Airport Fashion Essentials for Summer

May 23, 2018

Let’s talk about airports.  Specifically, summer airport fashion. Just because you’re flying doesn’t mean you can’t look good.

Now, there are some women who this post is not for…

The woman who subscribes to the philosophy that the airport is like the ER — that it doesn’t matter what you wear, because this kind of trauma knows no dress code;

The poor road warrior whose boss tyrannically requires her to wear a suit on planes so that the unwashed traveler sitting in 27F knows that Acme, Inc. is serious about the work that they do;

And those women who pack at the last minute, and then throw on whatever semi-clean, smell-free thing you find in the remains of your packing detritus;

But, if you’re a woman who wants to look good and be comfortable on a domestic airline flight (<6-hours), then this post is for you.


I live in constant fear of seeing someone I know at the airport.  Why?  Because I always look my best, and feel my best while in an airport.  Airports, and flying in general, puts me in the best mood.  From TSA to the in-flight meal, I just cannot wipe the smile off of my face.

No!  Of course none of that is true.

Flying sucks.  Airports suck.  There is nothing I would rather not do than fly, but my Diamond Medallion status suggests that I’ve been doing a shocking amount of it lately.  But even though I loathe traveling, I do want to look and feel my best.  Here are my airport fashion essentials for summer weather.  Because if it’s over 85-degrees outside, the airport terminal will be a balmy 51.

The Dress

The maxi dress is my go-to summer plane attire.  One, it’s comfortable.  Two, it covers your legs for warmth.  And three, did I mention comfort?  Yes?  Well let’s go 2x on that.

I usually prefer a short sleeve maxi dress, but I haven’t found any good ones lately.  This racerback Three Dots dress ($140) is a good alternative choice.  It benefits from the ruching, which will prevent it from looking wrinkled no matter how long you sit.  For something a little cheaper, I like this Splendid option (It also has a crewneck, instead of scoopneck, which I prefer.).

Plus-size? Try this Grecia dress from Tart.  Petite?  Give this Boden jersey maxi a look.  Maternity?  Try this Pea in the Pod option.

The Topper

You have a lot of choices for a topper.  For today’s flight, I chose this swingy Daily Ritual modal turtleneck ($28).  It’s loose shape allows you to layer it over any fitted dress you want, giving you a chic, modern look.

If you prefer a cardigan, you can go with either a chunky knit or a drapey wrap style.  Both give you utility and style, but most importantly, warmth.

If you want to mix things up a bit, I suggest a moto jacket.  It’s a cool look that says, “I didn’t plan this outfit; but gosh, it looks like I did.”

The Sandals

Yes, I said sandals.  But not just any sandals.  Gentle Souls sandals.  They are the most comfortable sandals in history.  No more shin splints while running through there terminal for me, no ma’am.

I used to own these Break My Heart sandals, but the little ties were problematic.  So I upgraded to these Lark-May sandals.  Much better.  The Larisa gladiator sandals also look nice.

The key to Gentle Souls, um, gentleness (?) and comfort is the rubber sole, padded footbed and quality materials.  Right out of the box, they are comfortable.  You can walk distances, like gate A-12 to gate F-15, without sore feet or blisters.

Add to these essentials, your best reader-approved Everlane tote bag and some simple jewelry and you’re set.  Comfort and style are not mutually exclusive things.  And if you ever start to feel like they are, you’re not trying hard enough.

{image found here, this post contains affiliate links}




Style, The Essentials

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  1. AK in Arl says:

    Pray tell, what was the worst offense you observed during your travels? I’ve seen young women wearing swimsuit bottoms with T-shirts on top on the way back from the Caribbean. I can’t imagine that’s hygienic either …

    • Belle says:

      I loathe when women wear short shorts on planes. When you’re sitting for that long, they bunch up. That’s not a good look on anyone. At that point their just denim underwear.

  2. Amy says:

    I cannot recommend this moto jacket enough. Light but warm, machine washable, looks waaay more expensive than it is. I have it in grey and tan and would totally buy it in army green if it isn’t sold out. Like all old navy, size down. I wear an XS at 5’5 140lbs and it is still slightly slouchy cool looking, not at all tight.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I would do maxi dresses as well, but I tend to contort myself in my seat such that pants are a better option. My airport uniform is skinny jeans, tshirt, and either cardigan or blazer, plus flats. I may change that to good sneakers for an upcoming family trip to Europe- that way I don’t have to pack those bulky shoes.I also make a point to do my hair and makeup at least the same way I would to go work or brunch. I would feel gross if I was basically unshowered and in pajamas and flip flops the way I see most people. Also I find that it’s harder to pull that off as you get older.

  4. J says:

    I heartily concur with nearly all of the recommendations on this list, but viscerally object to one: I find the thought of going through TSA barefoot utterly disgusting, so I typically go with socks and sneakers that can be slipped on and off easily. If avoiding direct contact with whatever grows on the feet of thousands of my travel compatriots puts me in one of the “not for you” categories above, so be it!

  5. Cee Cee from KY says:

    My uniform of late has been a pair of gold loafers (TB, but without the awful logo), skinny jeans, a long sleeve Breton stripe tee, alternated with a yellow swing jacket or a navy blazer, depending on how cold I feel that day (I’m alwaysss cold). I, too, live in constant fear of seeing someone at the airport. I always debate if I should apply makeup when I travel. I don’t wear it to work anymore, just for social occasions, but the airport has a sneaky way of turning into both.

  6. Christy says:

    @J: TSA Pre-Check? You don’t have to remove your shoes.

  7. lindsey says:

    To J: TSA Precheck. No shoe removal, no skeevy feet situations.

    For those of you with kids, your kids come along with you for free.

  8. SC says:

    (This is supposed to be a reply to Stephanie, but I can’t get the actual reply feature to work.)

    I wear the same thing on airplanes, no matter the destination. I have TSA pre-check, but don’t like wearing open-toed shoes on airplanes because I have stinky feet (wah-wahhh). And because I’m morbid and think about this kind of stuff, they’re also impractical in an emergency.

    Also, if you’re dressed nicely, you might get a seat upgrade. It’s happened to me twice!

  9. Lexi says:

    [I couldn’t get the reply function to work either, so this is a reply to Amy]

    Thanks to Amy for the moto suggestion! Am buying it right now!

  10. meg says:

    I literally laughed out loud reading this post : ) When ever I see people flying in pjs, I am always saying silently in my head “PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU!” Ok, maybe yelling it in my head. I agree with the other commentor – my go-to flight attire is skinny jeans, t-shirt and flats. Specifically the Old Navy rockstar skinny jeans that are super comfortable.

  11. Erin says:

    Great post! I loved yesterday’s as well:)

    I prefer pants and closed toed shoes because other wise I get cold. And I always manage to stub my toe on my luggage or an airplane seat or a magazine stand or whatever when I’m traveling.

    For pants, I love traveling in Uniqlo’s leggings pants. They are so soft and stretchy but still look like pants. They are also zipper-less, which I find helpful when you’re juggling all of your stuff in the airport bathroom 😉

    I’ve had a couple of pairs for several years and they’ve help up pretty well

  12. E says:

    Love this! I’ve have a black maxi dress that I lovingly refer to as my “travel dress” because I wear it every time I travel (keeps your legs warm on long summer road trips as well). I pair mine with a jean jacket and floral scarf, but these suggestions are great as well. It’s been a few years and I’ll need a replacement for it in the not too distant future.

    Would love to see a post for international travel as well!

  13. J says:

    In response to the TSA Pre-Check people: I see the appeal, but I’m not sure that would eliminate the sense of foot grime entirely for me (looking at you, LAX bathrooms). I feel the same way about shorts on airplanes, now that I think about it; I want the smallest possible amount of my skin coming into direct contact with airport/airplane surfaces.

    I’ll admit that this is probably irrational and that other public places where I’m happy to wear sandals and/or shorts are just as gnarly.

  14. anne says:

    Perfect timing! I’m headed up to Essex Montana for the long weekend, and even though I’ll spend all my time there in boots and hiking gear my airport attire needs to be presentable. It will probably be driving mocs, slim pants and a sweater.

    • Belle says:

      Hold on, you’re going to Essex Montana for a vacation? Not that Essex isn’t beautiful, but it’s not exactly well known. You must be staying at the Isaac Walton.

  15. KS says:

    @J carry a pair of low-cut ankle socks in your purse/tote.

    I’m always either in sandals or flats when traveling and refuse to cross the floor barefoot so I bring socks to put on when I take my shoes off.

  16. Anna says:

    To the ladies commenting on PreCheck, not all international airlines have PreCheck, and I have gotten stuck flying with coworkers who didn’t have it and had to wait in line like a peasant. The horrors!

    I’m heading on a red-eye flight to Europe tomorrow and leaving straight from work. This is what I do for most similar trips: Wear a black ponte sheath dress, chunky cardigan, and flats at the office and to the airport. Either right before or right when I get on the plane change to leggings and white tee and comfy bra, keeping the chunky sweater (for shorter flights, the ponte dress is comfortable and non-leg-exposing enough to wear straight through to my destination). When I get off the plane or during my early morning layover, switch the leggings for skinny jeans, stash the sweater, and throw on a lightweight scarf for flight #2 and the trip into the city.

  17. amy says:

    Here’s what works for me: opaque leggings (longer trips)/skinny jeans (shorter trips) + camisole (optional, but I prefer it) + tunic-length top (linen or cotton for warmer months, sweater for cooler months) + cashmere travel wrap + slip on shoes with no-show socks (substitute boots in winter). If you find the right pieces, this feels like PJs but looks like a million bucks.

  18. Cait says:

    Oooh I can’t do sandals. My feet would be freezing and then I feel cold all day. Plus…I hate seeing peoples feet on flights (sorry!!). Just personal pet peeve.

  19. MK says:

    @J, I also get creeped out at the thought of my feet bare OR socked touching the floor and then going back in my shoes. I just stick an extra pair of socks in a Ziploc bag, then put those on right before walking through security. If I have an old pair of socks, I want to get rid of, I use those and just throw them out afterward! Otherwise, I reseal in the Ziploc bag after going through security for sterilization at home. 🙂

  20. Kelly says:

    Solid chance this post saved me from Bad Decisions for this weekend’s plane attire. Love all the suggestions, but I always travel in sneakers. (Current rotation is super-cute Saucony Bullets and super-comfy Nike Tanjuns.) Might have to check out that moto jacket. I’ve been eyeing a leather one, but unemployment means I won’t be buying one for awhile.

  21. Jules says:

    I don’t care what anyone says or thinks – my number one priority when flying is comfort!
    Now, I live in such a location that every plane ride is at least 6 hours long. So I wear Lululemon leggings (full length), Toms (or sneakers) and a loose Tshirt, and a scarf. I hand carry a sweatshirt. This keeps me warm, and I can contort my body into any shape on the small seats. And when I travel, I carry a backpack to keep both arms free, and I can walk long distances.

    For the VERY rare occasion that a flight is less than 4 hours, then I think dressing up makes a bit more sense. Maxi dresses, maxi skirts, jeans and a jacket, etc.

  22. B says:

    You should always dress so that you can evacuate a plane quickly in an emergency. Imagine having to go down an evacuation slide in a maxi dress. Also, you should wear clothing in natural fabrics and wear shoes, not sandals or flip flops.

  23. Anna says:

    @Jules, your outfit sounds comfortable and still put together. I think the point is you can be comfortable and still look presentable. A lot of people at airports these days look like they just rolled out of bed.

  24. Jo says:

    Maxi dresses with a low wedge are my go to outfit for traveling too.cony, keeps legs warm, top with cardigan or denim jacket and large scarf if needed.

  25. Christine says:

    Am I the only one that gets a through pat down/up when I wear a maxi thru security?

  26. Mel says:

    These are really cute ideas, but I am on team skinny jeans, fitted tee, and cardigan, with flats or chucks. My toes end up freezing on the plane.

  27. Opal says:

    I really am tired of seeing women in their yoga/workout gear on airplanes. I have a couple of wrinkle free dresses that I wear. They hit just above the knee and I wear black leggings under the dress. It’s comfortable, I keep warm, and I’m not giving other passengers an up close and personal look at my nether regions.

  28. Roons says:

    I second the Gentle Souls Lark Sandals. I bought them a couple of months ago (live in FL) and love them!

  29. […] I may have gone out and bought some of the items on this list of airport fashion essentials. […]

  30. caitlin says:

    You can pretty much pry the Lou & Grey out of my dead, comfortable hands for traveling. Opaque leggings, neutral colored sports bra so it’s not immediately obvious, soft as hell L&G tee or pullover, no-show socks and a pair of sneakers I can slip in and out of easily.

    If it’s really an issue, you can always change in the bathroom immediately upon arrival or right before departure. I tend to do that anyway to ~freshen up~ and because planes are freezing and my destination often is not.

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