What can you not wear on a plane

You can’t wear your full-body panda costume on the plane. that’s right, we said it: no pandas. not even if they’re made out of cloth and stuffed with cotton batting. you can’t wear them on planes, you can’t wear them in restaurants, and you certainly can’t wear them on a plane.

we know what you’re thinking: “but what about my baby panda costume?” don’t worry, we won’t touch that—because that’s adorable!

The rules of in-flight fashion are different from those on the ground. When you’re sitting for hours in a metal tube flying 35,000 feet in the air, comfort trumps style. Wear an outfit that keeps you cozy and relaxed, and you’ll likely appear more chic than the traveler struggling with heavy bags in four-inch stilettos or the one sweating in too-tight synthetic fabrics. To look and feel your best while jet-setting, avoid the following in-flight fashion faux pas.

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Uncomfortable Shoes

Close up of person's feet at they walk down an airport hallway in high heel shoes while pulling a rolling suitcase

This one seems obvious. Still, I’ve yet to board a plane without spotting at least one flyer tottering down the aisle in pumps. A good pair of comfortable shoes will make it easier for you to hoof it around the airport and sprint to the gate if you need to make a connection. Furthermore, wearing your bulkier shoes instead of stashing them in your suitcase while donning sandals or stilettos will free up some room—and some weight—in your checked or carry-on bag.

Complicated Shoes

Lace-up boots, strappy heels, sandals with more buckles than you can count – they’re the nightmare of every in-a-rush business traveler who must stand behind you as you undo myriad straps and laces. Wear simple slip-on shoes or sneakers when flying, as you’ll have to take them off in the airport security line.

Fabrics That Don’t Breathe

Shun any fabrics that lack breathability, such as nylon or leatherette. Add your rubber raincoat or waterproof jacket to this list as well. (Note, however, that some high-quality waterproof jackets, like outerwear made from Gore-Tex, are quite breathable. It all depends on what it’s made of.) Less breathable fabrics hold sweat on the skin when it’s hot as well as prevent air circulation. You won’t feel very fashionable sweating in too-tight, synthetic clothes as your plane rests on the tarmac under the hot sun.

A foolproof way to find breathable clothes for the plane: Stick with moisture-wicking activewear (I recommend Prana) or clothes sold from travel suppliers like Magellan’s, which are designed specifically for travel.

Tight Clothing

Have you heard of deep vein thrombosis? Also known as DVT, this condition occurs when dangerous blood clots form in veins. Those blood clots can lead to a pulmonary embolism, which is potentially fatal. According to the University of Washington Medical Center, sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk for DVT, and so can constrictive clothing: “Avoid tight clothing, nylons, or socks (especially the type that are too tight at the top and/or leave marks on your skin) that might restrict blood flow through veins.” Compression stockings are a good choice for travelers interested in taking further steps to reduce the likelihood of DVT.

Complicated Clothing

Woman struggles to zip up the back of a complicated grey dress

Aircraft lavatories are tiny contrivances, about the size of a small closet or a very large Manhattan apartment. So maneuvering in and out of your pants can be, well, tricky. (That’s why someone invented Claspies.) Lest you drop your wallet in the toilet or fall and smash through the bathroom door, wear something that isn’t likely to cause difficulties in the plane bathroom. Avoid bodysuits or complicated wrap shirts or dresses, as well as long pants or skirts that may graze the unsanitary (and often disturbingly wet) lavatory ground.

Contact Lenses

According to Frommer’s, “The air in plane cabins is so dry (usually 10 percent to 20 percent humidity, sometimes as little as 1 percent, compared to the Sahara desert’s 20 percent to 25 percent humidity) that your health is challenged every time you fly.” Contacts can become uncomfortable to wear if your eyes dry out in the arid cabin, so either avoid them altogether or bring a pair of glasses to change into.

Perfume

Avoid this one for the good of your fellow passengers. Strong-smelling perfumes, colognes, body sprays, and so on shouldn’t be worn in flight. Some passengers may find your CK One offensive; others might suffer allergic reactions to synthetic fragrances. If you really must smell of the finest department-store brands upon arrival in your destination, pack a sample size and apply it once you land.

Warm-Weather Clothing

The key here is layers. It’s fine to wear lightweight fabrics on a plane. It may even be a smart strategy if you’re flying to or from a sweltering climate. But planes are often very cold—and blankets aren’t exactly freely distributed on many flights these days. So fight the air-conditioned chill by layering up.

Getting warm? Remove a few layers, bundle them, and then use them as a pillow.

Bonus: The more layers you can pile on your body, the less clothes you need to pack in your suitcase

Offensive or Inappropriate Clothing

Carriers typically leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether a passenger’s garb is inappropriate for wear in the air. So how do you know if your outfit is appropriate? Learn from the past: Passengers have been removed from planes for wearing everything from low-cut dresses to baggy pants to T-shirts splashed with expletives. If you can’t wear it to church or dinner with your mother-in-law, you probably shouldn’t wear it on a flight.

A Mask with Vents or Valves

Black face mask with air vent on a white marble backdrop

As anyone flying in 2022 knows, masks are an absolute must. However, some types of masks may not be allowed on your flight. Airlines are increasingly banning masks with ventilation valves aboard their aircraft, with carriers such as American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United implementing policies to that effect. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these valves “may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others.” Be respectful of your in-flight neighbors and help keep everyone safe by wearing the proper face covering for the duration of your flight. You can find further mask recommendations from the CDC here.

You know who always looks great making their way through airport terminals? Celebrities. Obvs. 

The high heels. The tight leather pants. The oversized faux fur coat. The statement glasses. Etc, etc.

Yet, while we’d all love to replicate these fancy wardrobes for ourselves and look our very best hopping on or off a plane, the fact is that some (most) of these trendy ~lewks~ are best left in your checked baggage.

So, what are the ‘rules’ when it comes to travel attire? What shouldn’t you wear on a flight??

Well, from what we’ve learnt, it’s one thing to dress for comfort, and another to dress to be upgraded.

Flight attendant Katie Ellen told Mamamia, “On international flights, if we have spare business seats to upgrade regular Joes, we would be instructed to upgrade the well-dressed and well-heeled.”

But when it comes to safety, comfort and practicality – things are a little… different.

So, we asked some frequent flyers and flight attendants exactly what to NEVER wear on a plane. Here’s what they said.

1. Jeans.

“I’m a flight attendant and previous ground crew. The swell is real. You can start the day with a flat stomach and by the time you reach the other side, you have a swollen gut. Some people find jeans help with swelling – others, not so much.” – Katie.

“Never wear jeans, especially if your legs swell in the air. You might have seam lines on your legs for a few days.” –  Maggie.

“For long haul international flights, I always wear pants with an elasticised waistband, as 24 hours in the air can play havoc on your digestive system, so you may need room for bloating.” – Trish.

2. Compression pants or tights.

“Never wear compression tights! I did this once and my feet swelled up soooo much. I got confused between compression pants and compression socks. It was painful.” – Mary.

“I would only wear tights as an emergency and if they are 100 per cent natural fibre. Garments too tight to the vagina are not good when you’re sitting for a long time. There’s no breathing room!” – Claudia.

Erin Docherty

3. Knee-high boots, high heels or thongs.

“Don’t wear knee-high boots because they won’t fit in your suitcase. Your legs will swell up and you won’t be able to get them back on if you take them off for a sleep on your 12 hour flight. Easy on and easy off shoes win every time!” – Caroline.

“My father is a pilot and always has instilled in me to only wear flat, enclosed shoes. He always tells me, ‘If the plane crashes, you don’t want to cut/burn your feet and you may need to run away!’ I cringe when I see people wearing thongs on a plane.” – Emily.

“Never wear high heels. It’s even mentioned on airline security videos (the boring video they show you before taking off). The logic behind it is you can’t run or slide down the emergency landing slide in case you have to!” – Devjanee.

4. A onesie or overalls.

“Never wear a onesie! Going to the toilet will be a nightmare, and the top half that you’ve had to strip off will fall in whatever gross stuff is on the floor in the toilet.” – Fiona.

“I saw someone in a fitted onesie recently on a 15 hour flight and it didn’t look very comfortable!” – Sinead.

“No jumpsuits. The pee complexity in a tiny airplane bathroom is too much!” – Courtney.

5. Socks.

“I’m a regular UK-Aus flyer pre-COVID. Always. Wear. Shoes. Do not leave your shoes off when you’re walking around the cabin.” – Emma.

“Never wear socks into the lavatory. Put your shoes back on!” – Katie.

6. A prosthetic leg.

“I wore my prosthetic leg from Melbourne to Sydney and my stump swelled, it was awful! Definitely recommend putting any detachable limbs in your luggage!” – Bianca.

7. Wide-legged trousers.

“Wear pants/trousers with an elasticated or close-fitted hem. You don’t want anything touching the floor of the toilet (or the floor anywhere, for that matter).” – Kerstin.

8. Underwire bras.

“Underwire bras are a big no from me. My overseas travel is usually 26 to 36 hours long (with layover), so I’m always prepared for the worst.” – Claudia.

“I only ever wear sports bras or no wire bras.” – Emma.

9. Flowy skirts.

“Never wear flowy skirts with elastic waistbands – they get caught in the seat and completely dak you when you stand up.” – Gemma.

10. Ear buds.

“Ear buds are not the best because they don’t allow circulation and ears need to pop!” – Claudia.

11. An ear loop face mask.

“I’ve just done a long haul flight from South Africa and my ONE piece of advice is to wear a face mask that ties over your head and behind your neck – not the usual one that loops behind your ears. They are a killer after a few hours!” – Lara.

12. A wedding dress.

“I’m a flight attendant. Wearing your wedding dress to the airport will 100 per cent make sure you don’t get an upgrade!” – Katie.

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