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What a thrill it would have been to be born back in the day! I’ll watch a movie like Catch Me If You Can, and I’ll see how flight attendants were revered like today’s supermodels, how lady passengers insisted on wearing heels, and how people in general got gussied up for a long day’s journey. Cut to present-day, and it’s all sweatpants and slippers.
Not that I want to be decked out in my Sunday’s best for a long flight—but I’ve never understood why the notion of “comfort” is frequently interpreted as an excuse for sloppiness. In my mother’s time, and my grandmother’s before her, there was a real thought process to getting dressed in the morning. Even if you weren’t headed anywhere special, the casual wear of yesteryear had a certain elegance to it. It wasn’t too fancy or in any way provocative, but it possessed grace, coupled with the promise of practicality.
Take Jackie O, for instance. Walking along New York sidewalks or jetting off in private planes, she singlehandedly immortalized the sweater-trouser-flat combo. The separates themselves are your average basics. And yet, on Mrs. Onassis, they were put together with such resolve, carried with such ease, and proven to be so unmistakably flattering that in the end, they helped cement her status as a style icon. (And we haven’t even gotten to the evening wear portion.)
I was thumbing through an old issue of Vogue the other day, and I chanced upon a very timely article about Belinda Seper, the Australian fashion retailer. When pressed for her opinion on this era’s crumbling dress codes, Seper hits the nail right on the head. “I do mourn the passing of having a sense of occasion to getting dressed. And I loathe the informality that reigns across the world. I think it promotes laziness in the way we put on clothes each day.”
She might as well have plucked the words right out of my mouth. Like any busy woman of the 21st century, I live for comfort. It’s the mindless, almost stubborn inattention to dress that I simply can’t justify. Yes, when we travel, it’s only logical to dress down, cover up, and skip the stilts for flats. But when it verges on the impropriety of feeling too at-home, it might be wise to rethink your approach. Why go down that route, anyway, when more suitable, well-crafted, and equally comfortable options are at your fingertips?
What I’ve been leading up to—admittedly, in a long and winding way—is this: good sense and good style are never mutually exclusive. They can coexist with minimal effort, a little creativity, and good, old-fashioned practice. After all, in-flight fashion is downtime-dressing with better layers—it isn’t rocket science!
Here are five no-fail formulas you can try on your next flight. Happy travels, FNites!
(Product photos courtesey of TheMall.ph, unless otherwise stated. Flashbox photo from Pan Am courtesy of ABC)