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, driver’s license and lipstick. It can easily fit it 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, blazer, and add a scarf for warmth and style.

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

Join the Conversation

11 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 not only feel better about myself, I am treated with more respect! (I have a flight attendant friend who says as people get on, the pilots and attendants make jokes about the people who are sloppily dressed!)

  2. I agree with the outfit for short haul flights but like Wanda, mine are more the 15 hour nightmare flights 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 prior to landing. I wear black yoga pants and layers plus a large shawl. The shawl I put over my head (yes – sounds weird) but that gives me privacy when I sleep. I take a full sized pillow (having a window seat) rolled into a shoe bag plus the noise cancelling headphones. It’s hard over 50 to survive these gruelling flights, comfort being the number one priority. Everything I pack I try to ensure is wrinkle-free and shoes must be comfortable. I have had 30 years of experience of travelling long haul. Even when I used to dress up for flights – never have 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 just do what you have to do.

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

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

    I travel in dark-wash bootcut or straight-leg denims, (not ultra tight skinnies, and no holes, spots,wrinkles, or wear) that have a good amount of lycra in them. 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 not only stretches, but it stays wrinkle free. I accessorize with a fitted blazer as mentioned, then add a nice warm wrap/scarf (that 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 actually 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 then take out when I reach the hotel at my destination and I’m ready for lunch or dinner with only minor makeup touch ups required.

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

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

  4. I think it would be helpful to see photos of the entire ensemble on a person. The cardigan, blazer, scarf and all the items in the tote bag.

  5. I know the above ensemble looks stylish when travelling. 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 fine, you might want to bring along a pair of leggings to slip on, before you board the plane so you would 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 and flat boots and a scarf. That way whether it is a skirt, dress or pants you will look polished and comfortable.

      1. There travel and then there is travel. While I quite 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 seat mate 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 prior to landing to I return to the washroom and change back into 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 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 interivewed said that he always takes pjs and wears them while enroute for very long trips. I almost wanted to cheer when i read that article!

        Not everyone will have the confidence or the moxie to do what I do. But I can tell you, those 15 hour flights have become a lot more bearable since i started doing 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 carry noise cancelling headphones and an iPod, I carry a pashmina wrap for the cooler parts of the flight; I pack disposable slippers and inexpensive spa socks to wear in flighta nd toss them at the end of the trip. I even carry an eyeshade and I use it.

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

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