Thursday, September 30, 2010

What to wear on a long-haul flight, part one (for women)

I've been looking at travel clothing on the interwebs (my obsession continues). It all seems to be designed to make you look like a Liberal Member of Parliament. Beige slacks, anyone, teamed with a nylon polo shirt?

Thank you, no. I don't believe I will.

Or for the ladies, high-waist beige pants, teamed with a chambray-style shirt?

How about special socks you can wear for 168 days without washing them, and they hardly smell at all, on a good day with the wind blowing in the other direction?

Once again, noooo. I will put that on the totally not necessary at all ever list, along with the travel humidor, the sarong* and the travel pack of gaffer tape.

I actually don't really see why you'd want specific clothing for travel at all, other than what you'd wear at home (with a big unless you're doing specific activities that require special gear caveat) except for on the plane.

A long-haul flight has specific outfit requirements. You have to be able to sleep in it. It has to (in my opinion at least) not completely look like a tracksuit. I totally refuse to change into PJs on a plane (six different kinds of wrong) and I also refuse to sleep in a bra (ugh, uncomfortable) or to go without (very uncomfortable for running around airports, unless you're blessed with an A-cup). And then there's the shoes dilemma. You need to take them off on the flight (who can sleep with shoes on, I ask you), but you don't want to walk into an airplane toilet in socks, trust me. Ewww. And planes can vary from too cold to arctic.
Here are my answers (for women, obviously, I will cover men in the next post).

Yoga pants. They're just like tracksuit pants only not quite as embarrassing on arrival when you realise you're in a stylish European city where no-one would be seen dead in tracksuit pants ever to pop down the shop for a bagette. They're really comfortable and they don't have any bits that dig in. I wear them around the house all the time too.

The singlet with built in shelf bra. I do note this probably won't work for you if you're over a c-cup, in which case I'd recommend finding the most comfortable sports bra you can. For me, these work perfectly. I wear one, and I take a spare in my hand luggage for after I have a shower on the stop-over (along with spare undies and socks, and a spare t-shirt).

Speaking of tshirts... Oversize "boyfriend" tshirts are where it's at. They're loose, comfortable to sleep in, and non-binding when you're bloated from the pressure changes.

The hoodie. Mine is black velvet because it's soft and nice. Again, go for loose. The hood keeps your head warm in the coldness of the plane. An inside pocket for your iPod is good so you don't have cords going everywhere while you sleep. The ultimate is clearly a SeV microfleece hoodie, which has 11 pockets and will totally prevent cords going anywhere except into your ears where they are supposed to be, because it has a special system. I am lusting after one of these like you wouldn't believe.

Shawl, for extra warmth, a little bit of colour, and with the added bonus of making your outfit look less like you're about to do an actual yoga class. It does not need to be a pure-pashmina-made-from-only-the-beard-hair-of-the-cashmere-goat expensive thingy. As long as it's large, it's all good. Suggest going for darker colours, but definitely colours. It's unfortunately obvious when you drop your airline curry on a pastel shawl, and it's all a bit too monochrome for my liking if you go for black or grey.

Shoes. What you want is something in a non-sneaker, but easy to wear. If you wear sneakers with yoga pants, you will look like you're on the way to the gym. Personally, I love Birkenstocks. Sandals if you're going somewhere hot, clogs if not. I note that under no circumstance should men attempt to wear Birkenstocks. Unless you're Jesus. There is no other possible excuse.

You also need to bring warm socks for when you take your shoes off inflight. I like boys' explorer socks because they come in stripes and fit me just fine (I like stripes, and have small feet).

And slippers, with a rubber or similar actual sole, to protect your socks from the afore-mentioned grossness of the toilet floor. I actually wouldn't advise the colour pictured, go for a darker colour.

You also want to make sure you have a plastic bag to put your slippers in when you "deplane" (as our Amerian friends call it) because otherwise the grossness could spread throughout your handluggage. I am not actually unhinged about germs etc (I keep laughing, for example, at suggestions of carrying antibacterial wipes to wipe down everything in sight when you travel) but airplane toilets really are disgusting by half way through a long-haul flight.

My suggestion is to leave your shoes on until after takeoff (in the unlikely event that you have to leave the plane in an emergency, it's almost always at the beginning or end of the flight) then taking them off, putting them in the overhead locker and putting on your warm socks. Leave your slippers under the seat in front of you for easy access when you need to go to the toilet.

And don't forget - clean singlet, clean top and clean undies. A clean pair of warm socks for the second leg, and if you're landing somewhere cold, a clean pair of normal black socks for your destination.

Ack, I nearly forgot - the large stretchy headband. This is an essential for me, because I HATE bits of hair on my face while I'm trying to sleep (issues, I know). I plait my hair, and stick one of these on, and voila, no hair, and it's still comfortable enough to sleep in. You could coordinate with your shawl if you wanted to. I just have a black one.
And accessories - I like to wear a chunky bangle (something worth nothing) - I also like to have a watch for the flight, even though I normally hate wearing a watch. Set it to your destination time when you get on the plane. I take it off and put it somewhere I can see it (I have a plastic swatch watch I got in grade five that's great for travel).

*I know everyone seems to think this necessary, and arguably could at least be used for lounging by the pool, but I have an over-sized muslin shirt that rolls up even smaller and offers some protection for the arms, which a sarong does not. It also does not come untied and fall down.

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