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I’m a Flight Attendant, and This Is What I Wear on a Plane When I’m Not in Uniform’

Well+Good logo Well+Good 5/16/2021 Francesca Krempa
a woman sitting on a luggage bag: what to wear on a plane © Photo: Getty Images/YorVen what to wear on a plane Itching to travel? Aren’t we all. It’s been a long haul, but as COVID vaccines continue to roll out, travel restrictions and guidelines are relaxing, too. In April 2021, the CDC lifted certain testing and self-quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated people traveling domestically. In turn, more Americans are returning to the skies. While it doesn’t look like we’ll be traveling completely maskless anytime soon (for the best, TBH), there are plenty of other ways to stay healthy and cozy mid-flight. Take it from somebody who knows a thing or two about what to wear on a plane.

Elena Eberwein, a Boston-based flight attendant for American Airlines, is here to help you choose the right 'fit for your flight. With three years of professional air travel under her belt, Eberwein is a pro when it comes to dressing comfortably on an airplane. Below, her tips for staying safe and stylish at 30,000 feet.

Here's exactly what to wear on a plane (and what to leave in your suitcase), according to a flight attendant.

Comfort comes first, but know the rules


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Even when she’s not working, Eberwein has to abide by an American Airlines dress code. No, she doesn’t have to wear her uniform when traveling for leisure—but certain in-flight style staples are off limits for her, including ripped denim, sweatpants, and... leggings. (Gasp!)

Despite the rules, she insists comfort comes first. “I always wear a pair of black jeans or jeggings—something that has some stretch,” Eberwein says. “Something neutral, but definitely comfortable, that can pass for real pants.”

Luckily, those of us non-flight attendants can get away with a classic pair of black leggings. But we do technically have our own dress code to abide by. These vary from airline to airline, but for the most part, nothing that could be considered offensive is allowed on the plane. “Don’t wear anything with profanity on it or you could get kicked off the flight,” she says. “That’s just an easy way to make sure you have an easier time.”

Layer up

If you’re heading to sunny Palm Springs or Miami Beach, it might be tempting to wear a cute sundress and flip-flops. But Eberwein advises against it. “A lot of people dress for the place that they’re going, not considering that the plane is also going to be a place they’ll be,” she says. “Planes are cold, so I recommend layering up.”

If you want to be comfortable mid-flight, trade in that slip dress for a sweatshirt. Eberwein recommends wearing a T-shirt or a long-sleeve shirt as a base layer, then adding a sweater or a light jacket on top. Need some suggestions? The Someone Somewhere LifeProof Pullover ($69) is stain and odor-resistant (so no more post-flight smells). If you want to keep germs from hitching a ride to your hotel, look for an antimicrobial jacket. Yeah, a few layers might add some extra bulk in the middle seat, but once that A.C. kicks on, you’ll be grateful you left your summer clothes in your suitcase.

Always wear closed-toed shoes

Back to those flip flops—I know they’re easy to kick off when going through security. But once you’re on the plane, you’ll probably wish you had on something a little less exposed.

“I always tell people don’t wear open-toed shoes,” Eberwein says. As we know, airplanes are pretty germy places, and wearing sandals or slides without socks might increase your chances of coming in contact with something funky. Instead, a pair of sneakers or slip-on booties will do juuust fine.

A mask is your best accessory

Yes, plushy neck pillows and dreamy sleeping masks can turn any flight into a first-class experience. But in the age of COVID-19, a face mask is your best friend. Eberwein has a separate mask she wears when she’s in uniform that matches her chic American Airlines neck scarf. But when she’s off the clock, a simple cotton mask does the trick. “One with an adjustable ear is definitely ideal for long periods of time, since you have to be able to easily lift and lower your mask to eat and drink,” she says.

When you do return to the skies, you'll probably have a lot of things on your mind—but with these expert tips, what to wear on a plane won't be one of them.

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