The 1950s and ‘60s were considered the golden age of travel, when passengers were pampered, given Dopp kits and slippers and snuggled under blankets as they toasted with a glass of champagne-- all in what would be today’s economy class. Onboard (and off), people got dressed up to travel: men wore suits and women wore dresses, heels and a fully coiffed do. Times, of course, have changed and while we can all wax nostalgic for the days of free booze and ample legroom, most of us are grateful we no longer have to suffer through an international flight in pantyhose or a suffocating tie.
Still, there’s a deep delta between the glamour of yesteryear and today’s travel outfits where flannel pajama bottoms paired with a promo tee for your cousin’s RV showroom are not uncommon sights. Certainly it makes sense that when we’re squeezed within 17” and if you’re so unlucky, compressed in the middle seat, we want to be as comfy as possible. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to look sharp and stay comfortable while traveling. If you still need convincing, consider this unwritten rule that some airlines uphold: gate agents are more likely to upgrade passengers who are dressed up. Not to mention that airports are chock full of strangers who could be a prospective boss, partner or even the scene for an unexpected collision with your ex from college. Probably better if you’re not in those threadbare sweats, amiright?
Dressing for the plane is one hurdle, the other is packing for your destination. But if you’ve read the above and are on board (ahem) for upgrading your travel look (see what we did there?), then you’ll want to check out our how to for creating a travel wardrobe dossier. Consider this inspo for your next itinerary...
First off, a dossier is just a fancy term for a collection of info and essentially it’s a matrix that incorporates the number of travel days, specific events and any other commitments or considerations for your trip, e.g beach accessories, rain gear, etc. Your dossier should also factor in space limitations e.g. carry-on or checked bag. (Pro tip: always leave space in your suitcase for a few souvenirs: a scarf, artsy postcards, international lover?) Before you start planning your outfits, take a look at your itinerary to determine the kinds of clothes you’ll need. Is this strictly a work trip or can you squeeze in a few hours of sightseeing? Straight-up vacation style/rosé all day? Next, you’ll want to start itemizing pieces to correspond with your itinerary paying attention to each activity and whether it will allow for repeat outfits. So if you’re going to spend the day doing a volunteer home build, you probably won’t be able to get away with wearing the same t-shirt twice, unless you’ve got access to a washing machine or very powerful pit stick.
With that info in hand, it’s time to Build! That! Dossier! (sorry, our inner game show host came out.) We’ve made it easy with these simple steps:
- Identify core pieces - First, determine what your core pieces are and build from there. For a typical four day trip, we recommend 2-3 core pieces. Every travel wardrobe should include a pair of selvedge jeans like our Bluer Denim since they are versatile enough to be dressed up or down and can withstand multiple wearings. Selvedge denim jeans are also perfect for the plane ride because they don’t wrinkle and won’t show that glass of red wine your seatmate spilled on you. Other ideas for core pieces include black pants, a crisp white button up, a dark sport coat, or a jumpsuit or dress.
- Add Foundations - Foundations are the tops and underpinnings to pair with your core pieces that you can “mix and match” to get more variety from your core pieces. Depending on the weather and occasion consider muscle tees, plain white or striped tees or a button-up denim shirt. Since your core pieces are a neutral palette, you can add some color in here, too.
- Layer it up - You only need 1-2 layers to work with your foundational pieces. This could be a sport coat or blazer, oversized cardigan or moto jacket. You’ll want something that’s cozy for the plane ride and a more polished option that can work for a happy hour or nice dinner out. If it’s warm enough where you’re headed, you can swap out one layer for a big scarf instead.
- Accessorize - Here’s where you get to add some personality to your outfits: ties, scarves, bandanas, bolos, you name it. These can make your outfits look distinct even if you’re essentially wearing the same thing. Plus, they’re lightweight and won’t take up a lot of room in your bag so you can toss in quite a few. For the plane ride, a scarf can double as a pillow or blanket on a chilly flight and is great camouflage for the inevitable spills.
Once you’ve itemized your travel wardrobe, you can assign outfits for each day and occasion. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to break down each travel day by daytime and nighttime looks, even if you end up wearing the same thing all day. Make sure to include looks for both your outbound and inbound flight and feel free to repeat here; you’re unlikely to share both legs with the same people.
You may end up switching around your outfits depending on mood and whether or not that extra plate of garlic knots is making your jeans a wee too tight. Also rest assured that most destinations have a local shop should you forget an essential like socks or unders and you can always rely on a Hanes ribbed undershirt in a pinch.
Travel isn’t what it used to be, but we can rejoice in some of the ways traveling has improved: safety, convenience and the luxury of wearing pretty much whatever we want. But take a tip from PanAm and choose a little style with your next flight. Your destination will thank you.