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In Travel, Clothes Can Be A GateKeeper...

Updated: May 23, 2023

Whether you are traveling by train, plane or automobile, dressing for comfort is key to enjoying your adventure, but there are nuances to this simple concept that you wouldn't expect.

Dress for comfort, but...

For your flight, dress for comfort, but that doesn't mean you have to wear pajamas or your oldest worn-out clothes. We're certainly well past the days when people donned their best clothes to fly on the Pan Am Clipper. However, today more than ever before, clothes exist for both women and men that are comfortable enough even for an overnight flight but won't make you look like you sleepwalked into an airport. And topping off the outfit with a nice casual jacket or scarf can give travelers an even more polished look.

Why is this important?

That old saying, perception is reality, comes into play here. In our interactions in transit, gatekeepers and other decision-makers make snap judgements on first impressions: who to upgrade for an airplane seat or a hotel room; whose bags to search coming through customs; how many questions to ask at a border control checkpoint. Although we all know that what we wear can be a superficial basis on which to judge and isn't always an accurate reflection of who we are, human nature is what it is. Shakespeare summed it up in Hamlet, act 1, scene 3 when Polonius says, "For the apparel oft proclaims the man."

Layer yourself like an onion.

Another aspect of comfort includes dressing in layers. We've been on very warm flights, sometimes just while we're on the ground waiting for a runway. Other times, the entire flight can be broiling, and the tiny ceiling fan nozzles just don't do the trick. Conversely, I tend to chill easily and have been on planes that feel like an icebox. Wearing layers is my go-to option so I can respond to changing in-flight temperatures over which I have no control.

EEK, shorts!

I never wear shorts to fly, partly because I get too cold, but more because I find them too casual, uncomfortable, and a safety risk for air travel. But why? There are two major reasons. First, in an emergency which would require climbing out of an aircraft, shorts offer less protection on the inflatable slide or where there could be broken glass, twisted metal, etc. More recently, flight attendants and others have pointed out that airplane seats are not thoroughly cleaned between flights. Wearing shorts exposes flyers to germs and more from previous passengers.

On planes headed to a tropical island that will be sweltering when we land, shorts might be more appropriate. However, when I see any adult in shorts board a plane for anywhere but the tropics-man or woman-I wince. The availability of zip-off pants, chic sweats that can cover shorts during a flight, and airport facilities for donning shorts upon arrival all offer alternatives to air travelers.

Risqué? Pack it away.

Some airlines now have policies prohibiting passengers from boarding if their outfits are deemed too risqué by the airline attendants. News reports indicate that this usually means not showing too much skin or wearing transparent clothing, especially for women. The fairness of these policies is open for debate. However, if you choose public travel, checking the airline's dress policies before leaving for the airport might be advisable for passengers who adhere to the less-is-more school of dressing.

This is an excerpt from Author Sherry Knowlton's travel memoir, Beyond the Sunset: Expanding My Horizons (Vol 2). Buy the book, in Kindle or paperback, today!

Also available at Sunbury Press or wherever most books are sold.


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