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9 Things You Shouldn’t Wear on a Plane, According to Flight Attendants

Take it from the people who fly for a living—you can look stylish and still travel in comfort with their insider tips.

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Things not to wear when traveling

You can be comfortable both on the plane and when you arrive at your destination without sacrificing style—but everyone knows the agony of wearing the wrong thing that can make security or the flight miserable. We reached out to Taylor Garland, strategic public relations coordinator for the Association of Flight Attendants, to share her list of things you should avoid wearing when flying—and the things you definitely should. Plus, find out 20 things you’re probably doing on planes that flight attendants wouldn’t.

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Neck gaiters

Let’s make one thing very clear: Any face covering is better than no face covering. But neck gaiters consistently rank toward the bottom of face-covering effectiveness tests. Especially doubled up, gaiters do a reasonable job of protecting against harmful particles. But there are definitely better face coverings out there, and you’ll want to opt for maximum protection to keep you and your fellow travelers safe.

Wear instead: A three-ply surgical mask. Learn more about the best and worst face masks for COVID-19 protection.

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Jewelry or bulky accessories

Metal will slow you down at security—it’s one of the more likely things to get you flagged by the TSA. The nails in high heels can trigger the metal detectors to go off; so can shoes that sport large metal adornments or studs. Jewelry that can be hard to remove will also slow you down in the TSA line. Any jewelry shaped like a potential weapon also raises red flags.

Wear instead: Take off your jewelry—except for a simple bracelet you can easily remove, say—and check it with your luggage or put it in your carry on bag.

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Anything tight

Tight waistbands, skirts, blouses, shirts are all a no-no while traveling, for the simple reason that our bodies naturally swell when we fly. You want to avoid cramping by moving around in your seat and the aisles, whenever possible. Restrictive clothing does not pair well with bloating, also common on airplanes. You want to be able to move comfortably, encouraging healthy blood circulation and avoiding deep vein thrombosis—blood clots in the legs.

Wear instead: Anything with an elastic waist. Leggings or stylish sweats can keep you feeling cozy without sacrificing style points. Exercise gear has evolved into “athleisure”—even celebrity stylists, Kate Young tells the New York Times, recommend this category for plane rides. Heard about the 2017 incident where two girls weren’t permitted to board a plane because they were wearing leggings? Here’s that story, plus more things that could get you banned from a plane.

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Uncomfortable bra

One of Garland’s top things to avoid while flying is an uncomfortable bra. A bra that digs into your shoulders and chest will only become more constraining in the air.

Wear instead: A seamless sports bra that has no wires or hooks. Find out 9 things you can take from a plane—and 6 you can’t.

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Skimpy clothing

You know the drill: You’re so excited about that beach vacation that you throw on a tank and lightweight shorts only to find yourself freezing in the air-conditioned plane cabin. Another concern with revealing outerwear: They can be offensive in certain countries and cultures. Also, in case of fire or evacuation, it’s better to be completely covered—the slide is uncomfortable on bare skin, says Garland.

Wear instead: Layers, layers, layers. There is a big difference in cabin temperature mid-flight and before take-off. If you don’t want to wear a lot of layers, stash them in your carry on for when the temps start to drop. Check out 10 things polite people don’t do on airplanes.

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Fragrance

With the rise of fragrance sensitivities, what you find intoxicating can be torture for others. The shared air can exacerbate the exposure for people who are sensitive, triggering allergies or asthma. Be respectful of passengers around you by saving the scent for after you deplane.

Wear instead: Trust your deodorant to keep you smelling sweet and skip the perfume. Here are 10 more little etiquette rules for flying on an airplane.

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Woman wearing high heels in airport with inset of sneakersGetty Images, via amazon.com

High heels, flip flops, and slides

It can be hard to choose the right pair of shoes for flying. “High heels can slow you down and even puncture the slide in case of an evacuation,” Garland says. Slides and flip flops can fly off your feet in case of emergency; you’ll also find they make life difficult if you have to sprint for a flight. Plus, they leave your feet exposed and airports have some seriously germy spots—these are the worst.

Wear instead: Garland swears by lace-up shoes which you can tighten and loosen as needed.

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Fabrics that don’t breathe

The National Transportation Safety Board reports that 68 percent of plane crash fatalities occur in post-crash fires, not in the initial impact—learn how to survive a plane crash here. To be on the safe side, avoid extremely flammable synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. They are not ideal travel companions anyway because they don’t allow air to circulate.

Wear instead: Natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, wool, or linen will allow air and moisture to pass through. Moisture-wicking man-made fabrics are also an equally savvy option.

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Bulky jackets

Avoid oversized coats when you fly. They’re cumbersome and can make economy class feel claustrophobic—and they’re tough to squeeze into your carry-on or the overhead bin.

Wear instead: An all-season jacket—consider a lightweight down-filled number— will be warm enough for winter yet still work for crisp fall weather or breezy summer nights. Find out 22 other things you should never do on a plane.

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And be sure to wear:

Compression socks: According to The Travel Channel, compression socks like these are a boon for air travel. Sitting for a long period of time can make your legs swell and cut off blood flow. Compression socks are much more fashionable than in the past, they can help combat leg and feet soreness as well as deep-vein thrombosis.

A shawl or scarf: A thick or lightweight cashmere or wool shawl not only adds flair to your outfit but does double duty on the plane as a blanket. Neither of these things should take up too much extra space in your carry on, but if you’re struggling to pack light, try these genius packing tips from flight attendants.

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Sources:

  • New York Times: “5 Tips to Travel Light and Dress Well at the Same Time”
  • The Travel Channel: “12 Things Women Should Wear While Flying (12 They Shouldn’t)”

Elizabeth Marglin
Elizabeth Marglin contributes regularly to Reader’s Digest and TheHealthy on topics of sustainability, health and wellness. She also writes for Yoga Journal, AARP, Vitacost, and Prevention. She earned her Master’s in Journalism from Colorado University at Boulder.