisturizer in my carry-on so I can keep applying during the flight, and my make-up bag so I can put a bit on when we land once I’ve changed into my arrival outfit.

By the time you arrive, I promise you’ll have glowing skin, shiny hair, and a great outfit when you head to that first breakfast in Paris where you’ll probably find your dream man. Or at least find an amazing croissant. And really, who can say which is better?