What to Wear When You Travel on Business

Have you been on a trip lately and noticed someone at the airport who looked very pulled together?  Did you wonder how she did it?

We often forget that our style travels with us 24/7.  Yes, it is possible to travel and be comfortable, stylish, and professional all at the same time, but how and what exactly do you wear?

Here are some tips for traveling light and in style.

A fitted blazer:  A simple blazer will do wonders to keep you looking Fabulous After 40.

A small black handbag:  A great find is a passport purse on a chain.  It’s large enough to carry an iPhone, credit cards, a driver’s license, and lipstick. It can easily fit into a tote and qualify for the “two personal items” airplane requirement.

Comfortable, good-looking suede flats or wedges:  Suede is your friend when it comes to comfortable shoes.  The good news is these days it is perfectly acceptable to wear suede all year long so you can invest in a pair and it won’t be just seasonal.

Use a tote for your carry-on: Ladies, leave the backpack at home with your children and instead pack up your things in a pretty tote bag.  Totes are practical and age-appropriate.   For a polished, corporate look, go for one that is made of leather and is large enough for your laptop or iPad, travel pillow, and plane snacks but fits under the seat.

Here is a recap of what to do to get prepared for a trip:

Plan ahead
Are there items in your closet that you would like to take on your travels that need to be altered or dry cleaned?

Travel in style. 
You will be treated in the manner in which you present yourself.   You can be comfortable and appropriate at the same time.  I am sure you have heard the saying, “there is a time and place for everything.” Droopy sweat pants and pajama bottoms are to be worn at home….not on an airplane.  You may be sitting next to a potential client or a future employer.  I even have a client who met her husband on a flight from Dallas to San Francisco. So ladies, dress the part!  Looking stylish makes you feel confident.

Dress in layers.  Airplanes can be hot and uncomfortable when you board and grow frigid and become arctic when you reach 35,000 feet.  Travel with a cardigan, or blazer, and add a scarf for warmth and style.

Keep yourself hydrated.  Travel with a bottle of water in your tote.  This way, you can arrive fresh and ready to take on the day.

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9 thoughts on “What to Wear When You Travel on Business

  1. THANK YOU for this article. Although I don’t travel that often, I always ‘dress’ as I find that I feel better about myself and am treated with more respect! (I have a flight attendant friend who says that as people get on, the pilots and attendants joke about the people being poorly dressed!)

  2. I agree with the outfit for short-haul flights, but like Wanda, mine is more the 15-hour nightmare flight in sardine class. The only way to survive these is to wear what is comfortable but take an outfit in my carry-on to change into before landing. I wear black yoga pants and layers plus a large shawl. The shawl I put over my head (yes, it sounds weird) gives me privacy when I sleep. I take a full-sized pillow (with a window seat) rolled into a shoe bag and the noise-canceling headphones. It’s hard for over 50 to survive these grueling flights, comfort being the number one priority. I try to ensure everything I pack is wrinkle-free, and my shoes must be comfortable. I have had 30 years of experience traveling long haul. Even when I dressed for flights – I had never been “bumped up in class.” I always wear foundation and lipstick for a flight but gave up on mascara as it is not a good look after several hours. You do what you have to do.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement “you will be treated in the manner you present yourself”!

    While I may be more adventurous with my wardrobe in our West Coast relaxed lifestyle here in Vancouver, I adhere to looking classic and professional when traveling.

    I travel in dark-wash bootcut or straight-leg denim (not ultra tight skinnies, with no holes, spots, wrinkles, or wear) with a good amount of lycra. They feel like yoga pants, without the dreadful look of wearing them on the plane. On top, I wear a good quality white blouse, again with lots of lycra, so it stays ankle-free. As mentioned, I accessorize with a fitted blazer, then add a warm wrap/scarf (doubles as a semi blanket in flight). My shoes are always a black or pewter, suede kitten-heel pump. I love my tote (that is a compartmented professional camera/lenses/laptop/iPad bag). It also holds a snack and a small snakeskin clutch with a long chain that I can take out when I reach the hotel at my destination, and I’m ready for lunch or dinner with only minor makeup touch-ups.

    Even at the most conservative of hotels, I am always greeted professionally and promptly!

    1. So true, Suzie, Your dress communicates who you are and what others can expect from you. I have one friend who dresses up when she flies and is consistently bumped up to first class.

  4. It would be helpful to see photos of the entire ensemble in a person: the cardigan, blazer, scarf, and all the items in the tote bag.

  5. I know the above ensemble looks stylish when traveling. However, I find trousers ( of any kind) too restrictive for long flights (11 hrs or more). What else can you surest that would be comfortable yet stylish – would a casual wrap dress with flats look too dressy?

    1. Hi Susan,
      While a wrap dress would be delicate, you might want to bring a pair of leggings to slip on before you board the plane to feel a little more comfortable. An outfit with leggings and a long top would work too. This is just one suggestion; we will do another post on this subject soon with more examples. In the fall, we like to wear anything with a good knit stretch fabric and add leggings, flat boots, and a scarf. That way, you will look polished and comfortable, whether it is a skirt, dress, or pants.

      1. There is travel, and then there is travel. While I entirely agree that you never know who you will meet – and trust me, I met my share of dinner dates and even a couple of long-term boyfriends on planes – not to mention that I got my current job by talking to a seatmate on a plane from Toronto to Edmonton – I put comfort first on the very long flights. But these days, comfort takes precedent when I travel. I travel 6 – 8 times per year to Asia. The flights are 15 hours long. Most of the trip is spent in total darkness, and the sleeping pods in business class are set up for privacy, not socializing. As a result, once dinner is served, I head to the washroom and change into modest PJs. A couple of hours before landing, I returned to the bathroom and changed my street clothes.
        When you fly long distances like that, even clothing that might otherwise seem comfortable becomes constrictive. I think it is better to be comfortable in the air and arrive at the destination relaxed and ready to go to work. And from what I see on planes, many others agree.

        Every month in Enroute magazine, the in-flight magazine of Air Canada, they have interviews with celebrities or mega-travelers, as I call them. This month, the person interviewed said he always takes PJs and wears them while en route for long trips. I almost wanted to cheer when I read that article!

        Not everyone will have the confidence or the grit to do what I do. But I can tell you, those 15-hour flights have become much more bearable since I started this. And I certainly have the respect of the flight staff. They say that if more people did what I do, there would be more rested passengers.

        I car noise-canceling headphones and an I; I carry a pashmina wrap for the more excellent parts of the flight; I pack disposable slippers and inexpensive spa socks to wear flight and toss them at the end of the trip. I even carry an eyeshade, and I use it.

        Put comfort firsoverlooksoks, and worry about the stylish outfits for travel on the shorter flight where you might meet someone interesting.

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