Crafting the Perfect Plane Outfit: The Real Gal’s Guide

how to create the perfect plane outfit

You always see photos of celebrities arriving to the airport looking effortlessly chic, but how do us real gals do it? What do we wear when flying that balances out our need to be comfortable and our desire to reach our packing goals, all while not looking like a total slob?

In crafting the perfect plane outfit for yourself, the most important factors to consider are your flight length and your desired comfort level.

Comfort is key! While other factors may sway you to think differently (such as traveling for work and immediately jetting off to a business meeting on arrival), comfort should still be your number one when deciding what to wear on the plane.

I’ll share my tips for those needing to look nice on arrival (and those wishing to be upgraded) later in this post. For most of us who are creating a flight outfit when traveling for pleasure, the following tips should suffice!

Brooke in her Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack before heading Australia to USA.
Brooke in her Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack before heading Australia to USA.

What to Avoid Wearing on a Plane

First thing’s first: You can’t create a solid flight outfit without starting with these tips.

Avoid Offensive Attire:  Don’t wear any shirts with an offensive message or clothing that’s too skimpy. You could be kicked off a plane for breaking airline dress codes.

Avoid Tight Clothing: To keep comfortable and prevent yourself from falling victim to deep vein thrombosis, which creates blood clots from flying, wear your clothing as loose as possible.

Avoid Hard-to-Remove Footwear: You’ll want to be able to slip your shoes on and off for comfort on the plane. It also helps when you need to remove your shoes while going through airport security.

Avoid Strong Perfumes: Not clothing, but still a good time to point it out. Some travelers around you on the plane can be sensitive to fragrance, so it’s best to stick with something light like a solid perfume instead.

Flight Length: Short Haul vs. Long Haul

The length of your flight definitely plays a role in crafting the perfect plane outfit. The longer you are on a plane, the more important it is to think critically about your travel clothing. Short haul flight outfits will probably look very different from what you want to wear on that 14-hour LAX to SYD flight. Trust me!

Short Haul Flight Outfits

When you’re traveling on a short haul flight – think anything up to 3 hours – you can probably get away with wearing your normal daily clothes and not have it be too much of an issue. By the time you get your drink and snack all sorted, there’s not much left before the descent.

However, when you start spilling more into a medium haul flight – 3 to 6 hours – it’s wise to address your comfort. Here’s what Caroline, a former HPL Team writer, suggests for a short haul flight outfit:

Short Flight Outfit
Short Flight Outfit

For short haul flights where I know I will immediately be sightseeing in my destination, I like to choose attire that is cute and comfortable. On a flight to New York this summer, I wore a nice (ie. not grubby) V-neck t-shirt with a black blazer and floral skirt. I brought a scarf to keep my legs warm on the flight. Once I got there, I was able to wear my blazer in the morning when it was chilly and fold it up to put in my bag once the sun came out.

Caroline Eubanks, Caroline in the City

Long Haul Flight Outfits

Long haul flights run anywhere from 6 hours up to 15+ hours in length. Making yourself as comfortable as possible will go a long way in combating the hell that can be economy class flying. When you’re counting down the minutes until touchdown, the last thing you want to be thinking about is how your pants are digging into your gut.

Before we get into the nitty gritty details of what I consider the ideal plane outfit, let’s have a look at how Caroline’s plane outfit changes when she flies long haul:

Long Flight Outfit
Long Flight Outfit

On long hauls, my standby plane outfit is my ExOfficio Go-To ¾ Sleeve Shirtigan (no longer in production, sadly), which is like a tunic in length but with zippered pockets and a flattering fit. I pair it with black leggings and my black corduroy Toms. I carry an extra pair of socks in my bag and a scarf for when I get chilly. It feels much like pajamas as everything is made of cotton, but it looks better than the real thing.

Caroline Eubanks, Caroline in the City

What do I wear on a long flight?

Living in Australia, just about any flight I take is considered long haul, so I’ve had plenty of practice nailing my travel day ensemble. I pretty much have a standard style of plane outfit that I have been recreating over the years, and it looks a little something like this:

brooke's plane outfits over the years
Brooke’s various plane outfits over the years have a similar style. The picture on the right shows the Icebreaker Bliss Wrap in blue and white stripes which has been replaced with a solid black version that she wears ALL THE TIME.

Comfort is my priority. I usually go for a longer top/tunic/dress that I throw over black leggings. I’ll wear my sneakers on the plane as it saves space in my minimal luggage. To combat chills in flight, I tend to throw on a scarf, or a long wrap/cardigan (my Icebreaker Bliss Wrap has been my go-to for a couple years now), or both!

It was only on my recent trip that I changed up my flight outfit a bit:

brooke's plane outfit
Brooke’s most recent plane outfit, complete with the Icebreaker Bliss Wrap in black.

I actually went to the shops to replace a pair of black leggings, but instead came away with a pair of black, flowy culottes! Obviously, the loose nature meant I had to pair it with a more fitted top instead of my usual tunic. But, I still topped it all off with my favorite Icebreaker Bliss Wrap.

I also brought a pair of knee-high compression socks that I slipped on once in my seat because otherwise… cankles.

5 Tips for Crafting Your Perfect Plane Outfit

1- Find comfort that feels like pajamas.

rei streelowe leggings
REI Streelowe Leggings

Click to find on REI.

anatomie skyler travel pants
Anatomie Skyler Pants

Click to find on Anatomie.

linen culottes
Loose Linen Culottes

Click to find on Amazon.

Find clothing that’s equally comfortable to pajamas but that also looks good, like a pair of cotton stretch black pants, jeggings or leggings. Harem style pants or culottes also work well, and those actually make it easier to wear compression socks than leggings. Pants should be loose enough to give your legs room to swell from altitude.

Ditch the jeans. YUCK. I cannot think of anything more uncomfortable on an international, long haul flight than constricting jeans. If you want something that gives a polished look more like jeans when you fly, consider Anatomie’s travel pants. All of Anatomie’s travel pants are stretchy, breathable, and quick-drying.

The key is to wear clothing that is loose, all the way down to the bra. You will be so, so thankful you didn’t overlook this article of clothing! I usually wear a bralette when I travel, and that definitely gives my plane outfit a pajamas type of feel.

The only article of clothing that should be tight would be compression socks if you choose to wear them. Yes, they can be a bit uncomfortable at times, but they do help you stay safe from blood clots (DVT) that can occur when flying. Also, if I don’t wear them on long haul flights then I end up with cankles at the end. Not a good look, and it’s uncomfortable!

2- Compose your outfit in layers.

tunic top from amazon
Daily Ritual Tunic

Click to find on Amazon.

prana foundation wrap
prAna Foundation Wrap

Click to find on REI.

renew shawl by encircled
Renew Shawl by Encircled

Click to find on Encircled.

Wear layers to make more room in your suitcase and to keep warm in the plane’s recycled air.

Actually, layers can do more than keep you warm: they help you to control your body temperature when the plane’s temperature can vary. Sure, most flights get a bit chilly when up in the air, but I’ve been on some flights that have been quite warm, requiring me to peel off all my layers. And, I’ve been on flights that have sat on the tarmac for an hour while we all sweated in stuffy heat.

I love to wear a tunic style top as part of my flight outfit. If I’m warm, this should be what I can sit in fairly comfortably.

The layers I add on top of that are usually either a scarf or a wrap – sometimes both depending on my destination. For the past 2 years, the wrap I use has been my beloved Icebreaker Bliss Wrap, which is sadly no longer being produced. It is BY FAR my favorite clothing item, and I wear it to death in both travel and daily life. Seriously, I will cry when it falls apart, but luckily it’s still going strong!

The Icebreaker Bliss Wrap is so perfect for travel because it is made of lightweight merino wool. It fits me nicely in the shoulders, is loose enough in the arms to go over another top, but it is also fitted towards the cuff giving it a less sloppy look. I can let it flow to the sides or tie it for a more polished vibe.

Long story short:  It goes with everything! Find something that gives you the same purpose as my wrap, and your plane outfit will be a thing of beauty 🙂

3- Cover your legs.

rei streelowe leggings
REI Streelowe Leggings

Click to find on REI.

pashmina
Pashmina

Click to find on Amazon.

vim vigr compression socks
Vim & Vigr Compression Socks

Click to find on Amazon.

It doesn’t matter how hot it is outside on the ground, planes have a tendency to be chilly when they reach altitude.

If it’s a short flight, you might be fine with a bit of chill on your legs; you can even bring a scarf to use as a little blanket of sorts. Having cold legs on long flights, however, will only add to your discomfort.

I always recommend wearing pants when you fly for this reason. If you’re a dress lover, then bring a pair of leggings or knee-high socks that you can throw on for the flight. Long haul flights do provide blankets, but sometimes they just aren’t enough.

Remember:  Comfort is key!

4- Don’t forget your breathable underwear.

exofficio travel underwear
Exofficio Underwear

Click to find at REI.

icebreaker underwear
Icebreaker Merino Wool Underwear

Click to find on Amazon.

boody bamboo underwear
Boody Bamboo Underwear

Click to find on Amazon.

If you’ll be on a plane for a while, sitting with your legs tightly together in cramped seats, it’s extra important to not overlook a good pair of breathable, non-wedgifying underwear.

Exofficio make breathable underwear specifically for travelers. You might also like underwear made from merino wool, which are also quick-drying and tend to smell less. However, there’s nothing wrong with a classic pair of cotton undies for flying.

Just be sure that these underwear don’t ride up over time. On my last flight, I made the mistake of wearing a pair that gave me a wedgie everytime I shifted my body in my seat. I spent more time readjusting my underwear than I would have liked… so don’t overlook it.

Because 10 hours into a 14 hour flight, every little annoyance will be doubly annoying you (if you aren’t one of the blessed people who can sleep on planes).

5- Top it off with the right shoes and accessories.

toms travel shoes
Toms

Click to find on Amazon.

tieks travel shoes
Tieks

Click to find on Tieks.

vim and vigr compression socks
Vim & Vigr Compression Socks

Click to find on Amazon.

Shoes: You should consider your shoes when choosing your plane outfit as it will impact what else you pack.

If you are bringing a pair of tall boots or something else that takes up a lot of room, wearing them onto the plane will save space in your luggage. If you aren’t, then wear shoes that slip on and off easily to get you through the security line in a breeze.

Toms are easy to slip on and off and can fold up to go into your seat back. Tieks are cute flats that can make you look more professional and also will fold up to throw into your purse.

I tend to wear my sneakers as part of my flight outfit so I can pack away sandals, flats, and other shoes that take up less space in my luggage. Because my shoes are tied, I instantly loosen up the laces when I reach my seat. That makes them easier to slip on and off when I get up for the restroom, and it helps combat the tightness that comes with any ankle swelling in flight.

Accessories: Accessories take an outfit from drab to fab, whether that be in looks or in added functionality. A scarf or pashmina, for example, is an essential airplane item as it can add a bit of style and also: keep you warm, convert to a blanket, and roll into a pillow.

If you’re bringing a hat on your trip, you’ll want to wear it on the plane to keep it from getting flattened. And top off every look with key jewelry pieces – but be sure these pieces aren’t too precious or cause too much discomfort when trying to relax on the plane.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I wear if I have a special event on arrival?

Are you jetting off immediately from the airport to a business meeting? Are you meeting the love of your life at the other side of baggage claim?

While special events at the other end of the flight might have you wanting to rock up in something nicer, it still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress for comfort for the flight itself.

There is no harm in changing into your dressy attire once you arrive. Simply plan ahead and have the pieces easily accessible in your carry-on. It should only take a few minutes, and you will be so thankful you can put on fresh clothes after flying.

I am no stranger to hitting up a restroom immediately on arrival and freshening up my look – everything from putting on an entirely new outfit to washing my face and brushing my teeth.

If you absolutely despise the idea of changing at the airport, try one of these travel dresses with a pair of leggings for the flight itself. Or look into Anatomie travel pants which can easily be dressed up or down.

What do I wear if I want to get upgraded on my flight?

It was only a few years ago that frequent travelers were convinced that dressing nicer led to more upgrades; studies were even conducted saying it was so. Nowadays, however, that might not be the case.

So my best recommendation is to dress for your comfort in the flight class you have booked, because more often than not, that’s where you will be flying.

Is my flight outfit just for wearing on travel days?

Not at all! For smart packing, each component of your plane outfit should work in your normal travel wardrobe as well.

Let us know what you consider a perfect plane outfit below!

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creating the perfect plane outfithow to create a flight outfit

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sandy says

    Good suggestions. I like the idea of leggings, but as a 60-something traveler, I prefer black pull-on pants with elastic waist! I always have a pashmina. Sometimes I wear running shoes instead of slip-ons. Easier to wear than to pack, and it only takes a little more time to take off and put back on. I have some Sketchers that I love. Also I NEVER walk thru security with bare feet–gross!

  2. Steph T. says

    Short flights…I will wear whatever fits my destination. Usually comfortable jeans or slacks, my Teiks and weather appropriate top. For long flights…leggings, a tunic and my long sweater that can be used as a blanket if it is cold. I’m a large woman, so a pashmina is generally not big enough to do me any good.

  3. Lesli says

    Would you recommend the ExOfficio top for someone with a large bust? I love the look of it, and I’d kill for a button-up that doesn’t wrinkle! But unfortunately, button-ups that fit my bust are hard to come by.

  4. Caroline says

    @Lesli- I’m on the bigger chest side but because it’s jersey material, you don’t have the same puckering problems you do for other button ups. It also only buttons part of the way, which helps with the tension.

  5. Vero says

    So I have a big dilemma. My feet hurt all the time and I mainly wear tennis shoes. I have bought those pairs of Asics I love.
    We will be flying to Spain and have over 6 hrs layovers.
    Would Asics tennis shoes and tights be ok to wear? I am not sure of the top as I don’t want to look too sloppy. And I will be having my 4 year old boy with me. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Veronica says

    So, I have a little dilemma.
    I am flying to Spain and have some long layovers plus a 4 yr old. I was thinking about wearing my Asics tennis shoes since I have feel problems.
    I am not sure what to wear to make it a little stylish and cute.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated !

  7. Marvia says

    Ideas for clothes to wear and travel to Barcelona,Bilbao and travel to San Sebastián . Leaving Dec. 4- returning Dec. 13….. To PA

  8. Svea says

    My ideal plane outfit:

    Lightweight button down shirt with a solid colored tank top or a T shirt with long sleeves
    Leggings
    Sheer scarf
    Slip ons or running shoes

  9. Fiona says

    I am quite slim and find my jeans aren’t tight and are very comfortable to sleep in. I too have an Icebreaker Bliss wrap which I wear all the time. When traveling I combine it with an Icebreaker singlet and a long sleeve top of the same brand – their merino wool is so amazing for keeping clean for days when cotton or artificial fabrics would stink.

    As a Kiwi I support New Zealand merino companies when I can and so I travel with merino socks and undies. They are pricey but as they stay clean without washing every day they are a great environmentally friendly choice. We went skiing in Europe for Christmas last year and my teenage son stress tested the NZ merino socks I gave him – after 6 days wearing the same pair for skiing and partying and sleeping in the socks were still ok

    • Brooke says

      If you’re comfortable in your jeans, then that’s all that matters 🙂 YES – the Bliss Wrap is amazing, as is merino wool in general. What brand were the socks your son used?

  10. K. Ross says

    Fantastic advice., thank-you so much. I would like to add that I wear a cotton jacket with pockets so I can store small items I may need on the flight so that i can reduce the number of times I need to rummage around in my carry-on bag. Instead of a bra, I wear a tight-fitting tank top underneath a swing tee-shirt.

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