Dressing For A Flight


In preparation for our family world trip I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time shopping for clothes lately. In case you think I’m gloating here, you should know that shopping is one of my least favorite chores and the fact that I can spell the word fashion just about sums up my knowledge on that subject. I was shopping for travel clothes for budgetary and logistical reasons. Trust me, there are a myriad other things I’d rather have been doing. After such penance, it’s shocking even to me that I could discern that travel clothing is, by and large, dreadfully frumpy. The shirts, pants and jackets have plenty of excellent features such as hidden pockets and the technical fabrics that can protect from bug-bites and sunburn are technically interesting, but no-one, even me, can honestly describe any of it as stylish.

In the midst of this research I had a fun twitter exchange with MomMostTraveled. She was lamenting as to why everyone and their mother appears to be compelled to dress down to fly. I, flatly stated that I’d rather be comfortable than stylish on a flight and admitted that I can’t remember the last time I wore anything other than my travel uniform of yoga pants, t-shirt and flip-flops on a plane.

That I’m not naturally stylish is, of course, a factor here. Something that’s compounded by the fact that I work in an industry (technology) with a dress standard only slighty above board shorts and flip-flops. I have worn PJs to work. (It was to trouble-shoot a late-night system outage but still, they were PJs). And I live in Seattle. Seattle is great, but Seattlites are not known for their style. The upside of this is that in Seattle you can turn up at some very luxurious events (Opera) or establishments (Fairmont Olympic Hotel) in your sloppy jeans and you won’t look out of place. The downside, for me anyway, is that it exacerbates my natural inclination to dress for comfort rather than style.

Hence, I made a little more effort than normal when dressing for my flight this morning. Then, in the car on the way I heard a description of an up-coming NPR/KUOW program on “Seattle style” and I thought a little pre-show polling would be fun.

So today, I’m wearing:


On the top, is a merino wool top from Ibex which I’ve paired with a sueded Tactel skirt from Athleta and some Chaco flip-flops (gimme a break, I’m on my way to the beach).

As any self-respecting Seattlitle would, I do have an Eddie Bauer fleece sweater in my bag. Old habits die hard.

So, ratings please peeps. Leave a comment below telling me how you’d grade my efforts based on this scale:

1. Fail: Please don’t write about fashion again ever.
2. Miserable Attempt: Ditching the yoga pants does not make you stylish.
3. A Worthy Effort: But not quite ready for NYC, Milan or Paris.
4. Good: If there was a traveler’s catwalk, you’d be on it.

Which do you care about most when you travel? Style or comfort? The data geek in me is fascinated to know. Let me know in your comment and I’ll upate this post in a week with the results of the poll.

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

24 thoughts on “Dressing For A Flight

  1. SKM

    I think it’s perfect, and by “perfect”, I mean “exactly what I would wear”, although I would add a pashmina for warmth and–ha, ha–style. My mother always used to make us dress up for plane travel, so it’s hard for me, even when I was pregnant, to give in to the comfy pants. Also, I’ve noticed that when I dress up just a little, I get slightly better service. A stretchy skirt feels like a good compromise.

    But you wanted data, so I will say “4” and “comfort”. Good luck to you!

  2. Tim L.

    When I lived in Korea, the men there would get dressed up in suit, tie, and dress shoes—to go on vacation to a beach! It totally cracked me up.

    The other big reason to dress down for a flight is the serious likelihood that you’ll get stuck somewhere. I don’t want to be sleeping on an airport floor in nice clothes all night. As long as you’re clean and smell nice, who cares what you’re wearing?

  3. Margo

    I think these days it’s easy to dress for both comfort and style. I have a black cotton pair of well cut, pull on palazzo pants that really are only pretending not to be pajama pants! I’m afraid they’re going to wear out! But worn with a camisole, a wrap or cardigan and a cute pair of flats, look and most importantly make me feel so much better… especially when going somewhere where people dress up more than they do here (which is pretty much everywhere given that I live in Myrtle Beach!) Also – I love athleta’s clothes – their skirts and dresses are great.

  4. wandermom Post author

    Margo: You’re right, there’s certainly plenty of easy + affordable options out there to be able to look stylish and be comfortable. But to do so requires thinking about style in advance. And that, I’m afraid is where I fall down miserably…

  5. wandermom Post author

    Tim: That’s it! On my first adventure-trip (inter-railing across Europe with my sister on a pitiful budget), I slept in multiple train stations, ferry terminals and various other unsavoury locations. Obviously that experience is buried in my sub-conscious and drives my decisions on what to wear when I travel. Thanks for helping me discover that :)

  6. stuart

    For your options, I’ll go with #4.

    Personally, it depends on the flight. If I’m going to be in transit for a long time (say, the 15+ hours SEA->BKK), I’ll tend towards comfort. For US trips, I try to strike a balance between comfort and style – a pair of loose fitting slacks, a simple button-down or nice t-shirt, and a light shell / jacket. This probably sounds familiar to you – it’s much like what I wear to work a lot of the time.

  7. Emily E

    I like to dress comfortably, but not ridiculously casual when I travel. I wore yoga pants once but that’s because I was sick. Usually, I wear jeans, a comfortable shirt, and either flip flops or my slip-on Keens. Comfortable, but not so shabby that if I ran into a friend I would feel embarrased for looking sloppy.

  8. Jeanne

    What do I know- I live in Seattle too but I think your outfit is slightly above my standard of fashion for a plane as you are wearing a skirt. I always opt for linen pants with the draw string waist because they’re comfortable, they breathe, they’re warm enough to keep the airplane air from chilling me but not so bulky to be too warm or uncomfortable and if I sweat they dry quickly. And I like the flip flop idea for ease in the security line and being shoeless at my seat, but my feet always get too cold so I usually go for runners. See, I’m so not high fashion.

    And I have to ask, what- no track suit bottoms? I thought those were standard travel gear for Irish folks. j/k I’ve never more of those pants in one place than I have on any Aer Lingus flight.

  9. Quickroute

    I suffer the heat so it’s shorts – tee shirt – flip flops for me. I’ll grab a blanket if it gets chilly. I usually wait till I get home or the hotel to change into normal attire which can get me some funny looks in winter sub zero temps but I’m Irish so am fashionless at the best of times πŸ˜‰

  10. J. Is a Bird

    I’ll give you a 4.

    I’m with Margo on this one, you can be both comfy and look nice at the same time. But, as you pointed out, it does take some forethought. This is such an individual thing and given what you’re up for (world travel) perhaps your efforts are better spent elsewhere in the process.

    Capital E for effort though:)

  11. Kira

    I like your chosen outfit, but am picking None of the Above. Why do I have to choose between style and comfort?

    How about some nice loafers or driving mocs that will slip off going through security, a pair of matchstick jeans (with lycra – stretchy but nicer looking than yoga pants) and a good cashmere cardigan over a baby doll tee in some pleasant neutral colour (since the airport and planes are overly air-conditioned)? No one can tell me that cashmere isn’t comfortable and if you wait for the after-Christmas sales it ends up being cheaper than the horrid “travel clothes”.

  12. Nancy D. Brown

    Hello Michelle,
    I give you a three. I’m right there with you on comfort over style when it comes to dressing for a flight.

    However, I’m taking my packing tips from Jeanine Barone who has been known to wear several layers of clothing on the plane in order to avoid paying luggage fees. J The Travel Authority is my role model. (If only I were a size 1 like her.)

  13. Vera Marie Badertscher

    I guess number three is the key. But it gives me pause to have Debbie say “as long as you are not stepping off the plane in Paris..” Because I WILL be stepping off the plane in Paris, and I fully intended to dress the way I ALWAYS dress–DOWN and comfortable. For me, that does not include flip-flops because I can’t safely walk long distances through airports in them. But I always have a complete change of clothes in my carryon, so I could have the basic black top, black pants and semi-stylish shoes in there (to pair with the plane-esssential pashima) when I arrive in Paris, I guess.

  14. Molly Hyde-Caroom

    I give you a 4 for the same reason as a lot of others! Stylish and comfortable and something I would wear! I just “upgraded” my wardrobe to include almost 100% Athleta items! I bought a lot of black dresses (and that same skirt) that don’t wrinkle, wash quickly and can be dressed up with scarves or jewelry. They are perfect for the beach or even hiking but can be worn layered for colder climates too. With the right shoes, you can even wear them in Paris! Great job, have a wonderful trip!

  15. Barbara Gauld

    I read that even Diane Von Furstenberg wears her version of “sweats” when she flies….just add some dark glasses and you’re set. :-) You’re always a 4 in my book.

  16. Balanced Melting Pot

    I say “2” because that outfit is something that I would wear around the house, and around the house only. I agree that it’s important to be comfortable at all times, but like another comment stated, it’s possible to do that without wearing clothes that look like should be pajamas. I am by no means a very fashionable person, but now that I live somewhere (Caracas) that jeans and t-shirt are not acceptable, I’ve learned to find clothes that compliment me and are easy to walk a mile in – I do a lot more of that, too. I will give you an “A” for effort :-)

  17. Pingback: Airport Casual | Mom Most Traveled

  18. Cheryl

    I packed a Patagonia “Bandha” dress for our trip and I swear it’s a dress-version of yoga pants. The thing was rolled up in the bottom of my bag and still shook out like a champ. I wore it out to dinner in Paris and to the beach in Bali. (No, I don’t work for Patagonia :v). Although I didn’t wear it to fly…there, I’m with you in my thinking!

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