A reader had recently asked if I had a certain outfit for long flights, and it’s something I’d thought about often when I first started to travel a lot–usually when I was already on the plane and regretting what I’d worn. Trust me, I’ve seen all those photos of Posh Spice (aka Victoria Beckham) leaving the airport with not a hair out of place, dressed to kill, armed with some fantastic bag, and I’m here to tell you, it’s all about having your own plane. Because whether I’m flying first, business, or coach class, it’s going to be hard to look fab after any flight lasting longer than 4 hours. I’d need to book an extra ticket for a makeup artist, hair person, and personal stylist for me to look like that upon landing. Fine, also someone to man the wind machine.
For “short” flights (3-6 hours) you will most likely find me in pants (usually khakis with stretch), sneakers, black shirt (in case of spillage by someone in the seat next to me), and a light-weight cashmere hoodie that’s not bulky in case I also have to wear a coat (layering is important when you can’t control the cabin’s temperature and cashmere can be easily rolled up to fit inside your purse or carry-on bag when you don’t need it).
My uniform is tidy and comfortable but nondescript so that I can blend in almost anywhere. The last thing I want to do when going overseas, or almost any public place involving large crowds, is to stick out like a sore thumb. But I also want to be respectful and not look too sloppy. I also find that, whether it’s fair or not, when I need to curry some favor from the airline’s ground crew, I get more help when I don’t look sloppy. That’s just how the world is. So save the cutoff shorts and muffin tops for a picnic maybe?
I don’t recommend sandals or flip flops–even though they are easier to slip on and off when you go through security–because of the public restrooms in airports and on planes. Closed-toe shoes are critical for this reason alone. Plus I remember getting stranded unexpectedly more than once in cities that had inclement weather, wearing pretty but useless sandals that did not protect my toes from rain and snow. So I repeat, closed-toe shoes are critical. It’s not a crime to kick them off once you’re in your seat.
For longer flights, especially the ones involving sleeping on the plane, I have mixed feelings. I have tried wearing dresses–anything with a stretch and that doesn’t wrinkle, and in fabrics appropriate for the weather. The only problem is that some dresses can flag you for an extra round of security check (note to self: TSA does not like maxi dresses), even though it is easy to look smart in a slim black dress even after 12 hours on the plane. So sometimes I’m in my black dress uniform and other times I’m in the look from above. But that black gauze cotton dress I picked up from Target last week…I think I might give it a go on my next flight this summer. I could wear it with the closed-toe espadrilles on the plane and then the peep-toe heels when I go out to dinner that same night:
I now dress for travel while adhering to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. I always ask myself if, God forbid, there were some emergency, would I be able to run or jump or help someone in my outfit? Therefore, gone are the days of wearing stilettos on the plane–unless I really have no time to change out of a business suit and Louboutins before catching a plane after a meeting. I save those for when I reach the destination. Though I must say, the extra 4 inches from the heels go a long way in reaching overhead bins!
But utility is no fun, am I right? Where’s the joy in dressing like a boy scout when you can look like Victoria Beckham? Well, I’ll concede that vanity and practicality are not mutually exclusive, so I like to accessorize my flight uniform with a fantastic bag or some key personal item (like a watch or Hermes muffler) that I will need when I land anyway. The plane ride is just the means to an end, and comfort is a top priority. Perhaps I won’t look like Posh Spice when I land, but at least I won’t resemble Scary Spice either. Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with looking like that.
In the next entry we’ll look at what’s always inside my carry-on bag.
PS: this is the Chanel mule I featured yesterday. Another reader had asked for a shot of the heel and I’m always happy to comply with gratuitous eye candy!