If you’ve yet to encounter
main character syndrome, then let us bring you up to speed: It’s TikTok’s name for viewing oneself as the star protagonist of the drama that is life. Even the smallest and most inconsequential moments possess weighty narrative potential; like rolling out of bed and throwing on a baseball cap over hair that hasn’t been washed this week. It’s all just part of the story. One of the most fertile places for main-character peacocking? The airport — aka a zone that’s brimming with missed connections, meaningful glances, and mysterious strangers. So, let’s explore how exactly to get into character for your next trip to the (asphalt) runway.
With main character syndrome in mind, we let our imaginations run a little wild and dreamt up some stylish looks for starring in the next blockbuster hit titled
My Airport Life. Hence, we’ve organized the airport outfit inspirations into archetypes with corresponding weekender bags, trusty travel shoes, jet-set accessories, and more. But, don’t worry, we didn’t get too wild — the airplane-ready outfits ahead are ready to inject a comfortable amount of drama into your travel plans.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Main Character Archetype: The Outlaw
Yes, this denim-on-denim ’fit has some classic elements to break up and wear separately on vacay. But worn all together on the plane? That’s a rebel without a cause.
While the workwear-inspired shirt-jacket hybrid has captured the hearts of many a fashion-lover since it became a cool-girl staple a few years back, it’s also an extraordinarily functional travel piece. It’s an easy layer that will keep you warm on a chilly plane but will pass muster as a shirt in the security line. Plus, in a summer-friendly fabric like denim, it can double as a beach cover-up when you land.
Madewell Quilted-Lining Denim Shirt-Jacket, $, available at Madewell
Everyone and their mother wears blue jeans to the airport. For an ultra-stylish ‘fit, switch out your worn-in denim for a crisp white pair.
Abercrombie & Fitch High Rise 90s Relaxed Jean, $, available at Abercrombie & Fitch
These denim espadrilles check many boxes — with breathable lining and a smooth almond-toe design, you’ll be able to move quickly through the airport without accidentally stubbing your toes on any stray suitcases.
Charles & Keith Buckled Denim Espadrille Mules, $, available at Charles & Keith
Main Character Archetype: The Explorer
The ever-adventurous traveler is ready for action as soon as she lands — and she’s equipped with an active look that will keep her moving.
athletic wear is very much at home in the airport. Jet-setting celebrities have been sporting matching sets since time immemorial — or at least since the heyday of the Juicy Couture sweatsuit in the early 2000s.
The Track Oversize Crew
organic-cotton Track collection is perfect airport-wear. The sumptuous separates (which include hoodies, half-zips, sweatshorts, and chic wide-leg lounge pants included) come in a host of freshly picked colorways. Everlane The Track Oversized Crew, $, available at Everlane
Travel Sling Bag
Lululemon is known to create
the best mini bags to hold your necessities. Try one out to keep your carry-on essentials — phone, passport, mask, and hand sanitizer — organized and at the ready. Lululemon Mini Belt Bag, $, available at Lululemon
Top off your ready-to-run outfit with a pair of
white sneakers. They’ll effortlessly match any travel outfit and offer support whether you’re sprinting to your gate or logging long, leisurely walks at your destination. Reebok Reebok Club C 85 Sneaker, $, available at DSW
Main Character Archetype: The Ruler
You know that person who wafts into the airport like they’ve already arrived at their tropical destination? They get to be in charge because they’ve figured out the secret: Vacation starts when you leave your house. Breezy, lightweight separates will help you embrace island time even if you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the airport on time.
Same goes for a lengthy linen
shirtdress. You can even wear your bathing suit under this frock, so you can head straight to the shoreline the second you step off the plane. Quince 100% European Linen Shirt Dress, $, available at Quince
With enough coverage and tailoring to fly (!) as “real pants” while you’re crossing the tarmac, these striped and summery linen trousers won’t look out of place when paired with a bikini once you’ve disembarked.
H&M Cropped Linen Pants, $, available at H&M
Main Character Archetype: The Hero
The Hero never looks like they’re trying too hard. You’ve got more important business to attend to. You, as the main character, have way better common sense than to overdress while traveling. Instead, you’re opting for a look that’s head-to-toe classic, so that you won’t stick out like a total tourist when you reach your destination, and you’re always ready to sprint into action if needed.
A classic topper like a sleek black jacket is a timeless piece to throw on when you’re running out the door. It’ll keep you insulated while trapped inside a frigid plane. This flowy option from Zara is comfy to lounge in. Come vacation time, it will add that
je nais se quois to your date-night dress. Zara Flowy Jacket, $, available at Zara
As you’re packing for a weekend away with your best buds, don’t forget to include your
real travel ride-or-die — the ever-versatile and stylish plain white tee. Universal Standard Tee Rex, $, available at Universal Standard
As previously mentioned, jeans are the ultimate travel attire — a stylish, well-fitting pair will take you from daytime flea market visits to an (outdoor) meal at a chic eatery. But denim is oh so unfriendly for activities that require prolonged sitting, so you’d better throw on a stretchy pair before you park your butt in that middle seat for three (or way more) hours. Universal Standard’s best-selling Seine jeans offer “invisible, built-in stretch” for a cool, comfortable travel look.
Universal Standard Seine High Rise Skinny Jeans, $, available at Universal Standard
Main Character Archetype: The Lover
The languid, freewheelin’ lover doesn’t like to be constricted or tied down. She pairs her lingerie-like dress or skirt with an ultra-cozy sweater and slipper-like shoes for a look that says both “I woke up like this”
and “I’ll go to bed like this.”
Flats are a dream travel companion. You can slip them on and off at the whims of the TSA without missing a beat in the security line, but they still pack a classy punch suited for eventful travel.
J.Crew The Italian Leather Day Glove, $, available at J.Crew
Cozy up in a
soft, slouchy sweater at every stage of your journey, whether you’re warding off the chill inside a 747 or enjoying a beach bonfire. Free People | Free People Ottoman Slouchy Tunic, $, available at Free People
When paired with a casual layer like a sweater or sweatshirt, this slinky slip dress goes into incognito mode. Once you’ve landed, hit it with the travel steamer and add some statement earrings to your ‘fit — no one will ever guess that you actually flew in your va-va-voom
wedding-guest dress. Quince 100% Washable Silk Slip Dress, $, available at Quince
Main Character Archetype: The Magician
We’re always curious about anyone going out of their way just to go unnoticed — they’ve got to be hiding some kind of magical main-character intrigue. Whether you’re an actual celeb trying to fly under the radar or just your special self embracing your newfound love of frumpery, you’ll make a subtle — but still intriguing — statement with this full-coverage look.
The baseball hat is perfect for keeping your bedhead at bay while you snooze in your seat and for protecting your skin once you arrive at your destination and take up residence on the beach for the duration of your stay.
Moncler Logo Baseball Hat, $, available at Saks Fifth Avenue
Everyone has a favorite sweater. Yet, the vest variation is a travel workhorse — whether you wear it solo or layered, it can make many outfits out of one.
Tommy Hilfiger Cable Knit Sweater Vest, $, available at Tommy Hilfiger
long duster coat has many functions when in travel mode — it can be a blanket or rolled up like a pillow, and its roomy pockets will accommodate headphones, magazines, and endless lil’ travel accessories to make your flight a comfortable and convenient one. Gianni Feraud Oversized Slouchy Coat In Black, $, available at ASOS
Another denim travel tip? If you can’t abide by stretch in your dungarees, simply opt for a loose-legged midrise style.
Levi’s Low Pro Women’s Jeans, $, available at Levi’s
Whether you have to walk to a gate that seems to be a million miles away or you’re planning to cover that much ground in the city you’re visiting, these clod-hopping
chunky loafers offer the type of supportive, lifted soles that will help you stay on your feet for hours. Sam Edelman Taelor Loafer, $, available at Revolve
Main Character Archetype: The Gamine
Don’t be afraid to inject a some printed pizzazz into your airport wardrobe — this dressed-up look is surprisingly transit-friendly and a little flirty.
Skirts make for low-key perfect travel attire, offer leg coverage without the constriction of pants and they’re very easy to pee in without worrying about any fabric touching the ground. This lightweight viscose-linen blend skirt — with an elastic drawstring waist (!) — will also make for a chic beach layer or evening-out piece.
Sweater Crop Top
A crop top on a plane? Really? Hear us out — when the abbreviated shirt in question is long-sleeved and of a sweater-ish fabrication, it will stand up to the 55-degree interior of the airbus and serve as an on-trend separate that can be mixed into a host of different outfits when you arrive.
We admit that these gladiator-style sandals might be a little tricky in the security line — but if you’re blessed with
global entry or TSA pre-check, then this is a perfect stay-put sandal that will take you right to the beach when you touch down.
The main character is never without a stunning and perfectly mysterious pair of shades.
Main Character Archetype: The Sage
You’re wise and a seeker of truth. If a full-fledged matching sweatsuit isn’t your travel-outfit speed but you’re not ready to leave your quarantine comfort zone, you can take baby steps with a stylish cotton tank-and-skirt set that feel just as soft as your PJs — but adding minimal leather accessories will elevate your tarmac look.
The padded-shoulder sleeveless sweatshirt is the perfect way to travel in a vacation-ready tank top while maintaining a transit-friendly polish. The matching midi skirt will keep your legs covered and ward off chills, but a front slit means it will double as a cover-up upon arrival.
We couldn’t have asked for a better carry-on purse — even stuffed with all of your travel essentials, its half-moon shape will still look sleek and sophisticated.
Ok, so they’re basically flip-flops — but when rendered in street-friendly black leather with an elegantly elevated sole, they look intentional (and sturdy) enough for travel-wear.
Hed: This Is What Refinery29 Readers Wear When They Fly
Intro: The vaccine rollout has made country-wide travel in the U.S. a safer possibility — with the
CDC declaring travel a “low-risk activity” for anyone inoculated against the disease — and so we are surveying the upcoming summer with vacation plans on the brain. While you’re probably raring to leave your home state for the first time in over a year, you’re also probably blowing the dust off your suitcase and wondering how the heck you ever got dressed in preparation for a flight. We’re feeling a little rusty, too, so we hopped into our “Before Times” time machine and unearthed one of our most beloved stories of all time: an all-encompassing guide to what Refinery29 readers wear when they fly.
Way back in 2019, we conducted a month-long poll which resulted in 180+
travel ensemble submissions from enthusiastic (and wanderlusty) readers. We dug through your highly specific responses, distilling down repeat outfits and popular style opinions to craft the shoppable outfit guide ahead — and, of course, made sure it was sparklingly up-to-date with current options (including one now indispensable travel accessory: a face covering). Aside from confirming that the majority of you jet setters lean on leggings as an on-the-go article of choice (42% to be exact), we also received more surprising intel from those who swear by comfy maxi dresses and flowy midi skirts too. When talking travel accessories: sneakers and flats were not-so-shockingly the leading shoe selection, while sweaters and blanket scarves topped the list as must-have airplane essentials. In addition to overlapping wardrobe basics, there were repeat brands that ranked as trusty transit favorites — from the ever-popular likes of Athleta to Everlane, Converse, and Levi’s.
Scroll on to check out which looks made the TSA-approved cut — from athleisure casual to comfy luxe and dressy layers — along with quotes from the IRL travelers who actually wore and recommended them.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Baggu Face Covering
Our first and most important recommendation comes not from a reader, but from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as the CDC. “Effective February 2, 2021, on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.” You probably have a number of masks in your wardrobe rotation these days, but if you’d like to throw on a festive one for your first visit to the airport in over 365 days, we recommend investing in Baggu’s charming three-pack. masks are required Baggu Fabric Loop Mask (Set of 3), $, available at Baggu
Faux Leather Leggings
“Although I am not much of a leather-wardrobe gal, these faux-style leggings from SPANX made me a convert. They’re the ultimate pair of travel pants: comfy enough to sleep in and sharp enough to socialize in. I can go from sneakers and sweatshirts on planes, trains, and automobiles to heeled boots and blouses in office, at happy hours, and back home on the couch without hesitation in these stylish bad boys.”
– Liz, travels about once a month
Shop Spanx SPANX Faux Leather Leggings, $, available at SPANX
A Midi Skirt
midi dress or skirt, a cover-up shawl, and slip-on flats. The midi-length helps me stay elegant, while the openness helps me relax in comfort. The shawl is essential for too-cold planes or something to roll up into a pillow for a mid-flight nap. The slip-on flats make security easy, keep my toes covered from the cold, and prevent a sandal blow out.” – Liz, travels once per year
Shop ASOS ASOS DESIGN Pocket Midi Skirt, $, available at ASOS
“Jeans with a simple cotton shirt and a sweater that cocoons me and serves as my blanket. I once decided to be cute and wear a sweater that was slightly sparkly — got myself a full pat-down.”
– Dionne, travels five times per year
Shop Pact PACT Airplane Cardigan, $, available at PACT
Sneakers, compression socks, comfortable denim, sweatshirt, neck pillow, and noise-canceling headphones. Comfort is key and I bring a sweatshirt since sometimes the airlines get cold. Compression socks are a necessity since I travel long hours and they prevent swelling.” – Karen, travels eight times a year
Shop Comrad Comrad Knee-High Compression Socks, $, available at Comrad
Stretchy Black Pants
“ Stretchy black pants and a blazer. I always get cold on flights, so having a blazer (even in the dead of summer) is a must. Black pants look chic no matter what and can be worn multiple times on a trip. I love this pair from Everlane (go one size up for a more comfortable flight). I tend to wear pointed mules in the summer because they are easy to slide on and off for security. During cooler months, I always wear compression socks on flights (these nude Amazon ones are great). Call me a granny all you want, but I’ll be the one laughing when your swollen feet hurt after your flight.”
– Morgan, travels weekly
Everlane The Fixed-Waist Stretch Cotton Pant, $, available at Everlane Lucky Brand Bidman Mule, $, available at DSW
A Blanket Scarf
“Yes to scarves! They are so versatile and add a touch of class and sophistication to any outfit.”
— Maggie, travels a few times per year
Shop scarves at Free People Riverside Tool & Dye Riverside Tool & Dye Cashmere Blanket Scarf, $, available at Free People
“Loose fit pants. Some stretch. Maybe a cargo [pocket] for access to phone and earbuds.”
– Paula, travels multiple times a year
Shop Anthropologie Anthropologie Wanderlust Straight Pants, $, available at Anthropologie
A Wrinkle-Free Dress
“Any wrinkle-free dress. On longer flights, I will change into casual comfy loungewear. I believe wearing gym clothing should be kept for the gym, not the airport.”
– Barb, travels 2-4 times per month
Shop Toad&Co Toad&Co Sunkissed Maxi Dress, $, available at Toad&Co
A Lightweight Down Vest
“During the cooler months when I travel to Europe I always wear layers on the plane. Last year I bought this super light puffer vest from Amazon and I love it. It covers my butt, acts as a liner under a warmer coat on the ground, and on the plane, I just wear it alone over a top. Keeps me warm, yet it’s light and breathable — meaning my armpits can breathe and not get swampy. It can also be rolled up and used as a pillow. I have yet to do this, but I could!”
– Marissa, travels monthly
Shop Chouyatou Chouyatou Quilted Down Vest Waistcoat, $, available at Amazon
Stretch Skinny Jeans
“ Bass Suede penny loafer driving shoes, Hue no show socks, NYDJ stretch skinny jeans, Ralph Lauren long sleeve Pink Pony American Flag sweater, pashmina (use as a scarf then it becomes a headscarf when I sit down in the plane seats), and my Bose QuietComfort headphones.”
– Jennifer, travels weekly
Shop NYDJ NYDJ Alina Skinny Jeans, $, available at NYDJ
A Maxi Dress
“A maxi dress and comfy flip flops. Maxi dresses are super comfortable, there’s usually no metal on them and they go with any season and location. The comfy flip flops for ease at security and to be comfy on the plane without having to take my shoes off.”
– Elizabeth, travels 2-3 times per year
Shop Amazon Essentials Amazon Basics Short-Sleeve Maxi Dress, $, available at Amazon
Lululemon leggings, compression socks (only put them on in-flight), sneakers, t-shirt, and some sort of sweater/cardigan.” – Anna, travels every six weeks
Shop Lululemon Lululemon Align Pant 28”, $, available at Lululemon
“I swear by a knit blazer that I have. It’s super soft and comfortable but still looks professional. It pairs with sweats, leggings, or a pair of jeans. Anything you put it with looks good and not at all sloppy even though it’s essentially a giant cardigan.”
– Casey, travels once or twice a month
Shop M.M. LaFleur M.M.LaFleur The Woolf Jardigan, $, available at M.M. LaFleur
A Floaty Midi Dress
“A floaty midi or maxi dress is cozy for a long haul flight, yet still looks elegant at the destination. Favorites include
Madeleine Thompson cashmere kaftans and Stine Goya. Include a belt and a scarf in your carry on and both provide multiple options throughout your journey. You can double up on your inflight comfort by choosing a soft slip or cami underneath which will also keep you warm and cozy.” – Stephanye, experienced frequent-flier traveler
Shop dresses at Anthropologie
Anthropologie Alanna Maxi Dress, $, available at Anthropologie Modern Citizen Andra Tiered Mini Dress, $, available at Modern Citizen
Allbirds Tree Breezers
American Giant joggers, cozy soft top usually a bright color and an Eileen Fisher linen kimono jacket — especially for red eye flights. It’s a little classy but super cozy. Have also been living in Allbirds flats. Amazing!” – Laura, travels twice a month
Shop Allbirds Allbirds Tree Breezers, $, available at Allbirds
Athleta Skyline Pants
“I’m obsessed with the Athleta Skyline pants for when I travel — lightweight, comfortable, with deep pockets for passports/etc. They also look quite professional when paired with a chic/simple tucked in t-shirt. They’re as comfortable as leggings, but they actually qualify as pants (sorry, leggings).”
– Paige, travels every 4-6 weeks
Shop Athleta Athleta Skyline Pant II, $, available at Athleta
“ High waisted black skinny jeans (with lots of stretch to stay comfy), lightweight cashmere sweater, white t-shirt, and a beanie. This keeps me super comfy, while still looking put together. Layering up helps me navigate warm airports and cold planes with ease. The beanie allows me to tuck my hair up out of my face while avoiding ponytail lines. It is also great for shutting out the world and catching a quick nap!”
– Erin, travels around 4-5 times per year
Shop Madewell Madewell Recycled Cotton Cuffed Beanie, $, available at Madewell
A Silk Blouse
“Typically a silk blouse with a light-weight cashmere pullover sweater, black leggings, and slip-on sneakers or loafers.”
– Jean, travels a couple times per year
Shop Quince Quince Washable Stretch Silk Short Sleeve Blouse, $, available at Quince
A Knit Skirt
“Knit skirts that do not wrinkle or tunic with leggings and flat shoes.”
– Sharon, travels a few times per year
Shop ME+EM ME+EM Flat Fronted Bias Cut Ponte Skirt, $, available at ME+EM
“I was always a leggings, tank top, and hoodie person for optimal comfort and climate control, but have more recently turned to comfy jumpsuits — like this one from Aerie.”
– Ariel, travels a few times per year
Shop Aerie Aerie Twill Overall, $, available at AE
Levi’s 501 Jeans
“My outfit is a pair of jeans, often Levi’s 501, a cotton t-shirt, a wool or cotton cardigan sweater, a large wool wrap that doubles as a blanket, and slip-on shoes like sneakers or booties — nothing with laces.”
– Mary, travels several times per year
Shop Levi’s Levi’s 501® Original Fit Jeans, $, available at Levi’s
Sleeveless Maxi Dress
“My go-to outfit is this
jersey dress. It’s like a maxi t-shirt sleeveless dress that looks great with every pair of shoes. I usually rock a white pair of leather Converse and a thick navy blue or black sweater.” – Anayo, travels once a month
Shop Shopbop Splendid Splendid Mesa Dress, $, available at Shopbop
A Matching Loungewear Set
“I like to wear a
matching leggings and top or jacket set. I feel the most comfortable in leggings (when I travel or otherwise!) and when paired with a matching top or jacket, it looks so much more put together, sleek, and cool. I also always wear a clean pair of black or white sneakers that go with everything. Sneakers are very important when you’re running late for a flight!” – Melissa, travels once a month
Shop Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective Forest Classic Sweatshirt, $, available at Girlfriend Collective Girlfriend Collective FLOAT Seamless Legging, $, available at Girlfriend Collective
Everlane Wide-Leg Pants
Wide-leg pants from Everlane, black block heel Chelsea boots or black hi-top Chucks, a good black cotton t-shirt (as per my capsule wardrobe), vintage black windbreaker (because it completes the outfit).” – Janine, travels 3-6 times per month
Shop Everlane Everlane The Track Wide-Leg Pant, $, available at Everlane
Yoga or any stretch pants. Bralette. No underwire bra. Lightweight sneakers.” – Leigh, travels ten times per year
Lively The Seamless Racerback Bralette, $, available at Lively Gaiam Zen Bootcut Yoga Pants, $, available at Kohl’s
Outdoor Voices Leggings
Outdoor Voices black high waisted compression leggings, gray t-shirt ( American Apparel or whatever is around) black and grey men’s flannel shirt, Vans Old School sneakers.” – Erica, travels three times per month
Shop Outdoor Voices Outdoor Voices Warmup Legging, $, available at Outdoor Voices
Mules or Slides
“Easy shoes to slip-on/off. If they are a shoe that is typically worn without socks like mules or slides, I keep
a pair of socks in my bag to put on as I walk shoe-less through security. So many stranger feet have touched those floors!” – Becca, travels 4-6 times per year
Shop mules and slides at Nordstrom Sam Edelman Garson Slide Sandal, $, available at Nordstrom
Supersoft Lounge Pants
Silk pajama pants or cotton-cashmere joggers with a T-shirt and layered with a wrap sweater with loafers or sneakers.” – Heather, travels 5-8 times per year
Shop Naadam Naadam Café Cotton Cashmere Jogger, $, available at Naadam
“A scrunchie or a barrette — it can be super handy for long flights and an easy accessory to make an outfit.” –
Janine, travels every 3 months
Shop hair accessories at Urban Outfitters Urban Outfitters Perfect 10 Scrunchie Set, $, available at Urban Outfitters
“My go-to flight ensemble is
Cuyana lounge clothing, from top to bottom. Starting with my slim crewneck tee, to my French terry wide-leg pant and a French terry pleat-back sweatshirt to cover up when I get cold. Comfortable and classy that is how I like to feel when I travel internationally or domestically.” – Mary, travels 5-6 times per year
Cuyana French Terry Pleat-Back Sweatshirt, $, available at Cuyana Cuyana French Terry Wide-Leg Cropped Pant, $, available at Cuyana
Everlane Cotton Dress
“I like to dress up when I travel, but I also want to be comfortable. Everlane is the best. I have a couple of go-to dresses that I wear alone in warmer weather, and then dress up with a blazer in the colder months. One is the
Long Weekend Tank Dress and the other is the Luxe Cotton Side Slit Tee Dress.” – Rebecca, travels 6-7 times per year
Shop Everlane Everlane The Luxe Cotton Side-Slit Tee Dress, $, available at Everlane
Linen Drawstring Pants
“Loose, linen tie-waist pants; a cotton 3/4 sleeve v-neck top with coordinating sports bra; and sneakers or walking sandals.”
– Jan, travels a few times per year
Shop Amazon Essentials Amazon Essentials Women’s Drawstring Linen Crop Pant, $, available at Amazon
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