Rant-tastic subject #143: “What to Wear on Airplanes”

by Erin on June 25, 2007


juicy sweatpants

[Hint: it's not the above.]

For years, and I mean YEARS, of pretty much monthly travel, I've been boggled at what people decide is appropriate to wear on airplanes. Just absolutely boggled. The sweatpants and the stiletto mules (often on the same person), the jeans that are more holes than jeans (with matching holey t-shirts), the ratty flip-flops, the micro-minis. I could never figure it out, until last night, while waiting for the red-eye home to Chicago from SFO, I had a little epiphany, or perhaps a little interlude of sleep-deprivation. (So hard to tell the difference, really.)

My take is that people who wear clothes on airplanes that are better suited to washing a series of strangers' cars at $5/pop have essentially given up all hope that they will ever be the recipient of happy chance. They've decided serendipity is not for them, so they've forsaken the notion that perhaps one day they may need to make a good first impression on a stranger. (They've also decided that they don't ever need to be upgraded to business class, never mind first.)

Me, I won't get on a plane in anything less than I would wear to a business-casual meeting. Usually a skirt + cardigan, mostly a skirt + comfy jacket. At least two pockets are essential, so I don't have to keep digging in my bag for ID & boarding pass. Flat shoes that slip on and off easily are a must, so that I can play my walk-through role in the TSA's security theater with aplomb. (The next time I'm behind someone in strappy, multi-buckle gladiator sandals, though, I'm tossing THEM to the lions.) If I'm flying on Saturday, *maybe* I will wear sneakers, but they're nice one, not the ones I use for mowing the lawn.

This way, if I end up sitting next to someone interesting, I don't have to shout over what my clothes are saying. Last night I saw clothes that said "I model for Frederick's of Hollywood, Lamé Division"; clothes that said "my favorite Saturday morning cartoon and a bowl of chocolate-frosted sugar bombs are what I REALLY need right now"; and clothes that said "I can change the oil in my car — and recently have." None of those clothes said "Take me seriously, please."

I'm not against comfort — notice I said "flat shoes, comfy jacket" and I wear t-shirts, for sure, not fussy silk blouses — but there's a line between 'comfortable' and 'raggedy-ass lazy' and the airport is not the place to cross that line. An airplane is a confined space, and, like any confined space, demands MORE civility and regard for others, not less.

So, please: no more flip-flops (and if you do wear flip-flops, please try to keep track of them, so that we aren't all held up on deplaning by you searching under three rows of seats for your left one). Try for clothes that have structural integrity; turbulence can be rough, you know? And I know they sell perfume (cheap, too!) in the airport, but that doesn't mean you get to try on five different ones before you board.

Before you leave for the airport, look at yourself in the mirror, and think: Could I meet and IMPRESS someone who would change my life while wearing this? And if the answer is "No," change. And add a sweater: those planes can get cold.

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura June 25, 2007 at 9:59 pm

While I agree with you about the outlandish things I’ve seen some folks wear on planes, my one hard-and-fast rule for plane travel is pants (or jeans). I’ve ended up climbing over people’s bags (or people…) – or contorted in a strange position in order not to kneecap myself with the seat back in front of me – way too many times to feel comfortable in a skirt or dress.

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Novel June 25, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Oh, Amen to both comments. I would also point out that all of the “How to Survive” snippets that I’ve seen discuss the need to wear clothing on planes that would allow you to get off of the plane quickly and safely–flip-flops and stilletos are definitely out on those counts. And can you imagine sliding down the air ramp in a micro-mini?

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Anonymous June 25, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Thank you for saying what I have been thinking for years! I seriously think they should institute some sort of dress code. I’m tired of flying with people who are wearing their yard clothes. Why does everyone think it’s okay to look nasty? What happened to self-respect?

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Tara Goldman June 25, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Okay, here’s a question. I am a college student, but I go to school halfway across the country from ‘home,’ so I travel quite often. My standard outfit is a nice pair of tan corduroys, a nice black shirt, good flats or nicer sandals (NEVER flip flops, and depending on the time of year and where I’m travelling)and a nice, comfortable jean jacket. Is this nice enough? My business casual clothes are some of the nicest clothes I own so it seems a little much to wear them on a smelly, yucky airplane. Considering the fact that most college students fit EVERY one of the mentioned categories of bad dressing, am I dressed to impress or should I be trying harder?

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Erin June 25, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Whitney, if you would wear that to meet someone who wanted to hire you as, say, a babysitter, or to walk their dogs, I think you’re okay. People don’t expect college students to be too fancy!

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Moonwishes June 25, 2007 at 10:47 pm

I rarely had the opportunity to fly but I took the bus because as a child my father was a driver and we got free passes. Mom always had us dressed decently and in clean clothes. When I started traveling on my own due to some unfortunate accidents I established a few rules for dressing while traveling in public transportation. Always wear a pullover top (no buttons or zippers to break) and pull-on pants/skirt (yet again no buttons or zippers to break, especially zippers in the back of pants–ask me how I know this!). I also learned to take a cape or ruana to wrap up in to keep warm or to use as a pillow. My first airplane ride was a most wonderful experience, with a lovely meal and I was so glad I was dressed in what was for me, elegant surroundings.I have found that some people refuse to hear the message about dressing for the occassion. When my niece got married, after I talked her out of wearing blue jeans for the occassion by making her a satin dress, polished off her lovely outfit by wearing some old brown sandals her mother had found at the beach one day and brought home! She wanted to be “comfortable”. Well I know it is possible to find comfortable dressy shoes if you are willing to look for them.

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meara June 25, 2007 at 10:50 pm

while i often HAVE to dress up, as I’m going directly from the plane to working, the problem is, so many dress up clothes are very lacking in the pockets! Other than jeans skirts, I think only one of my skirts has pockets. Granted, if I’d sew my own like Erin, I’d be set, but…:)

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Saint Pud June 25, 2007 at 11:08 pm

It baffles me how people manage to wear sandals on an airplane. It’s about 38 degrees at floor level, as a seat-mate of mine once discovered. She wore a mini skirt, tank top AND sandals and spent over four hours in agony because of the cold. I know two — count ‘em! — TWO couples who met on an airplane so, believe me, you never know who you might end up with!

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MollyMayhem June 25, 2007 at 11:52 pm

I’ll wear on the plane pretty much the same thing that I need to wear during the trip. If that’s jeans and tshirts and boots and a sweatshirt, (and it generally is) so be it.I love love love the dresses you post, but I come from a different world, where wearing dresses is something that happens on very rare occasions. I have no business casual clothing in my closet. If I did, it’d be extremely dressy compared to what I typically wear.When I was touring, I either flew in my pyjamas (sleep being extremely precious on a touring schedule) or, if I had to go directly to the theater, my work clothes and boots.I guess what I’m trying (and perhaps failing) to get at is that I just don’t see an airplane as somewhere to dress up. Maybe it’s my age (25) or my profession (blue collar, to say the least), but I can’t see how my jeans and tshirts that I wear every day are any more or less offensive on a plane than on the street.

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zimmersarmy June 25, 2007 at 11:56 pm

Not to add a morbid twist to this, but natural fibers are good for flying. Pantyhose are a no-no, as are any other items that will melt to you in case of a fire.But…I agree comfy does not have to equal trashed or trashy.If you would not feel comfortable meeting an old crush/flame in what you are wearing, you are too casual.-Janet

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 12:36 am

I second the safety caution regarding clothing fibers. Many slacks, jackets and blouses are polyester or polyester blends – bad in case of emergency landings. Wool does not burn, so it’s always a good choice (against the frigid air, too). Cotton will burn but not melt, same as linen (I think).I also second the entreaty to resist the siren call of the perfume counter! Strong lotions and potions in a small, confined space are terrible for those of us sensitive to fragrances and/or chemicals. It’s nice to smell good, but unnecessary for anyone who isn’t nuzzling you to be able to smell you. And remember – just because you can’t smell it anymore doesn’t mean others can’t…it means your smeller got used to it and started tuning it out. No need to respray!

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Elisabeth June 26, 2007 at 2:10 am

I’d like to add a rant about the woman sitting next to me on the train to work this morning – doing her nails. Yes, the lovely smell of nailpolish at 7.30 a.m. Just what I needed. I might add that this is not the first time I thought I sat down on a bus, train or airplane and instead found myself at a nail parlour.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 2:31 am

Hmm took a very crowded commuter train from berkshire to London one day (no standing room except on someone’s toes.) A woman who’d got on before the crush and had a seat did the whole beauty routine – took heated rollers out, cleansing, make-up – somehow managed to get eye liner and mascara on without splodging, must have taken years of practice and knowing exactly where the carriage lurches happened. Looked good when she got off at waterloo.

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Suzanne June 26, 2007 at 3:00 am

I don’t fly at all. Ever. I take the train, which means I am often taking multi-day train trips. I’m slightly less concerned with what I wear while I am on the train because I have to sleep in my clothing as well as sit in a small seat and keep myself amused for the 14 hours I am not asleep, but I have a set of rules about what I wear. 1. Always board and detrain in a skirt and blouse or dress. 2. Always wear a skirt and blouse or dress to meals.3. If the trip is less than 7 hours, just wear the skirt and blouse or dress the entire trip instead of changing into something more comfortable4. Always wear comfortable but sensible closed toe shoes with no heel (for safety reasons). Heels can very VERY easily get caught moving between cars on a train which literally becomes a life and death matter. Ditto for toes hanging out of shoes. 5. If I’m taking Acela or a business car, wear a church dress or nicer to appear civil and humane among the business people. 6. Wear a coat instead of a hoodie during the winter months. Most people don’t bother doing those things, which baffles me. The times I’ve requested something of the conductors (ie, a seat change or that another passenger be moved or reprimanded), I’ve always been taken seriously despite being 22 with a shaved head and multiple facial piercings. And I’m always able to get assistance with my luggage because I don’t look like a dumpster baby. Even if it’s a Red Cap that I have to tip, I’m able to be taken seriously when I request assistance with the suitcase that’s almost bigger than me.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 3:34 am

While I’ve only flown three times in my young life, I long for the golden age of travel when people dressed for flights, trains, etc. I always try to dress nicely, hoping for an upgrade. I hadn’t really thought about the safety issues presented here (specifically the fibers that will/won’t burn/melt onto you – I guess that a sign of the times.).

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Lisa June 26, 2007 at 4:31 am

Miss. BS has left in her wake the complete blacklisting of juicy sweat pants, expecially when worn with UGGs. Juicy sweats are a definite no-no, unless you’ve got your own private jet… then go nuts.

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Kiba June 26, 2007 at 5:19 am

It is my general habit to wear a travel knit dress on planes; it naturally creates a flattering shape, and it doubles as dressy or not. Recently I made the old-t-shirt/lounge pants mistake, and who should I see at the airport but a student who was used to seeing me in business casual. So I’ll be taking Erin’s advice to heart, though modifying it a bit for my own ends.

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Cherie June 26, 2007 at 6:28 am

I feel exactly the same way. My favorite Coco Chanel quote comes to mind:”I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”Amen to that!

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Balwearie June 26, 2007 at 6:38 am

Darwin in action…. survival of the most appropriately dressed! As a travel professional who has to dress up to fly and sometimes gets upgraded — yes, it is worth the effort. I’ve a feeling that those who dress like they’re going to a pool party hosted by their ex-neighbor who used to work for Fredericks probably are going to a pool party..etc etc… I’ve always thought the most stupid thing you can wear for travel is stiletto heels. In fact, wearing them anywhere but a party is a clear indication of an i.q. equal in size to either the height of the heal or the size of the shoe.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 6:43 am

AMEN!!!!!! You have a far greater chance of being bumped up to first class if you are dressed appropriately (and that even applied when I had a child with me) and the traveling public has no desire to see you in your jammies.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 6:51 am

I agree with risa that you don’t need to be “dressed up” while traveling, but there’s a huge world of difference between dressed up and trashed out.An international aquaintance told me that he can always spot Americans overseas because they’re the ones in shorts and flip-flops. On a recent flight between Philadelphia and Raleigh-Durham I saw a lot of people traveling in cut-offs that were full of holes and the matching holey t-shirts, with flip-flops (don’t their feet get cold? Mine do.). They may have been clean (benefit of the doubt) but they weren’t very tidy.What skeeved me out most were all the people whose toenails seemed poorly acquainted with soap, water, and nail clippers who were kicking off their shoes to stroll through security. That’s just nasty.

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bani June 26, 2007 at 7:30 am

I dunno, I’m not too fussed myself. I try to wear clothes that won’t be dangerous if we ras. For example, I heard that nylon tights will melt into your skin if there is fire, so I wear trousers. *blush*It’s not completely rational, I know.

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dawn June 26, 2007 at 7:36 am

I personally don’t much care if people want to look sloppy when they travel. But I would quite prefer it if they’d at least wear clothing. I don’t want to sit next to someone with shorts or a mini skirt on. Or someone with a muscle shirt or tube top on, thank you. Just keep it under wraps and I don’t care if it’s sweat pants or lined wool trousers!

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oliviacw June 26, 2007 at 7:48 am

My biggest pet peeve with flying are people who wear wholly inappropriate shoes. Aside from the cold feet issue, if there were an emergency in which you needed to deplane quickly, flip-flops and high heels are not going to speed your departure! Emergency deplanings [not because of accidents, but fire, equipment malfunction, etc] happen more frequently than people think, and you need to be able to move quickly and stably. I saw a report that the most frequent injuries in such cases are to people’s feet and ankles because they lose shoes, trip up on heels, and so forth. You should be wearing flat or low-heeled shoes that will stay on firmly (tie, velcro, buckle, or otherwise enclose) and that you could quickly go down a slide and run across the pavement or a field wearing. I would say that 80% of the women I see in airport waiting lounges are not wearing appropriate shoes. Men usually do much better, but there’s still some who wear the flip-flops or scuff sandals.

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flea June 26, 2007 at 7:58 am

I suspect more people wear flip-flops on planes nowadays because of the security checkpoint issue! I am happy in my slip-off Dansko clogs most of the time.I also rarely wear a skirt on a plane – aside from the fact that I am always with small children when I fly these days, and thus can end up crouching or sitting on the floor at any given moment – what about wrinkles!?!

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Latter-Day Flapper June 26, 2007 at 8:50 am

No-one has ever waited for me to retrieve an errant flip-flop, but I must apologize to everyone who has ever waited for me to unlace and re-lace my boots, which seem to sprout a new set of eyelets every single time I have to take them off when there’s a line of 50 people waiting for me. Sigh.I can see wearing easy-off shoes on a plane because of security checkpoints, but I would never wear flip-flops. They’re not really safe. First of all, how can anyone hurry through a crowded airport in no-support shoes that fly off your feet at the slightest provocation? And what if we have to emergency-exit the plane? I am not waiting for you to find your flip-flop in line at the emergency door; I’m pushing your fashion-challenged self out of the way.

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stacy June 26, 2007 at 9:16 am

does it really matter so much to you what other people think of your clothes? does it really matter so much to you what other people wear? do you really judge people by the clothes they are wearing? do you really think people judge you based upon your clothes? if so, are those the people who really matter? who defines who you are? Do you, or are you only as deep as other people’s opinions of you?and lastly, do we really need more rules when it comes to travelling? aren’t there too many rules already? what happened to the golden rule, it is the only one we really need, after all. wear whatever you feel most comfortable in (whether that’s pajama pants and a stained tshirt or dressed to the nines) and allow others the same courtesy.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 9:17 am

I travel a lot, and my solution is: Knits! And I’m not talking about sweats.

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Alison Cummins June 26, 2007 at 9:17 am

Short dresses and skirts are the comfiest things I can think of to wear when travelling – with opaque tights and flats, of course. Knits are ideal, topped with a cardigan. Comfortable, practical, mod.

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The J June 26, 2007 at 9:26 am

The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title of your post was a story told to me by my mother.In the early 60′s, her family was emigrating from Germany. My grandfather was already here, so my grandmother was flying over with 5 children! They didn’t have much money, but the family made sure she had a nice new outfit for the plane. During the flight she was absolutely HORRIFIED to see the man across the aisle TAKE OFF HIS SHOES! The beginning of the end, I’m afraid ;).Me, I’m mostly concerned about warmth, to not have any skin touching airplane upholstery (I don’t like to think where it’s been or what they spray on it), and to get through security as smoothly as possible. That said I don’t think I own any holey clothing, and what I wear on the plane has to be presentable for wherever I’m going because I’m not carrying it around the whole time I’m there.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 9:45 am

Excellent topic. It brings up the overall lack of “taste” that American people exhibit in general in public. Since I study fashion and clothing over time – I have noted that historically the way people dress reflects their inner state and conditions of society. It does not have to do with wealth, but personal pride. Several generations ago, take a look at how people dressed when they traveled. Even how they dressed when they did yard work – most men didn’t wear jeans as much as they do now either! What about hats for going out – what happened to them? I could go on…

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Shawn June 26, 2007 at 9:46 am

I can’t agree with some of the premises in the post and the comments. There’s nothing particularly special about airplane travel that should increase the general requirement to look presentable. If anything, people should get a little leeway to dress comfortably– are knit pants really so evil when you’re sitting in a tiny seat for hours with a total stranger?In what must be over 100 flights I’ve yet to meet someone I wanted or needed to make an impression on, but I’d say about 100% of those I needed to sit comfortably and/or sleep. 100% of the flights in the last five years I’ve had to take off my shoes with a quickness, pack light, and try to take up as little space as possible in the footwell. And of course in 0% of flights has there been an emergency calling for running shoes. I wear flip-flops on planes almost exclusively during warmer weather.I’m all for a general prescription of “don’t dress sloppy in public” but being squished into a seat with 30″ of seat pitch next to Milwaukee’s leading copier salesman for 5+ hours is not what I’d call an occasion for my Sunday best. I should hope that I don’t want to make a friend any more than he does. Maybe I’m missing out on some wonderful business opportunities, who knows. But I’m willing to take my chances if it means that one more hour spent on a plane is unconscious.

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Kristen June 26, 2007 at 9:52 am

The first time I got on a plane, when i was 14, I wore a pencil skirt and silk blouse. I’ve tried to keep that up all my life. The exception? When flying with toddlers. :) It is so sad to read so many people say that they do not own anything business/casual. Does noone go to church anymore? (Oh, I could go OFF on the horrors of dress I’ve seen at church!)

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MollyMayhem June 26, 2007 at 10:23 am

No, Kristen, I don’t go to church. I’m an atheist.

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India June 26, 2007 at 10:24 am

My flying attire:* Comfortable, supportive shoes (usually clog-type things)you never know when you’ll have to lug that bag you thought was light all around the entire airport; also, because I’m cheap and a nondriver, I’m usually going to or from the airport on public transportation.* Ladylike T-shirt (I don’t do woven blouses, ever).* Nonwrap skirt, preferably stretchyone of my favorite skirts to take on a trip is a reversible wrap skirt, but I don’t want to be fussing with the flap while I’m wrestling with a bag or seatbelt. I used to always wear pants on planes, to stay warm, but then my mother mentioned that she never does, because she doesn’t want to worry about her trouser cuffs touching the floor in potentially nasty public bathrooms. Point taken.* Cardigan.* Depending on the airline, a large shawly thing of some sort, in case I can’t obtain a blanket.I wear earrings and a matching necklace, as I do every day, though I avoid anything especially snaggy or dangly.All that said, I have never yet met anybody cool on a plane, and the drunk in the seat next to me still elbowed me through the entirety of my last flight. What am I doing wrong?

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Ashley June 26, 2007 at 10:58 am

Erin, I totally agree with you. My reasoning behind dressing well for traveling is the knowledge that there was once a time when one would wear one’s best clothes for a trip. I like looking smart, like I’m someBODY and I’m going someWHERE. It’s more for my own sense of self-importance, and my love for old-fashioned “looking-sharp”-ness. Even if I’m just flying to Indiana to see my parents.

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Gretchen June 26, 2007 at 11:15 am

I try to dress for success, as is were, when traveling. When my husband and I have traveled to Europe, the only time we were pegged as Americans was the one day we wore shorts (it was hot in Pompeii that day!). We usually were thought to be British or German by how we looked- nice slacks, nice shirts, skirts/dresses for me. We’re flying this summer, and I plan to dress everyone comfortably, but nicely. Nothing wrong with looking fresh and nice at arrival!

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Erin June 26, 2007 at 11:20 am

Stacy — yes, I actually do judge people by what they wear. It’s not the only thing I judge someone by — kindness is of course FAR more important, you can look amazing but if you’re rude to the waiter I am never going to be your friend — but what you wear is how you choose to present yourself to others. Someone who wears dirty, ill-fitting, inappropriate clothing is someone who has made a bad decision, and I can make my own decisions about people based on seeing theirs. It’s just the same as seeing someone litter, really. It tells you about their character.I don’t think you have to be a fashion plate (I’m not judging the COST of someone’s clothing nor the STYLISHNESS), but your clothing represents your taste and that’s certainly a worthwhile way to judge people. I know I prefer to be around people with similar tastes (or different tastes that I find interesting!) all other things being equal. I think people say “oh, no, you can’t JUDGE someone by what they WEAR! That’s so shallow!” but what they really mean is that they don’t want to be judged negatively for anything they do or say, ever. They want to live in a world without consequences. They want to be judged by who they are ‘inside’ without ever figuring out a way to show their ‘inside’ to the outside world. Or they DO want to be judged but in a reverse-snobbism way, getting points for pretending not to care how they’re dressed. Risa, I think I know what you mean about reading this blog, because, being a non-drinker who talks to a lot of foodies, I always have to mentally edit their advice about wine and things cooked with alcohol and so forth. I think you should do the same reading here. Just make the little mental adjustment. My friends don’t spend all their time editing their advice for me, even though they know I don’t drink — they assume I will adjust for my circumstances. So if you wear jeans on a plane, that’s just fine — what you might take away from what I said here is maybe wearing a nicer pair, with a cardigan or little jacket, right? Or not, depending on how you edit what I say …

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 11:23 am

You can even wear jeans if they are non-holey and clean. I tend to wear flat-front khakis or jeans, t-shirt and cardigan or twinset, pashmina wrap, clogs. I also bring my trench if it is cooler. I am a woman of means by no means-I am a bartender-but I get upgrades snd those food vouchers all of the time. Your nice clothes and nice manners. Please and thank you go a long way. Airline counter people are actually shocked when I speak in a well-moderated voice and say thank you. It’s like magic! And, yes, we do need rules. It’s not like Erin is advocating anything draconian. Just old-fashioned civility. We have forgotten how to put other people first in a genuine way.

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Antonia June 26, 2007 at 11:39 am

I’m in the comfortable business casual camp. I travel alone, and I want everyone possible on my side. My clothing affects how I see myself, and I need all the dignity and self-assurance I can get in crowds. I also want to be able to run like crazy and chat with anyone without any of my parts creeping out. I blush easily.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 11:51 am

I travel often, and usually with a toddler. I have zero interest in the other travelers, so if they chose to ignore me because I am not dressed “appropriately, it is a blessing. I have never once looked around a plane to decide what each of the other passengers must be like based on what they are wearing. Even when traveling without my husband and/or child, I pass my time working, reading, or napping. Glancing around to make presumptions about my fellow passengers is not how I spend my time. (Not that Im perfect, I will usually be passing at least some of the flight time reading celebrity gossip, *insert smiley face here*)I usually wear flip-flops because it is too much trouble to remove and reinstate most other forms of footwear, while at the same time taking a child out of a stroller, taking off their shoes (because my 1 year old is carrying a bomb in his teeny-tiny sneakers), getting my laptop out of its bag and into its own container, folding up the stroller and putting it on the belt, going through the metal detectors, and then reversing all of the above. During a flight, I am spending all of that time desperately trying to keep my child entertained, quiet, and generally happy. I am not looking to make connections or to network. I dont need to find a man, because I am happily married. If I were to meet a life-long friend, they would likely be uninterested in my dress because, in general, most of my good friends pay little to no attention to that sort of thing. I am nothing but polite with the airline staff, and I believe this politeness makes the difference in how I am treated. I have been upgraded, switched seats, gotten extra food, and all the wonderful things that the airline staff can give as extras while wearing baggy jeans, flip-flops, old t-shirts, and no make-up. I would no sooner dress up for an airplane ride than I would for a road trip in my own personal car.

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Cassie June 26, 2007 at 11:55 am

I somewhat disagree with this simply because I usually travel in either pajamas or what I’ve come to realize are my pajama skirts– swoofy, floofy, I get compliments, but they’re easy to travel in. And flip-flops if at all possible because it’s more of a pain to strip off a pair of shoes than to have cold feet for an hour. So I’m a little defensive on the subject; I will try to hold that back.Thing is, most of the time when I’m traveling, it’s inappropriate for me to wear business casual. I don’t *have* anything between jeans and Intimidating Competence. I’m working on that (seems to involve a lot of impractical skirts I love but can’t wear) but it’s not appropriate for me to bring a business suit along for a week with friends, let alone wear one for travel. It’s a different-environments thing. If I go to a conference, then it’s dressing up all the way, but most of the traveling I do is for fun. It’s more important for me not to ruin my good clothes by traveling in them than to impress the other pajama-clad students.I really need to find some clothes that aren’t pajamas, jeans, or too fancy for everyday wear. There’s not a suitable middle ground in my life right now– everything is either comfortable, Intimidating Competence, or jeans.

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Joan June 26, 2007 at 11:55 am

Having just collected Daughter and her friend from the airport and having flown a fair bit myself, I land firmly on the dress “nicely” side of this discussion. One of the differences between dressing for the street and dressing for travel is the physical distance between oneself and others. On the street, I can move away from/avoid a person who is dressed or behaving in a manner that makes me uncomfortable. In the close quarters of plane/bus/train, that is not usually an option. In a world where we have to learn to get along with one another, thinking about others and how they might feel sitting next to me is a helpful guideline.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 12:11 pm

I just flew first class, round trip, between Seattle & London. I wore a ratty old pair of sweat pants, stained & holey, and old running shoes, and some nasty old unflattering, shapeless pullover sweater. On a long flight, all I care about is being able to sleep, so I just want the loosest, softest, most unstructured clothing that won’t bind when I roll over in those fabulous, completely flat sleep-pods British Airways has in first class.Though I have to say, I noticed I didn’t get very good service in the first class lounge, and I wondered if it was because I was the only person there who appeared to be homeless.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Oh, but I should add, that my raggedy-ass clothing didn’t stop a very nice lady, the regional manager for Donna Karan in Saudi Arabia, from having a fascinating conversation with me in the first class lounge in London. We were sitting next to each other in the lounge during a long, long layover. This lady, who was slim, elegant, tri-lingual, and poised, was willing to look past my sloppy clothing and engage me in a fascinating conversation about what it’s like to be a secular Western business woman and single parent living and working in an Arab country. I benefitted from her willingness to look past my appearance, but so dis she — I’m well-educated, well-read, and well-traveled, and I am also an interesting person to talk to, despite my sloppy attire.

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Molly Wheeler June 26, 2007 at 12:28 pm

erin,this is a great post to read today, my first day back from our shared time in california (it was great to meet you). i flew back east last night, arriving this morning, wearing a perfect new old dress with nice matching white flats. i never do dress up for a flight but i’ve been thinking about the days in which people dressed up to fly. i thought i’d try it. i might never turn back. (though my aladdin pants are pretty rad for a flight.) i could have walked right into work this morning, would even be a bit overdressed… but i needed a shower.

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Tara Goldman June 26, 2007 at 12:53 pm

I would just like to second all the comments about the days when people wore their best to travel. I am realizing that although my attire was probably appropriate for a college student, I would like it to be pleasantly surprising for a college student. I vow from here on out to wear nicer clothing while travelling.You never know who you could meet on a plane. I once met a very interesting guy on a plane, we didn’t exchange contact information, but I was very glad that I had asked my roomate to do my hair before I left. I almost dismissed him completely because while I was in my standard corduroys and a nice shirt/ jean jacket/ jewelry, he was wearing an old, stained Corona shirt and jeans. Blegh.To those of you who have said that you don’t care what your clothing says about you because you would rather not have other passengers take interest in you at all, I would say that dressing up more would grant more anonymity. As an avid in-airport people-watcher, I would say that my eyes are drawn more towards people who look as though they are wearing the only clothes they own, rather than people dressed comfortably and sensibly.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 1:10 pm

I dress for comfort, practicality and (especially) safety when I travel. That means jeans or cotton pants (clean, no holes, no sprayed-on fit), walking/running shoes, cotton socks, a nice cotton top, and a very casual cotton knit jacket (not a hoodie). No melting clothing, and layers that can be removed. Note that ratty t-shirts with obnoxious sayings are NOT required just because you are wearing jeans. Flying itself is not a social occasion for me, its a necessary and often unpleasant task, where I am at the mercy of airline scheduling goofs, baggage handlers, security, weather, shuttle busses, car rental agencies, and lord knows what else. I need to be prepared for anything, including being comfortable sitting in the airport for hours when my flight is delayed.I want all parts of my body covered, both for warmth and safety, especially my feet. There are all kinds of toe-eating devices that I encounter: escalators, people movers, shuttle bus steps, loading ramps, sliding door tracks – the list goes on and on. I need to be able to hike, run (to catch a connecting flight when the first flight was delayed), and walk miles through parking lots and terminals, if need be. In my mind, this requires practical walking shoes, not flip flops or sandals, and clothing that does not restrict vigorous physical activity.When I see people in the airport in flip flops, I can’t help my gut-level unconscious reaction: “Not very bright. In the case of an emergency, you’ll be the first to be injured or die.” When I see shorts, tank tops and other temperature-inappropriate clothing and my unconscious assessment of the persons native intelligence dips lower. Add ratty, dirty, stained, holey, cut-off anything to the mix, and my expectations of native intelligence drop even lower. This is clothing that is unsuitable for yard work (much less traveling) just on the basis of safety, never mind style.Anon in California

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 1:14 pm

The lost flip flop lady sat in front of me on the plane yesterday coming home from hawaii. She then proceeded to show everyone just how too short her shorts here (especially for her age!!!) as she dove under the seat for her shoe. on all fours. in the middle of the aisle, so nobody else could get out.I am a big fan of neat dark jeans and Sam Edelman flats. A fitted long enough tee and a big wool challis scarf to pull out of the bag whenever i get a chill.

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poppy June 26, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Great topic. Great feedback, too. I fly many, many miles (often international)–and I always wear the same outfit. My favourite jeans at the moment (never hole-y), one of my three favourite t-shirts (worn only for flying), wool cardigan, my lucky socks, and slip-on Mary Janes by Naot. Recently, I experimented and wore a collared cotton blouse and a pair of clogs by Clarks instead of the usual. And although I still looked presentable, it just wasn’t the same outfit–and I had The. Worst. Jetlag. Ever. I think I’ll stick to my usual.

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oracle June 26, 2007 at 2:00 pm

I like what Risa said, and am *totally with* Stacy. I also like Ashleys thing, because its about doing it for herself. I can relate to dressing up, a little or a lot, for that reason! Im not the least bit sorry that I dont own anything thats business/casual. Im glad I dont! Its not me, and at this point in my life, Id feel misrepresented in it.I love to see people travelling in pyjamas. Makes me smile.I take the train, more than the plane, and staff always treat me (and my similarly relaxed-dressed friends and colleagues) with a lot of respect. Like Anonymous 11:51, Ive also been given upgrades and extras. But I prefer riding Coach; its atmosphere pleases me.I recently rode the train seated beside a magnificent concert pianist. She was dressed very nicely probably always does and I was in some version of my usual jeans or ankle-length peasant skirt with tied-dyed t-shirt, and with bare feet in Naot sandals. Or maybe I was wearing my indigo denim Ikeda overalls that day. We quickly discovered that the other was intelligent, talented, and worldly; and we had a stimulating and satisfying conversation that wasnt really over by the time I had to get off. In our regular lives, we move in different circles which probably confer different meaning to, and interpret signals differently for, dress; but that created no obstacle. It made the meeting more interesting. I think we both felt quite uplifted by our encounter!I also think that perhaps most of us judge (or draw impressions of) others by dress, but we dont all judge them the same way. To each their own, and their own interpretation of what they see. And from this point of view, imposing a dress code (as some have suggested) on public places such as airplanes wouldnt make any sense, and wouldnt be fair.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 2:15 pm

I often wear flip flops when flying, but I am from sunny Southern California. I wear them all the time. I have never lost them on a plane or hurt myself. They also don’t slip off my feet, but again I wear them a lot, so I know how to walk in them. I usually wear a skirt, top and bring a jacket with me. I flew once in knit pants and a baggy top and noticed I didn’t get as much help with my baggage as I usually do. I normally fly by myself. While dressing nice is not an open invitation to talk to me, I notice on open seating planes or buses, I get more normal non-drunk people sitting next to me than ones who are dressed poorly.Even on red-eyes, I dress nice. I just bring a blanket to cover up my legs.

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Celeste June 26, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Okay, it’s (almost) all been said, so I’ll be brief. Pajamas are for sleeping in, or watching tv while waiting to sleep in, not for going out into any part of the world in. They are private clothes, not public clothes.

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RoseCampion June 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

I’ll never travel by any mode of transit in schumply clothes again. A true and recent story- my girl scout troop was traveling to Washington DC by van to go to the 95th anniversary of Scouting celebration. Because we didn’t have much time to make the trip, we drove overnight from Chicago to DC, leaving at nine o’clock Thursday night. We were supposed to arrive at 10 or 11 the next morning, with plenty of time to check into our rooms and get changed before we had an appointment to tour the Capitol with staffers from our Congressman’s office. Because it was an overnight trip, I elected to wear pajama pants and a t-shirt hoping to get some sleep. Well, the trip didn’t go as planned. Right after the Maryland state line we ran into a twelve mile back up and sat in the car hardly moving because of a major accident that closed all lanes of the highway for nearly three hours. We made it DC just in time for our appointment. I, and several others in my troop, ended up changing in the parking lot of the National botanic garden near the Capitol so that I didn’t have to tour the Capitol in my jammies. I am never, and I do mean never, wearing them outside of the house again.

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Gidget Bananas June 26, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Amen, Sister! I’ve had my full of airport exposure to butt-crack and muffin-top.Women, on the whole, have apparently forgotten how practical and comfy a full, knee-or-more-length skirt can be. Said skirt, especially with elastic waist appropriately covered by coordinating untucked T-shirt, is comfortable, concealing (go ahead, spread those legs! bend over! let a couple of yards of material do what they were meant to do!) and creates the impression that the wearer is respectable. I can almost guarantee that a woman wearing such a skirt will skate through security and customs, provided, of course, that she’s not hiding a Derringer or two in her garters.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 7:39 pm

When flying is time-consuming, tiring and dirty, there’s really no need to dress as though it’s an ‘occasion’. Every day of your life is an occasion. Dress as you see fit.What disturbs me about the flip-flops discussion is the people who slip them off for speed at the security checkpoint. There is SYPHILIS on the floor. Really. They’ve pap-smeared the airport carpet. Wear socks, folks.

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Alison Cummins June 26, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Pyjamas? Outside people’s homes? I’ve never seen this. I don’t get it.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 8:22 pm

The degeneration of society. I just want to not see anyone else’s intimates. This includes brastraps under tank tops, pjs in public, buttcrack, muffin top, slippers in public…the list goes on. It’s so easy to look like an adult. Let’s expect a little more of ourselves!

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 8:59 pm

You are not supposed to wear high-heeled shoes on the exit slide if you must deplane in an emergency. Even something like a cowboy boot has too sharp of a heel.They will poke holes in the slide, causing it to deflate, and potentially injure people below you on the slide. My understanding is that in an emergency you will be told to take them off. I don’t know why they even allow people to wear high heels on a plane. It would make more sense to ban high heels than it does to ban liquids.

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john June 26, 2007 at 9:13 pm

all of which makes me realize that i will have to buy something to wear to a funeral tomorrow because all i own anymore are sweats and shorts-

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The Muttering Chef (Kristen) June 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I guess I don’t mind the pyjamas. What I mind are the girls who wear the pyjamas that look like they haven’t been washed in weeks (droopy butt) and rolled down so that any time they see fit to bend over or merely sit down, the world gets a good long look at their butt crack. When did plumber’s butt become fashionable? Of course, this isn’t only an airport thing, this is an everywhere thing. No wonder I can’t find a decent lengthed shirt any longer, they’re making them long so that we hopefully won’t have to see your bare bum.

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The Muttering Chef (Kristen) June 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I guess I don’t mind the pyjamas. What I mind are the girls who wear the pyjamas that look like they haven’t been washed in weeks (droopy butt) and rolled down so that any time they see fit to bend over or merely sit down, the world gets a good long look at their butt crack. When did plumber’s butt become fashionable? Of course, this isn’t only an airport thing, this is an everywhere thing. No wonder I can’t find a decent lengthed shirt any longer, they’re making them long so that we hopefully won’t have to see your bare bum.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Erin, I usually find myself nodding in agreement whenever I read one of your rants, but this time, I will have to respectfully disagree with some of your points. For a short flight (ie anything under 8 hours) dressing in jeans/trousers/skirts etc is perfectly doable. However, if you’re on a flight that lasts 14-18 hours, the last thing you want is to wear clothing that will constrict or that is insufficiently warm. On a long-haul flight, I usually wear a plain, long-sleeved cotton T-shirt with sweatpants (in a solid colour), black leather sneakers, and a cashmere shawl for warmth. I may not look ready to chair a meeting the minute I step off the plane, but I don’t think I look like a homeless wreck either.

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Anonymous June 26, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Amen, Erin! It’s so easy these days to dress comfortably and still look neat and appropriate. Why resort to the sweats and PJs? When I see someone dressed that way, fair or not, I think they’re lazy and/or unintelligent. I fully recognize that that may not be true at all, but it’s my first impression nonetheless. Comfort and finesse are not mutually exclusive.

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Anonymous June 27, 2007 at 12:01 am

I don’t wear anything travelling that I wouldn’t wear to work (unless it’s too nice for work). But then my job is working for a disabled lady, mostly doing housework, so it would not qualify as ‘business casual’. It needs to be clean, decent, and whole, and that is pretty much it. As for shoes, I try to wear the heaviest shoes I’m bringing on the trip, because why carry them when I can wear them? Unless they are high heels, which I don’t wear when I’m carrying anything heavy./Monika

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AmandaMay June 27, 2007 at 12:05 am

I just got off a flight, and now Im thinking over my wardrobe and hoping I would be met with approval. Comfort is usually my number one goal, but Im not so sure about the people wearing pjs – cozy yes, but I like your take on it. You never know! (And of course, dresses are possibly the best choice of travel gear – comfortable (read: no tight waists) and classy too!

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oracle June 27, 2007 at 7:59 am

Rosecampion, I can sure understand your point of view!What a great bunch of comments. In my opinion, at least!Happy Canada Day weekend, everyone.

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Kate June 27, 2007 at 10:23 am

I’ve always dressed nicely on flights because I’m a hopeless romantic. Who knows who you could meet on the plane! I want people to notice me and my clothes and stike up converstaions with me (and vise versa). I never realized this was such a hot button issue. In my line of work, I alway have to be more than presentable–not suits, but I have to look put together, stylish, and confident–even if I just see the three other people in my office. I never know when I might meet a new client, new contact, or other VIP. And frankly, I’ve never found a pair of pants that were comfortable so I’ve given them up–thanks in part to this blog. It’s been all summer and nary a pair has touched these legs, save for yoga pants at the gym. And I’ve decided to get over the Intimidating Competence thing people are mentioning. People frequently comment on the dresses I wear, and sometimes I worry about being overdressed a bit (I will rethinking wearing a dress if I help a friend move this weekend) but being overdressed in any situation–on planes, trains, or the street–will never get in the way like being underdressed will. Last time I wore grubby jeans and a sweatshirt on a plane, the stewardess mistook me for not being old enough to sit in the emergency exit row. I was 21, not 16. And yes, I will “love it when I’m 40″ like she said, but it was demoralizing when I was 21.

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harthad June 27, 2007 at 10:25 am

Ah, late to the party as usual…I recently made a trans-Atlantic trip. One direction, I wore a sleeveless dress and a jacket. One direction, I wore jeans and long-sleeve T. The dress was FAR more comfortable, and I won’t being wearing jeans again on such a long flight. I will bring socks next time, though.Regarding the making a good impression/being judged by your dress issue: I like to dress up, and I like to see others dressed up, but I don’t view it as a judgement thing. To me, dressing well means making yourself your own work of art. Particularly now that I sew, I am my own canvas. So if I put on an aesthetically pleasing array of clothes/accessories, or I spend time doing my hair or my makeup, I’m doing it as a creative endeavor. I may not have a lot of artistic talents, but I do like to decorate myself.

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. June 27, 2007 at 10:58 am

On short flights, just for old time sakes, I wear a small hat and gloves.If Grandma could handle dressing like that while flying to Europe, surely I can manage on a one hour run. And boy do I get good service!

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Anonymous June 27, 2007 at 1:49 pm

I wear dark stretch jeans, a jersey top, a wrap and the bulkiest pair of shoes I have with me (which is usually a flat) on planes, buses and trains. Always. I guess I don’t worry too much about offending potential husbands or business contacts with this outfit, but if I am, I’d have to guess it wouldn’t work out anyway. I try to look neat and presentable while travelling, but I don’t care what other people are wearing. I’d also like to know which airlines those of you who are hunting for upgrades take, as I haven’t been on a flight that wasn’t completely booked in years.

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Moonwishes June 27, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I have no plans for traveling by air, but I realize after reading all the posts, that I definitely need to wear a long skirt should the need ever arise. I will always set off metal detectors due to 2 knee replacements. I’d rather pull up my skirt and show off my knee scars than be yanked out of line for a strip search.Actually I think this whole post is about more than traveling by plane, it is about dressing decently whatever the occassion. Pajamas are at home clothes not something to wear to restuarants (even if it is McD’s). How a person dresses does reflect themselves greatly and people who want to dress like slobs and think no one should care, I would suspect are rebellious about lots of others things also in that they don’t want anyone telling them what to do. Just my personal opinion which I have seen in evidence in the slobs I know.

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La BellaDonna June 27, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Late, but I can’t resist the travelwear theme.I have complete sympathy for the folks who want to be comfortable when they travel. Comfortable clothes are non-negotiable, in my opinion, especially for traveling, because there’s always the possibility that there will be an emergency and a need to move expeditiously.HOWEVER … why does comfort have to be torn? Or old? Or full of holes? Or stained? I’m wearing one of the most comfortable things I own right now, and I could take a plane flight right this second in an emergency, sleep all night in it, and look good tomorrow. I’m wearing an ankle-length, sleeveless, bias-cut black silk dress, which is loose enough to be comfy in the heat, but shows I have a nice shape without showing too much of it; I have my beloved low-heeled boots; I have a fitted crepe jacket with satin accents for air-conditioning; I have a black summer hat; I have a wide wool-and-sparkle scarf in black, in case: more air conditioning. It’s as comfortable as a nightgown, and looks fabulous. There doesn’t have to be a moment’s compromise for the sake of comfort. If I were actually going on a planned trip, there’d be some coordinating layers in the event, heaven forfend, of crashing someplace like the mountains. It isn’t necessary to be uncomfortable to look attractive! When did that get to be such an unshakeable, unalterable association? A dress can be much more comfortable to travel in than jeans! So can a skirt. I wouldn’t advocate wearing a micro-mini with bare legs and flipflops; that has lots of potential for disaster. But a long skirt, with an adjustable waist, will keep you covered and comfortable, allowing air to circulate if it’s hot, covering your legs if it’s cold.Especially for those of us who sew, there’s every potential and possibility for combining comfort with clothes that give a little bit of a boost because you know that they flatter you. And I’m not talking fancy; one of the most comfortable things I own is a stretch denim dress that I made specifically to wear cleaning the house. I made it a couple of years ago, and expect to wear it for the next 20 years – and mean to keep it looking as well as I can, while I wear it. I’m really not attacking the ladies who don’t want to “dress up;” I just genuinely don’t understand why, given a choice of what’s in their wardrobes, someone would pick something with holes over something without, something with stains over something without, something unflattering over something becoming. It surely is not the stains and the holes that make the garments “comfortable,” is it? Corduroy, linen, denim, silk, heavy cotton knits, blends; you don’t have to be uncomfortable one minute while traveling, just because you wear a flattering top in a colour you love, and a skirt with pockets – or a nice tunic top and soft drawstring pants that are not pajamas. How is that hard? What am I not getting?

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Anonymous June 27, 2007 at 9:25 pm

I really like to see people dressed outlandishly and/or utterly inappropriately on the plane. They’re, you know, challenging the dominant paradigm. One, air travel, or the actual travel part itself, is so utterly bland and excruciatingly boring. Two, “business casual”: Oy, how conventional can you get?

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Susan June 27, 2007 at 10:45 pm

I don’t generally wear a skirt or dress on a plane – most of my flying these days is long distance (think 24 hours – that’s how long it takes to get to Australia with lay-overs on the way). I usually dress in khaki pants, a button-down shirt, and either a blazer or wool cardigan. I’m usually met by my parents at the other end, and want to look presentable.I fear that if I wore a dress or skirt, I would get terribly creased when I try to sleep on the plane (sometimes, I’m fortunate enough to get 3 or 4 seats to myself, and can lay down – I can’t afford business or first class).I wear loafers, and try to avoid taking my shoes off during the flight (although the airlines do provide you with those flight socks; my concern is with my feet swelling up during the flight, as happened once when I flew to Australia while I was 7 months pregnant.)

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Erin June 27, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Those of you who think I am advocating boring business casual haven’t been reading this blog too long … I have worn this skirt on an airplane. I got extra peanuts, too. I just want you to try to look close to (not at) your best (I know travel can be demoralizing). When you look good, you feel good, right?And, Bella, you always hit the nail on the head, and say things better than I do! (And I want the pattern for that dress please … sounds great. Does it have pockets?)Thank you for all the comments, though — there’s a lot here I hadn’t thought of, and I appreciate hearing what folks think (even if what they think is that I’m off my nut).

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Anonymous June 27, 2007 at 11:17 pm

anon 9:25-Dressing up for travel IS challenging the current dominant paradigm!

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virgil June 28, 2007 at 12:06 am

I myself like to wear ratty clothes onto airplanes not out of laziness, or for the sake of comfort, but rather as a silent protest against the air travel industry. If there is any situation the calls for a hostile all-out textile assault, it is being herded on and off cramped airbuses, being offered a $5 box of chocolate bars in lieu of a meal on a cross-country dinnertime flight, forced to endure the vocalizations of inconsolable infants, and then delayed in Phoenix (surrounded by said infants) for much longer than is morally acceptable. If anything, I wish I could travel with full-on punk regalia: spiked hair, piercings, and offensive t-shirt, possibly unwashed. Or perhaps naked. I hate the airlines and I like them to know it.And I wear flip-flops because security takes an unusual interest in every other pair I own (knives in the toes? Explosive-stuffed heels?) resulting in further delays in Phoenix.Always Phoenix, for some reason.

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The Slapdash Sewist June 28, 2007 at 9:33 am

Kate, I had the same thing happen to me…but I’m 32! And was dressed as I always do, in a cute skirt and top. I didn’t even pay attention to whomever the flight attendant was asking the age of, because surely it wasn’t me. But indeed she was verifying that I was old enough to sit in the exit row. Oddly, I was flying after a speaking engagement at which a fellow speaker asked me if my kids were already in college (again, I’m 32, and I have no kids).I never look sloppy anywhere at any time. That is not how I present myself. I consider what I am wearing any time I put on clothing, and that definitely includes travel. I too long for the days when travel used to be an occasion to dress up. There are so few occasions nowadays for looking your very best.

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LaBellaDonna June 28, 2007 at 4:05 pm

Erin, which one do you want? The black bias silk sleep dress, or the denim house dress?The current incarnation of the denim dress doesn’t have pockets, because my mind was somewhere else at the time. I’m going to put them in, however – and I’m going to put them in the next iteration, too. It’s a princess dress with extra-narrow straps and a scoop neck (just the thing to show off a pearl necklace!), and a very full skirt, nearly ankle length. It, too, is comfy enough to sleep in. If I want, I can wear a T-shirt under it, or a blouse, or a sweater; if it’s warm, I can just wear it over my bra, which it covers completely. And I have the comfort of knowing that even if I’m doing something that’s really not a lot of fun, at least I look nice. :) – with the full understanding that it is, in fact, meant to be worked in, and if I spill bleach on myself, well, oopsie. It’s not a problem, since that’s what it was designed for!

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oracle June 29, 2007 at 12:38 am

Er, Erin, for the record, I never thought you were advocating business casual. For the record! But somehow it (specifically) was becoming batted about. So I commented on it.

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Anonymous June 29, 2007 at 11:50 pm

If we were to pass each other on the street two days in a row you might think you were looking at a different person. One day I might have a modest skirt and top in solid tones, and the next day I might be wearing a chaotically patterned and tattered outfit that would require minutes to take in entirely. The one thing that never changes is the 4g segment ring in my septum. Yes, I can fit fit a chopstick through there. I’m sure I’d offend you, but upon opening my mouth assumptions usually change. I am 19 years old and will be entering my senior year in college next fall and love nothing more than knocking the socks off of older (business) men/women with a rollicking conversation about Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, the evolution of the bustle, or even Vogue magazine. I know I am young, and nowhere close to trading in my eclectic daily wardrobe for business attire, but I don’t forsee myself ever losing sleep over the fact that I might not be making a good first impression. Like you said yourself, even perfect attire can be ruined by a snarky attitude, however, clothes are not the only thing that speak for me and if an exposed bra strap or a hole in my shirt keeps you from having a stimulating conversation with a young person then that’s your loss not mine. I’ll save my wit for anyone that’s intrigued.As a student that has only traveled the few times I have been able to afford it, I must admit that the condition of my fellow passengers rarely crosses my mind. As long as they are not offending senses that can be easily distracted or redirected, such as smell and hearing to a certain degree, I am alright. I hope this doesn’t come across as an attack, because I don’t mean it to be, and I don’t believe you are closed-minded. It just seems that by wishing for such a homogeneous society you are selling yourself short. To assume that everyone needs dress to please not only themselves but others just scares me. Part of the beauty, and the horror, of this world is that we have a multifarious array of people all trying to accomplish something. That doesn’t always require a “professional” look, I know plenty of people who have accomplished amazing feats caked in coal dust and week old clothes. I was approached and photographed by a woman working for GQ in an outfit most of your readers would deem unfit for plane travel. If I am an ignorant American for thinking that holey jeans are ok for an airplane then I apologize, but that doesn’t make me any less of a good or intelligent person. The day everyone is dressed the same, or thinks the same, will never come. At least I hope not. We can agree to disagree, but it seems judgemental to believe that everyone should live up to the standards of a very limited portion of society. You can have your smart business casual, but I still prefer my jeans and my dirty frye boots, and I hope to have the courage to defy the belief that I must look a certain way to be successful. I think I’ve done pretty damn well thus far.

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Oxanna June 30, 2007 at 1:46 am

I think air travel has relaxed a lot simply because it isn’t an “occasion” like it used to be. So many more flights – business, personal, etc.! And comfort is key, especially in coach, where legroom is a foreign concept. However, comfy doesn’t have to mean ratty, stained, or loungewear. It’s not about everyone dressing the same or “business casual”, but with respect for your fellow man/woman who will have to sit next to you for 4-14 hours. If everyone dresses schlumpy, then people start feeling schlumpy, and it just heads downhill…Maybe I should wear gloves and a little hat on my next plane trip for fun. :)

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susan June 30, 2007 at 7:38 am

As a flight attendant for 18 years I agree with you 100%. I never knew what the next flight would bring. People never cease to amaze me.

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wampoline July 1, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Erin, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and really loved this post. For the last 5 years I’ve been living in Paris, which is an incredibly dense, noisy, often dirty city (a bit like a crowded airplane). What keeps the city from feeling totally chaotic and overwhelming are the underlying rules of social behavior that cement French culture, particularly concerning how one behaves in public: e.g., not talking too loud (something which Americans like me are often frowned upon for doing), teaching manners to children (imagine that!), and also dressing appropriately. Now i am NOT saying here that French people are perfect, or “better” than Americans. I am simply saying that we could take a clue from older, more established cultures (like France, Italy, or Spain) on how to behave in a public space. I have to say I was appalled at the anonymous toddler mom’s comment on this blog: “I would no sooner dress up for an airplane ride than I would for a road trip in my own personal car.” This idea of the American nuclear family traveling about in its own little bubble, uncaring and oblivious to the world around them, is insular and selfish, to say the least. Just because you have a child doesn’t mean you are not part of a larger society. And just because you are a “mom” doesn’t mean that you are invisible to other people around you. What message about the world and life is that toddler getting from such an attitude?

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oracle July 1, 2007 at 5:17 pm

la belladonna, I really appreciate your post up there.And Anonymous 11:50, I love yours!And Erin, thanks for creating the space for this discussion … and all the other discussions you’ve launched, too!

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Anonymous July 1, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Late to comment, but I love the topic.I’m another Aussie, and I have to say that on 24+ hour flights it is generally neccesary to change during the flight (which makes sense really, considering you wouldn’t go that long without changing on the ground).BUT! I’m hopelessly in love with flying, so I usually plan out my outfit.On a really long flight I usually wear smart dress pants and a comfortable top, nice wrap scarf and ballet flats (for ease through security). Wearing trousers is also a good way to hide ugly anti-dvt compression socks. Take a nice jacket/coat and surrender it to a flight attendant. Then I’ll generally get changed into a long sleeved t-shirt for the flight, then into another outfit (often a skirt) to land. As I travel up the pointy-end quite frequently for work, I think that dressing nicely helps me get taken seriously, as I’m a bit younger than the average business/first flyer. But I’m always astounded by what other passengers choose to wear.And it has other advantages. I once met an actor I’ve always admired on a BA flight from London to Dallas and I’m glad I was presentable. We didn’t have a fabulous affair, but he did share his newspaper with me.

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Anonymous July 2, 2007 at 7:11 am

My dear boyfriend wears Larry the Cable Guy pj pants and Cartman slippers. I intend to marry the man.

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Hannatu July 2, 2007 at 9:04 am

I loved this post! I travel a lot and am horrified by some of the outfits I see. Do some of these people not have full length mirrors at home!? My outfit of choice is a roomy prairie skirt. That way I can tuck my legs up under me, look not too dressy, and be comfortable all at the same time. I got a good laugh at the flip-flops. That’s what my daughter wore on the last trip and she was down on the floor under the seats looking for the lost flip-flop!

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La BellaDonna July 2, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Anonymous-with-the-septum-ring, what about either my post or Erin’s gave you the impression that we were advocating “business casual” for travel? It is a category of garment that neither she nor I own, to my knowledge (well, I know I don’t, and I’m pretty sure Erin’s wardrobe doesn’t fall into that category). Erin’s style could probably best be described as 1950′s on acid, and mine as Formal Goth. Or even Highly Formal Goth (with modifications for Business and At-Home). We don’t want to see the world in Khakis and Polo Shirts (apologies to those who really, really, really love such things – it’s OK if you wear them!). Suggesting that clothes without holes can be as comfortable as those with, that clothes without stains can be as comfortable as those with, that colours that are flattering can be had and a fit that really does fit means that it’s not uncomfortable – that’s what we’re suggesting. We’re not suggesting the colours, the cuts, or the garments themselves. I’m still puzzled at the defensiveness on some parts, as if it was, in fact, what we were attempting to do. I’m a reasonable being (fairly often), and pretty intelligent: tell me what makes something dirty, stained, torn or unflattering more comfortable, so that I can understand. I don’t give a darn about tattoos, piercings or hair colourings, or stylized hair, especially on the young, who are at an age when they’re supposed to be experimenting. Dirt, though, is harder to understand (and I’m not talking about the normal 27-hours-and-more of traveling), and a deliberate choice of less flattering over more flattering (which is not at all the same as revealing, which is fine too if that’s what you like) is equally hard to understand.

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Madeleine July 5, 2007 at 11:26 am

Thank you, Stacy. Whenever I fly, all I want is to be comfortable, if I have to wear pjs to be comfortable, then I don’t care. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk to me on a plane because I’m wearing sweats or pjs isn’t worth meeting.

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Anonymous July 9, 2007 at 11:44 am

La BellaDonna, I believe that the thing Erin said that caused Anonymous-with-the-septum-ring to assume she was advocating business casual was, “Me, I won’t get on a plane in anything less than I would wear to a business-casual meeting.”I personally find the tone of this post and the comments (for the most part) to be snobbish and rude. “Then, of course, it’s always rude to comment on peoples’ clothing, unless you are complimenting them (or telling them a slip is showing, etc.).”

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Robinson July 9, 2007 at 11:01 pm

Just thought I’d point out the discrepency between this particular post and the lovely post you did on how we don’t “owe pretty to anyone.”http://www.dressaday.com/2006/10/you-dont-have-to-be-pretty.html

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Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 6:47 am

Sneakers or high heels? Seemes to me that is going from one extreem to another. You can’t lump all high heels in the same sentence. A high heel can be 3 inches or 5 inches. A short skirt and a pr. of 3 inch heels lookes very sheek and if you are one of those who dislike high heels of any king then you should wake up and realize what you are misssing. After all Airline attendants wear very high heels at times although they switch to flats when serving meals.

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Jill October 15, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Here’s my position:I’m 25 years old and I’m tired of dressing like a bum.And by bum I mean cotton shirts and carpernter pants. I’ve decided to change to a more sophisticated style. So I went to the mall yesterday, and wondered through the petite section and tried on name brands like Lauren, by Ralph Lauren, and blah blah blah. The smallest size I could find was 2P. 2p is too big on me! Someone please tell me where I can buy some nice “dress” pants. I need size 0.Although I wish to upgrade my style, I have to say, someone please give me some evidence that you’ll run into a person that can change your life on an airplane.I’m a math and physics major. I’m married. I have a three year old son. Please tell me who I could possibly run into on an airplane that would change my life.I’m not trying to be an actress or a model. I don’t have a reason to get anyone to become a “client” of mine. Who would I possibly need to impress?For the sake of argument, someone please tell me about their magical experience on an airplane where they meet someone fantastic and it happened to change their life damatically.Otherwise, you people are simply just bitching that not everyone has the same taste as you. Don’t you know that having holes in your clothes and looking like a bum was actually the “in” thing a few years back? In fact, you could walk into a department store and find jeans with holes already in them. You could buy jeans with paint already splattered on them. It was a horrible fad that I never bought into, but the point is, some people did like it, and they bought it. Why people like what they like isn’t up for argument, and they don’t need to justify themselves; as horrible as their tastes may be.In fact, if only my taste mattered, country music would be banned; There aren’t enough good country songs to make up for all of the whiny ones. Rap music would be banned; There aren’t enough good rap songs to make up for all the offensive ones.Old cars would be allowed only in the city dumb; I can’t stand looking at anything older than 1999. Most of the houses in my neighboor hood would have to be demolished because I can’t stand the outdated color schemes they are currently painted. If you want to dress in pajamas on an airplane, then dress in pajamas on an airplane and don’t dress up in nice business attire. Why would you want to attract a person who doesn’t agree with your life style?If your a guy, and you dress like you have money, then you will attract a girl that thinks you have money, which is okay if you do, and just trouble if you don’t. She’ll want to spend your money either way.You should dress yourself in the type of clothes that the people you want to attract would wear.If you want to attract people with money, look like you have some yourself.If you want to attract a bum, you should look like a bum yourself.If you want to attract a rock star, you should look like a rock star.If you want to attract a business man, you should look like a business woman.If you want to attract a college student, look like a college student.You should only be as attractive as the kind of people you want to attact.People shouldn’t be required to wear items that misrepresent their life style.Being able to read someone by what they are wearing is a good thing, not a bad thing. It can help you decide who to stay away from. So be greatful that you didn’t waste time with the person in pajamas or the guy with oil on his hands because you could see that lifestyle doesn’t fit in with yours. Otherwise, you may have been tempted to stike up a conversation with the car mechanic dressed in Gucci. You may have mistook the trash guy for a potential business client.And the guy in pajamas can be thankful that the girl with the prada purse didn’t wear pajamas. The guy in pajamas may have mistook the prada snob for a nice simple human being, and he would have wasted his time.Of course, there is always the possibility of reading someone wrong. If you are a nice human being, you’ll talk with anyone regardless of what they are wearing. If you are a smart, nice human being , you’ll talk with anyone you think will fit in with your life style, and ignore everyone else, while appreciating that everyone else wore clothes that represented their life style so you could avoid them.

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Anonymous October 17, 2007 at 12:26 am

I agree with you Erin. And you know what? It’s good that there are people who still disagree, because that means less competition for the rest of us who DO care about making a great impression and opening more doors of opportunity. I used to wear flip flops, but now I find them gross. I would rather wear a beautiful pair of leather sandals (dressy or nice casual) than plastic/pvc/rubber thong flip flops. Also, some people have such ugly feet and toes, that it should be a crime for them to wear them!! Ugh. The only really casual sandal I think that looks okay are the Adidas slide sandals (on guys and girls). I do think Tevas can look fun with some chino shorts and collared button shirt instead of ratty clothing.Personally, it always feels better to dress better and ultimately, look better…anywhere I go.

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Buckwheat! October 17, 2007 at 1:19 am

you guys are all completely ridiculous. this isn’t the 1950s. maybe i’ll start dressing up when i get to take a shuttle to the moon!

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Sara October 25, 2007 at 1:00 am

I most often fly in a nice pair of jeans, a plain-colored tshirt or long-sleeve, and a cardigan sweater (as we all know airplanes are cold!). For shoes, I gave up flip-flops because my feet froze, and have started wearing Kate Spade rubber rain shoes. (Go ahead and laugh, but they are cute and very comfy!) When I flew home to Alaska last December, I wore my Dansko clogs, which were more appropriate for the landing weather.I don’t do wrinkle-prone fabrics or anything I can’t run in comfortably.If on the very slim chance I was flying first-class, I would most definitely trade the jeans and rubber shoes for trousers and loafers.I think above all you should be comfortable, prepared for an emergency (although I have yet to read about an incident where someone’s spike heel punched a hole in the inflatable slide!), and expressing your own personal style.

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jas January 11, 2008 at 11:30 pm

Maybe they’re going for comfort. When I was younger my mother used to always tell us to wear something “comfortable” when we traveled. She made sure we wore sweatpants, t-shirts, and sneakers. NOW I’m always on the plane in a cute dress, heels, and bag. Hey that’s what makes me comfortable, knowing that I look good because you never know!

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Anonymous March 16, 2008 at 12:19 am

Well, now I’m self-conscious about my jeans and hoodie! Honestly, as a high school student flying from Chicago to Rome in a few days, my first priority is feeling comfortable on the long flight, and my second is looking presentable. I think that if someone thinks I’m sloppy for wearing what I would wear to school on the plane (jeans, tank top and hooded sweatshirt), I don’t really want to get to know them. That said, I never go out in public in sweats, pajamas, or yoga pants. That’s just lazy.

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Emily June 12, 2008 at 11:21 am

I feel that dressing appropriately on a plane, or any place in public, for that matter, is simply a matter of common courtesy. I can’t express how uncomfortable it makes me to sit next to a man (or even a woman) wearing a tank top, shorts and sandals. And don’t even get me started on the subject of wearing lounge wear or pyjamas in public… this is simply inappropriate in any setting!And for those of you who argue that you’ll never meet anyone worth knowing on a plane – a friend met her current boyfriend, a lawyer, on a flight. She was dressed, as she always is, in preppy/retro business casual. He was dressed in a suit. I doubt that either of them would have even spoken to the other if they had been wearing sweat pants and flip flops.And dressing appropriately does not require sacrificing individual style, as some people seem to think! It’s entirely possible to cover your body and look presentable while still looking like yourself!

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kostia June 15, 2008 at 1:18 am

Thanks to the link from the recent packing entry, I just reread this post for the first time since its publication, and I just had to add my comment to the tiny minority of us who don’t “dress up” to fly. Flying may have required dressing up in days past, but those days are gone. I see no more societal call to dress up for a flight than to “dress for dinner” at home. If they’re going to stop giving out pretzels because the three cents a serving is breaking them, and charge me fifteen bucks to check a bag, I see no economic call to make a good impression.But mainly, like the reader Risa who commented a year ago, I love the blog, especially the vintage pictures, but I “come from a different world.”I’ve come to realize that I don’t have any reason or inclination to dress “cute,” so I stopped trying. I’ve never worn a size smaller than 14, and comfort is by far my number-one criterion in choosing clothes. I never buy shoes with heels. Nothing I own has lace or cap sleeves or a side zipper. Everything has pockets, and I never even have to check for them.In my world there are no skirts or dresses at all, and I am baffled by the near-universal opinion that they are comfortable.I had a yard sale this morning and sold my last four dresses. I now own zero, and I can’t imagine (aside from bridesmaiding and the small possibility [I'm 34] of getting married myself) ever buying another one. The only skirts I buy are those that have shorts underneath.There’s a simple reason for this: my thighs stick together. I cannot imagine any garment less comfortable than a skirt or dress. If there’s no fabric between my thighs I am miserable.And an airplane, where I’ve already been made miserable by ridiculous fake security preceded immediately by nickel-and-diming, is the last place I want to be made even more miserable by my own mistakes.

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AG June 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Am appalled that the number of flip-flop wearers vastly outnumberes the number of folk who wisely don’t let their feet touch that pad at the security checkpoint. Really, people — studies show that what’s on the floor at the airport (let alone on the floor of the plane) makes what’s on the floor in the showers at your gym look positively domesticated. If you can afford the airfare, you can afford a pair of Hush Puppies and a nice pair of cotton socks. Otherwise, smarter travelers look at you and see not a slovenly daytripper but a disease vector. Knock it off.

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Anjie July 6, 2008 at 6:08 pm

I don’t understand this disconnect between dressing comfortably and dressing nicely.A pretty cotton tunic dress with tights and ballet flats are just as comfy as pjs or sweats. And take the same amount of time to put on. Just because you’re not trying to impress anyone doesn’t mean that you should look slovenly. I dress up pretty much everyday because I want to look nice, whether anyone notices me or not. And I’m a former slob! I used to wear pjs in public and big ole’ tees, and toesocks with flipflops. But that was in high school. I’m a 21 year old college senior now and I like to look pretty. Whether anyone notices or not, it makes me feel great. I’m also not for everyone wearing polos and dockers (unless you like it). I’m very much an individualist, and I like to stand out. I love one of a kind things (my prized posession is a purse I found at the Salvation Army with an oldworld map printed on it) But I still like looking pretty and presentable for noone’s sake but my own. I dunno, I feel like dressing sloppily is something I did in high school, and I’ve matured since then. Plus other people have to look at me whether I care or not, and if they had to get up and dress themselves nicely, what makes me exempt?

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Anonymous January 10, 2009 at 2:23 am

No offense, people, but what people wear ain’t gonna change just because you groan about their dirty socks, bad habits, and greasy hair at security! They are people too. Maybe their daughter is dying, or having a kid—maybe they are really a model, or just someone flying a 12 hour red-eye. What people wear, and do, is their business, not yours. And if they put a dress code on flights—I’ll be sure to skip those completely. Of course it’s kind, and nice, and christian to do the right thing, and have pose and posture, and a good knit dress, on a plane. But let me remind you—there is a soul beneath the dirty wrappers. And wearing a greasy shirt does not make you less of a person.

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Anonymous May 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I loved your piece of travelling and dressing for travel by air.I just returned from a knitter’s blog…wonderful stuff…but potty mouthed…I was so shocked by the words in the blog…I then stumbled upon your piece here..and just feel..there are still people out there who think as I do..whether travelling or writing.

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