I sat in a cramped coach seat recently, watching my fellow passengers board a plane that would take us from Orlando, Fla., to Newark, N.J.
A portly man with two small children in tow plopped down in the seats across the aisle. He and the kids were dressed like they were going to a theme park: baggy shorts, a tank top and sandals.Then I overheard their final destination: Maine, same as mine.
Maybe they hadn't heard the weather report, but the temperatures in Maine likely would have them shivering in their sandals before they could say "Vacationland."
Your destination and the other variables of travel - comfort, safety and whether you're on a business or leisure trip - can make dressing for the plane a challenge.
Here are some thoughts on how to dress accordingly:
Those tight jeans may look great on you, but how comfortable will they be after three hours? Both men and women will be comfortable in pleated pants or elastic waistbands. Garments made of fabric that has stretch to it are a good idea, too, says Marie Johnson, special events coordinator for Orlando-area Stein Mart stores.
For women, the "long, European looks are really wonderful" to travel in, she says. Those comfortable clothes, such as long straight skirts paired with a fitted jacket, have chic lines that also "forgive weight and imperfections."
As for footwear, low-heeled loafers, walking shoes, ankle boots or sandals are best for trudging through airports in comfort.
It pays to find out the weather at your destination so that your clothes can make the transition with you.
When traveling through both cooler climes and warmer ones, layering is the key, Johnson says. "Wear a vest look over the top of a straight skirt. If it's too warm when you land, take the vest off and wad it up and throw it in your purse," Johnson says.
Women can wear a blouse or cap-sleeved sweater and tie a long-sleeved sweater fashionably around the shoulders, she said. Sweater sets, now in vogue for women, can be good alternatives. Men can layer, too, carrying a sweater or jacket in a carry-on to wear over trousers when the destination is reached.
Obviously, business travelers who are dashing downtown right off the plane will want to look their best. Fabric is the key here. Johnson recommends polyester blends, knits and other nonwrinkling materials. Ladies should avoid silk and linen, which wrinkle as if they've been slept in.
Color is important too, she says.
"Warm colors, such as mossy greens and paprikas, don't show soil," she adds. That makes them good choices for any traveler.
Although the Federal Aviation Administration maintains that air travel is the safest mode of transportation in the United States, it still recommends that passengers take precautions, some of which are likely to contradict your quest for fashion and comfort.
The FAA recommends covering as much skin as possible with pants and long-sleeved blouses and shirts that will save your skin if you have to slide down an evacuation chute or offer protection from the heat of a fire.
Clothes also should be made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool and leather for safety. Heat generated by a fire can melt synthetic materials such as polyester blends and nylon hose.
High heels are best left at home. They could puncture an inflated emergency chute. Or you could catch the heel on something during a hasty evacuation of an aircraft and twist or break your ankle. The FAA also recommends you wear leather-soled shoes, because rubber-soled shoes can melt.
Shoes that have laces or straps are best; they're more likely to stay on your feet if you have to move fast. Sandals are a no-no because they offer less protection than a full-coverage shoe.
The FAA offers a free pamphlet on safety called "Fly Smart - An Air Traveler's Guide." For a free copy, write to the Federal Aviation Administration Consumer Information Center, P.O. Box 100, Pueblo, CO 81002; enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The information also is available on the FAA's Web site: (http://www.faa.gov/ZDV/safety/checklist.html).