This post has been updated: please head HERE to read the 2019 version.
Do you know which are my fave celebrity paparazzi photos? The ones where someone beautiful and famous has just stepped off a plane looking like they’ve just been on a three-day-health retreat, not a long-haul flight.
Yes, sitting (or lying down) up the pointy end of the plane certainly does help in these circumstances. Good on them I say.
I don’t envy that. What I do envy is their ability to look so effortlessly chic as they walk off the plane.
It seems I’m not alone.
I received this question from SY reader Sophie asking for some help about what to wear on a long flight.
She’s not talking about a relatively quick flight into Bali or Thailand where you can get away with just adding a light wrap to your summer casual outfit.
Sophie is talking about the long-haul stuff. The kind of trips that take days for most of us to recover from.
I’d love some ideas on what to wear on a long flight. I fly on a 35-plus hour flight to Europe about two to three times each year and am seriously over the “jeans and joggers” look for this, and I will NOT wear trackies (I’m 45!). This is a nightmare for me every time. I’d rather dress for a job interview. I’m already dreading getting to the airport in two weeks’ time and seeing some uber stylish person looking effortlessly chic in a stretchy ensemble and to-die for shoes that you can both wear to the opera as well as negotiate cobblestone streets. If I try going comfortable, I look like I’ve mugged a jogger for their outfit. Help please! Your fashion wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Sophie
I’m not a celebrity, nor is Sophie, but I do think this is an achievable look – even if you’re frazzled on the inside, had little sleep and spent your time down the back of the plane.
If you break down that celebrity travel look (and I’ve popped up some inspiration on my travel style board on Pinterest for you) you’ll see there is a very simple formula. One that you can easily adapt for yourself.
1. Comfortable jeans or leggings. Everyone’s version of comfortable is different. For me it’s either my Blue Illusion or NYDJ skinny jeans or Mela Purdie pants that would go the distance. I wore my NYDJ jegging style jeans on a long-haul flight two years ago. They were comfortable for the entire trip and I’d wear this style jean again. Denim or black work well as colours here.
2. Relaxed top or tee. I’m not talking a man-sized top or tee – just a more relaxed version of a standard top. If you follow along with my #everydaystyle posts on Instagram you’ll see it’s a style of tee I favour any day – not just for travel. I can layer a stretch cami underneath but essentially the look is floaty and relaxed. Stick with a white, grey or black colour.
3. Big scarf that doubles as a wrap/blanket. This is the key to bringing the whole outfit together – and keeping you warm in overly air-conditioned airports and on the flight. This is when celebrities introduce a little colour or pattern – most commonly animal print or stripes. Or they’ll stick with a tonal variation of their top and jacket/cardi.
4. Wrap cardi or jacket. A cardi that “wraps” around you offers extra warmth like a blanket but worn loose with skinny jeans or leggings it looks effortlessly chic. If opting for a jacket, my suggestion would be to wear a jersey or ponte jacket that has stretch along with its structure. This will make it comfortable enough for you to wear all flight – and it won’t crush.
5. Flat slip-on shoes. I didn’t do this on that flight two years ago but wish that I had. I took my wedges off when on the plane and put on compression socks but it was at the airports in the States that it became a pain taking my shoes on and off through security. Unlike here you have to take all shoes off regardless of whether they’re heels and might “beep”. Ballet flats and loafers are your friend for slip-on, slip-off ease. And it’s possible to get a pair that looks good and is comfortable for outings at your destination.
6. Big overnight bag. I find that long-haul travellers are either of the standard cabin bag variety or of the over-sized handbag/tote bag variety. I swing between the two but do like the look of an over-sized bag and find it’s a great use at your destination too.
7. Big sunnies. Apart from the instant celeb-factor, they hide what those hours in a pressurised cabin without sleep have done to your eyes.
This is a starting point – a visual – of what breaking down that formula looks like. You can use it as a starting point and swap in pieces you already have or help you to create a shopping list to fill the gaps. The beauty of this kind of outfit for a long-haul flight is that these neutral pieces will work in with the rest of your clothes you’ve packed for wearing at your destination.
1. Seed pants $89.95 | 2. Witchery tee $39.95 | 3. Blue Illusion blazer $199.95 | 4. Sportscraft scarf $59.95 | 5. Karen Walker sunglasses $295 | 6. Zensu ballet flats $119.95 @ The Iconic | 7. Sterling & Hyde tote $299.95
Do you regularly fly on long plane rides overseas? What’s your go-to inflight “uniform”?