Things You Should Think Twice About Before Wearing On Your Flight

There's little in life that's as simultaneously wonderful and anxiety-inducing as travel. Whether you're going for business, pleasure, or family obligation, every trip holds its own set of surprises and stressors lurking around just about every corner. Between making sure your passport is up-to-date and you've packed everything you need for your journey, there's a lot to think about. The last thing you need is to get hung up by airport security over a poorly considered wardrobe choice or spend the entire day limping from terminal to terminal because you picked the wrong footwear.

Taking a little time out before you travel to perfect your flight-day outfit won't prevent you from enduring a long layover. But it just might help you avoid some of the discomfort and stress you'd experience by getting stuck in the wrong clothing item when you're far from home. Here's everything you need to think twice about wearing when you're getting ready for your next flight.

You might come to regret wearing white or light colors

Traveling by plane can involve a good deal of rushing around, and at some point, you're likely to need a little refreshment along the way. All of that adds up to a pretty solid chance you could end up with an outfit emergency while you're in transit, like many ill-fated travelers unlucky enough to spill a soft drink on their lap ahead of a long-haul flight.

When the inevitable happens, it's unlikely that you'll have a spare shirt in your carry-on luggage, leaving you stuck looking off your game until you've had a chance to change. This also means any stains will have plenty of time to soak into your clothing before you get a chance to launder the item in question. Save yourself the sorrow by opting for dark or patterned clothing that can more effectively hide spills.

Form-fitting clothing could become uncomfortable

There are lots of reasons you might want to look sharp when you travel, but clothes that look great and feel fabulous when you're casually strolling around town can become a source of misery when you've been sitting in a crowded airplane for several hours. According to the Desert Vein and Vascular Institute, tight clothing can affect circulation when you fly, increasing the chance of a blood clot or DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

A TikTokker named Taran recommends wearing an oversized hoodie and cargo pants, emphasizing, "I don't know how you lot that weird (sic) tight clothes sit on the plane comfortably." Other travel experts echo the sentiment while recommending leggings or a comfy lounge set rather than restrictive, non-stretch clothing or jeans.

Fragrances could bother other passengers

One of the biggest faux pas you can make when traveling by air is to spray your usual body fragrance before hopping on a plane. A fragrance that you're accustomed to might not seem all that strong to your nose, but to someone else — particularly someone prone to migraines or with neurodiversity-related sensory needs — it could be a flight-ruiner. 

And with all of the running around you do when you're traveling, even the lightest fragrances can heat up on your skin, becoming overwhelming to those around you, which is what happened when one woman's patchouli frustrated several other passengers on a flight (via Road Warriorette). Given the close quarters of an airplane cabin, it's best to avoid scented lotions, sprays, and perfumes until you've landed.

A jumpsuit or romper could make bathroom breaks a nightmare

Jumpsuits and rompers are easy-to-wear looks that save wearers the trouble of having to pair up outfits. Even better, they can be extremely comfortable since most rompers or jumpsuits generally don't feature rigid and restrictive waistbands that can press uncomfortably into your flesh when you're on a long flight. 

But all that comfort and convenience can fall apart when you need to visit the loo mid-air and find yourself peeling off a romper to use the facilities in a cramped space. It's better to minimize the chance that you or your cute 'fit will collide with something unsanitary at 30,000 feet by opting for far more bathroom-friendly attire. When flying, it is better to be safe than stylish.

A claw hairclip could make relaxing on the plane a hassle

For folks with long hair, hair claws can be incredibly convenient, not to mention cute. With a simple flip of the hand, hair can be neatly secured off the shoulders — and they're much gentler on locks than a typical hair tie. But it's impossible to lean your head against an airplane headrest with a claw clip on the back of your head. 

As TikTokker Aly of Actually Aly put it, "Unless you want to be leaning forward the entire time and super uncomfy, don't wear these things." Instead, Aly recommends pulling hair back in something like a French braid. Or there's always the good old-fashioned top knot.

Heavy makeup can start to look rough after a few hours of travel

Travel can be rough on the skin and leave airline passengers looking the worse for wear. Throw in a lot of makeup to the mix, and you might be a little troubled by what you see in the mirror at debarkation. Even worse, wearing makeup on long flights could be rough on the skin. 

According to London-based dermatologist Justine Kluk, low cabin humidity can cause skin dehydration on long flights. When mixed with the stress and skincare routine disruption of flying, makeup can increase your risk of a breakout. But that doesn't mean you have to go completely bare-faced. Kluk recommends gentle tinted moisturizers and mineral makeup for folks who cringe at the thought of flying without their face on.

Wearing sunscreen-free skin could leave you with skin damage

It's easy enough to underestimate the sun's potential for damage when you're spending a day at the beach. But did you know that flying sans sunscreen can also lead to sunburn or skin damage? UV exposure at cruising height has been linked to increased melanoma and skin damage in pilots and flight crew. While the composite or polycarbonate material that makes up airplane windows can reduce the transmission of UV-B rays, UV-A transmission can still occur at this height. 

Social media is full of anecdotal window seat sunburn tales like the one Arieta Nasto experienced when she flew with Vaseline on her lips. To protect your skin, play it safe with sunscreen and SPF-containing lip protection before you fly.

Offensive or contentious clothing is a no-go

Every once in a blue moon, an airline passenger goes viral for deciding their three-hour flight is the perfect time to conduct a free speech audit. But on a busy flight full of travel-weary families, sweet little old grandparents, and overworked business travelers, the last thing any airline employee wants is to argue with someone dead-set on proudly repping a bleep word or a potentially divisive opinion.

Most airlines give pilots the authority to decide what passengers are allowed to wear, and they generally won't allow anything that could potentially create a conflict or safety hazard on board — which means anything that could incite someone to fisticuffs. Captain's rules aside, it's probably best just to keep the peace when you're cramming into a flying tin can with a bunch of strangers.

Things you won't rewear on your vacation end up a waste of space

File this one under practical packing tips. You've only got so much room in your checked luggage, and the price of checking an extra bag certainly isn't getting any cheaper. Packing outfits with good mix-and-match potential is an excellent way to maximize your luggage space, and that includes wearing a flight-day outfit you can reuse while you're traveling. It's also good to wear something you'll be comfortable wearing on your trip on the off chance your luggage doesn't make it to your destination. 

Emphasizing the value of rewearing as a travel wardrobe strategy, Style Blueprint's Liza Graves noted that donning bulkier clothing she plans to wear again ahead of her flight helps save room in her luggage. It's a strategy that helped her take an 11-day trip through Spain and Morocco without checking any bags.

Dressing for the wrong weather is a rookie mistake

It's almost surreal how air travel can mean waking up in one corner of the world and sleeping on the opposite side of the globe. Even if you're only traveling domestically, traveling miles and miles from home can bring a pretty dramatic weather shift — like exchanging sweltering summer heat for sub-freezing temps in springtime. 

Sure, you can change when you get there. But in the space between your starting point and destination, there's a good chance you'll have at least one airport layover and a long shuttle or cab ride — not to mention the flight itself. "A lot of you dress for the destination that you're leaving," flight attendant and TikTok user comeflywithme observed. Instead, be sure to check the destination you're heading to and plan accordingly.

Under-layering can leave you too hot or cold

With all the weather changes and uncertainties you could find yourself up against when you fly, one of the wisest things you can do when getting ready for your flight is to layer. It's not just the destinations you'll have to contend with. Between switching planes, traveling from one building to another, and hitching a ride on airport trams or trains, you could potentially encounter a pretty wide range of humidity levels and temperatures when you fly.

Layer loose-fitting, breathable fabrics you can easily add or remove as needed without having to duck into a restroom. "Layering is your best friend," emphasized Abby from Sisters Guide to Style. "Opt for a comfy lounge set or leggings you can dress up." Roomy cardigans and pashmina scarves are also good bets.

Shorts or short skirts are a bad idea for a couple of reasons

If you're traveling during the summer months, a pair of roomy shorts or a playful, sporty skirt might sound like a comfy bet for hopping around the airport. But there are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider. If you end up on a plane where the air conditioning is kicked up, you could end up shivering for the next few hours.

And then there's the cringe-inducing possibility that the sweaty passenger next to you might also be wearing shorts. And with today's ever-shrinking plane seat size, this means there's an unsettlingly high chance you will have to endure sweat-on-sweat contact with a rando. And as TikTok user Adam Lovick put it, "Airplanes are dirty. The last thing I want is my legs touching the seat that someone sat in for seven hours 20 minutes ago."

Open-backed tops mean your bare skin is touching the seat

In 2019, airline passenger Emily O'Connor went viral and made international news after her refusal to cover up a bra top got her booted from a flight from Birmingham, England, to Tenerife, Spain. But whether or not the airline felt her top was appropriate, the potential for skin-to-seat contact is enough to make some passengers cringe. Some airplane spots just don't need to be touched.

For the same reasons that it's a good idea to avoid shorts when you fly, it's probably a bad idea to rock an open-backed halter top, a crop top, or any shirt or dress that's cut in a way such that your skin is exposed. The moment you sit down, all of that bare skin will be touching the airport seat. The idea that another passenger might have been oozing sweat through their shirt against the same seat mere minutes before your arrival just makes it that much worse.

A restrictive bra may very well ruin your day

Women's undergarments have come a long way since the bullet bras of the post-World War II era or their more recent descendant — the Wonderbra. And yet, even now, many bras can still bring the pain — particularly when there's an underwire on deck. Factor in long hours of wear and the subpar posture many passengers experience when sandwiched into tight airline seats, and it's a recipe for misery. 

Save your power bra for a special occasion, instead opting for a bra that's supportive but comfortable, like a sports bra or a good bralette. If you're prone to sweating when you travel, bra expert Jené Luciani also recommends going with a moisture-wicking bra (via Travel Fashion Girl).

Sequins will turn you into a disco ball

There are probably a few good reasons not to wear sequins when you fly — not the least of which is that it's not 2003, and you're not in a Britney Spears video. And then there's the fact that the material in your sequins could trigger a security alert, which will invariably lead to some degree of inconvenience. But the real reason you should save your sequins for the dance floor? Because they'll create a light show on the plane, a performance that you're the star of.

Anyone who has driven with sequins on board in full sunlight has probably experienced this effect. As the sun reflects on your attire, each little sequin is suddenly transformed into a mini fireworks display. Even if you love the idea of bringing big Gaga energy to your Tulsa-Chicago flight, the other passengers aren't likely to appreciate getting blinded by your shimmery GAP chemise.

Planes love to eat Airpods

If ever there was an appropriate time and place to enjoy the fulfillment of quality surround sound you can only get with a high-end set of earbuds or AirPods, it's the airplane. These magical little earwigs can instantly drown out the sounds of crying babies and jet engines, and they serve as a universal "closed" sign for any chatty strangers who might see it as the perfect time to info dump about their last vacation. 

They can also be pretty spendy, and if you lose one in the interdimensional portal underneath your airplane seat, it's going to be a long trip. Instead, travel experts recommend taking a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones that won't drop to the floor when you drift off.

Wear pajamas only if you're prepared to tick off the fashion police

One of the most divisive issues facing air travelers today is whether or not it's socially acceptable to rock PJs when you're traveling by plane. Folks have some pretty strong feelings on the subject, and there almost seems to be no in-between on the issue. Academy Award-winning superstar Mo'Nique even weighed in after an airport trip, lamenting, "I saw so many of our young sisters in head bonnets, scarves, slippers, pajamas, blankets wrapped around them — and this is how they're showing up to the airport...when did we lose pride?" Many etiquette experts agree, suggesting that, for the most part, the only folks who should wear jammies when they fly are small children.

But if you're fine with a little side eye from older generations, you probably won't be the only one in your comfy pants at the airport. This is one issue that definitely divides the generations.

A small purse is a waste of a personal item

In a world where women's pockets are something of a cryptid, it's easy to become purse-dependent. And purses can be awfully convenient, which is why it's hardly surprising that more folks across gender lines are challenging norms and making handbags a daily wardrobe staple. If your outfit isn't complete without one, even when flying, be sure to bring a purse that's big enough to be worth it.

As Carmen Sognonvi of Top Flight Family put it, "It kills me when I see women using teeny tiny purses as their personal item on a plane. You're allowed a much bigger bag as long as it can fit underneath the seat in front of you." A better option, Sognonvi says, is to forget the purse and bring a backpack. After all, a small purse fits inside a backpack, and you'll have plenty of room for airport purchases.

Cheap imported clothing could alert the metal detector

If you're the type of person who appreciates imported fast fashion from online deep discount stores, you might be shocked to find your 'fit alerting airport security. It might sound like something of a travel industry X-file, but a TikTok user called justmecallie says that's exactly what happened to her. According to Callie, the problem had to do with her deep-discount underwear. "I don't know what's in that underwear, but it's not good because I literally got stopped by security."

While there's no clear reason why this would happen, she isn't the only person making this claim. In the comments on Callie's video, several users chimed in, claiming they'd been stopped for everything from scrunchies to trousers. Unless you're hoping to endure a patdown, leaving your cheapie clothes at home when you travel is probably for the best.

High heels could be a problem in an emergency

In the unlikely event that you would need to exit your plane via the emergency evacuation slide, there's a very real chance that your Manolos could damage the slide, and nobody wants that hanging over their head. Obviously, it doesn't make sense to plan your travel outfit around the remote possibility that some aviation disaster will befall you, but a worst-case scenario isn't the only type of emergency that could have you wishing for better footwear if you happen to be traveling in heels. 

If your connecting flight is late, darting from gate to gate in a pair of stilettos is hardly ideal. And no matter how good you are at strutting in your Louboutins, a chance encounter with an errant spill courtesy of a rushing traveler could spell disaster.

Avoid flip flops or sandals for similar reasons

Much like high heels, flip-flops and slides don't tend to fare well when you're unexpectedly forced to sprint across the airport. And with all your little piggies exposed, you could end up with a wretched stubbed toe.

But that's not the only reason you should consider saving them for the beach — the real reason is that you could get savaged by Gen Zers. As it turns out, a lot of folks find airport feet viscerally disturbing — and they love to talk about it on TikTok. As a TikTokker going by sarbear1696 lamented, "What it must be to live without caring about all the germs and stickiness that the airport floor brings your feet." Fellow TikTok user noeliagonzo echoed, "I don't care how hot your destination is...if you wear open-toed sandals in the airport, don't talk to me." Sure, you could slip on a pair of socks, but at that point, you might as well go for your sneakers and call it a day.