14 Things You Should Not Wear on a Flight

If you’re heading off on a long flight, it’s quite common to wonder what to wear and if there are rules covering how to dress for a flight. But obviously, there are rules because you can’t fly naked for instance!

Here’s a list of things that are illegal, against most airline policies or that are simply common sense to avoid. Hopefully, there will save you from the discomfort and embarrassment of a travel horror story.

  • Clothing that is too revealing
  • Clothing the may cause offence to others
  • Metal body piercings
  • Spiked jewellery or metals sewn into your clothing
  • Clothing may be considered offensive when travelling to strongly religious countries
  • Very strong smelling perfume
  • Body odour
  • Noisy accessories
  • High heeled, platform or tight footwear that is difficult to remove
  • A tight dress or tight pants
  • Beachwear, open sandals, flip-flops
  • Complicated dresses like rompers, jumpsuits, full-length clothing or billowy skirts
  • Overly large thick clothing like full overcoats
  • Your Birthday Suit

The last item on the list I added because otherwise we’d have 13 in our list and the last thing we need when flying is a load of superstitious baggage!

I did a bit of research to come up with this list but it is not exclusive. There are certainly some airline policies governing what you wear on a flight, as well as the obvious, making some items absolute no-nos:

Scantily Dressed Not on a Plane
Not Quite the Perfect Attire for a Flight Even if Heading Straight to the Beach on Arrival

Clothing That is Considered Too Revealing

Here I’m talking about clothes that show too much cleavage and/or visible underwear – clean or otherwise.  It also includes clothes deemed to be too suggestive even though they do not show much skin.

Think of like those that emphasize the full outline of the human body, for example, skin-hugging bodysuits and leotards.

Clothing that may cause offense to other passengers

There are quite a few examples of this which include, but is not limited to, tops with written text or images that spew profanity, political beliefs, racist innuendos either in language, images or symbols.

Also included would be caps, hats and balaclavas with objectionable text – and in the case of balaclavas, well need it really be said that you are not going to be welcomed with open arms wearing those.

Metal body piercings

Feel free to pierce yourself all over but unless you are prepared to endure the hassle of a strip search or removing them altogether they are better removed if more than the odd one.  Security scanning equipment will quite happily detect your body metal and alert the airport to your bodily additions.

Any spiked jewelry/accessory that could be deemed to be as a potential weapon or metals sewn in?

If you are wearing skewers through your face as is the custom in some strange places, then you are not likely to be allowed on to the flight. If you are wearing broaches or hat pins and the like which are spotted then they will likely be confiscated.

Whilst you have the right to pack them in your checked baggage, good luck finding that once you are at the gate.  The reality is that once discovered you can kiss goodbye to your favourite dangerous accessories.

Many women are concerned about wearing underwire bras and setting off metal detectors. The thing is, underwire bras may or may not cause a bleep at security gates. It is better to make sure that the wire support is plastic or wear non-wire support like a sports bra.

If you really can’t help it, you’d better have plenty of patience for a body search (which is mercifully quick most of the time).  We do seem to be referring to body searches rather a lot.  I wonder if anyone finds them in the least bit non-objectionable?

Are you a Pass Holder Travelling with a Pass?

For passengers who travel as pass holders, (family members and friends of airline workers with free or discounted flight privileges), you may want to check out the dress code for pass riders.  The rules are different from ordinary passengers.  This is because you’ll be considered, to a certain extent, a representative of the airline company.

United Airlines for example clearly states that pass holders should not wear sleepwear, swimwear, miniskirts, skimpy shorts less than three inches above the knee, midriffs, tight Lycra or spandex tops, pants and dresses as well as shabby and tattered get-ups.  I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not to be honest.

Clothing that may be considered offensive when traveling to Islamic countries.

When traveling to Islamic or other highly religious countries, dress code can be more restrictive.

With Saudi Airlines, for example, revealing clothes also refer to clothing made of thin fabrics, and those that expose too much skin on the arms and legs of women. In men, visible legs are not welcome. You may also be required to wear an abaya or at least a scarf when out in public.

It is better to research on the country of your destination to avoid emergency purchases to cover up your “immodesty” on your arrival.

This dress code is airline regulated and should be followed closely. However, there are also things considered wise not to wear to avoid causing inconvenience to other paying passengers which may lead to disagreements, arguments or heaven forbid, a skirmish 35,000 feet high in the air.

Strongly Smelling Perfume or Eau de Cologne

I wonder what was going on in Cologne at the time that gave someone the urge to make a particularly smelly water to splash on.  Brut..al.

There are perfume zealots out there that everyone can smell from a mile away in open air, never mind 60cm away in the seat next to you.

It doesn’t matter if you ARE wearing the most expensive fragrance on the planet.

Please remember that airplane cabins are pressurized and the air is just circulated round and round.

Got Smell?

An old lady got on a business class cabin when a young woman sits next to her reeking of perfume. The woman turns to the old woman and haughtily announces “Hermès 24 Faubourg – $1,500 an ounce!” Then another young woman occupies the other vacant seat and also arrogantly retorts “Chanel Grand Extrait – $4,200 an ounce!”

The old woman looks nonchalantly at the two, bends over, passes wind and says “Broccoli,  49 cents a pound!”

You might also pause to feel sorry for people who have fragrance allergies and may suffer severe breathing problems if they take so much of a whiff. It is the most unkind thing one could do to a fellow passenger. Why not spread a little kindness and just wear deodorant instead. Put off wearing strong perfume until after the flight.

Smelly Clothing and Body Odor

A strong perfume is already quite distressing inflight, however, the stench of an unwashed hair and body is just too much. This includes wearing dirty shoes and sweat-soaked unlaundered clothing a few days old.

Fun fact: yes, they smell in close quarters.

Also, in the spirit of hygiene, it is considered bad taste to take off your socks and undergarments with other passengers in sight.  If you don’t get it, please refer to the scene in the movie Planes Trains and Automobiles where John Candy takes off his socks right under Steve Martin’s nose. Imagine you are the disgusted seatmate.

Some even take it further and have the gall to air their used garments (damp socks, brassieres, underwear, soiled hankies) on armrests or porthole. If you disbelieve me then you haven’t travelled far enough.

A few saintly souls may be able to bear this state of nastiness but not a few are so unforgiving and may complain to you and the stewardess. Depending on the involved parties’ personalities, this can lead to a full-blown confrontation.

Noisy accessories

Not everybody appreciates the musicality of your ten or more bangles and layered necklaces that go ka-chunk ka-chunk or ka-chink ka-chink. Clinking, clanking and clattering noise may wear on the nerves of weary travelers especially if they have to endure it for a very long journey. That is not exactly most people’s idea of a relaxing flight.

Be wary of your noisy accessories.  Unbeknownst to you, it might trigger severe emotional distress on a seatmate (what’s a seatmate – someone you have intimacy with in the next seat? – Ed) suffering from Misophonia.

It can turn frightfully deadly. You don’t want your life story to be something that Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King would love to turn into a movie.

Misophonia sufferers have selective sound sensitivity syndrome. Most are oral sounds like eating, breathing, chewing, yawning or whistling.  The Misophonia Association lists the top irritants that can cause a trigger:

  • Gum Chewing
  • Eating Sounds
  • Lip Smacking  ……

The list goes on for some way down the page and repeating it here would be as annoying to you, dear reader, as gum chewing, nail clicking sounds might be to our Misophonic friends.

Anyway, apparently mild manifestations can range to feelings of anxiety, discomfort, urge to flee and disgust. However, those on the severe spectrum can elicit harsh responses such as rage, suicidal thoughts or  *gasp*  a desire to kill or stop the cause of the noise.

So seriously consider the noise that your accouterments make. You don’t want to get attacked or have the inconvenience of your plane making an emergency landing to offload a deranged passenger.

Constraining Footwear

There are also several items that are best not to wear on a flight because they can be considered as possible inconveniences,  for reasons of health, safety, comfort, and good plain common sense.

Tight shoes, intricate lace-up or difficult to remove footwear and hold on tight to your seats ladies – high heeled stilettos and platforms –  Shoes that are complicated to put on will be a cause of delays during security checks, remember that all passengers are required to remove their footwear when passing through the metal detector.

For men and women who cannot live without rocking their sky-high kicks be reminded that stumbling while walking on the aisle is quite common on an unsteady moving airplane. You don’t want to be embarrassed.

Tight shoes and stilettos can also increase the chances of flyers on long flights to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Long flights and cramped seats and lengthy inactivity can cause a sluggish circulation leading one to develop a blood clot to the legs.

The blood clot can find its way to the lungs and cause a life-threatening condition called Pulmonary Embolism (PE). It is important to visit a doctor before flying (especially pregnant women and those who gave birth recently) to determine if you are a candidate for DVT.

It is wise to wear comfortable shoes that will keep you relaxed the whole time.

Remember the Bee Gees?

They did wear awfully tight pants.  A simple mnemonic to remind you not to wear a tight dress or tight pants – this is for the same reason as avoiding DVT, as well as the wisdom of avoiding hyperventilation when your precious air supply is being pinched by your restrictive clothing while you remain strapped to your seat for hours on end due to air turbulence.

Open Footwear

Beach Wear, Open Sandals, Flipflops – Though you are attempted to announce to all and sundry that you are headed to an exotic sunny paradise somewhere by wearing attire naturally reserved to the beach,  practice self-restraint.

Aside from the fact that the weather from your point of origin maybe arctic cold and you might have to walk past an uncovered tarmac, the inside temperature of many airplanes is terribly erratic. It may get notoriously chilly the whole 4 or 5 hours flight and you regret that you should have dressed a little more warmly.

Also, though this may be quite far-fetched but still possible, your baggage becomes lost. You only have your flimsy beachwear on and nothing more respectable to change into while you sort out the mess with the airline staff on a busy airport. A good and oft-forgotten point I’d wager.

The same goes for flipflops and sandals, it doesn’t make sense to suffer painfully chilly toes the whole flight, it’s really quite uncomfortable.

And if your toes get trodden upon don’t be complaining now.

Blonde Woman in Coat with Floaty Fibres
Keep Your Floaty Bits to Yourself & Ditch Your Jangly Jewlery

Complicated Clothing

Complicated Dresses like Rompers, jumpsuits, floor-length clothing, and billowy skirts should be avoided too.  Also any clothing with floaty bits like feathers or thin fibres that can detach and float into the next seat’s soup.

Women should always be prepared to use a perennially wet bathroom that is prone to turbulence when flying. You don’t want your long flowing clothing to graze on all the unknown fluids present in a flying toilet.

Likewise, it is also difficult to wriggle in and out of rompers and jumpsuits given the very limited space what with all the shaking and jerking common to a transatlantic flight a mile high or more off the ground!

Be kind to yourself, you don’t want to have a bathroom drama 7 miles up across continents.

The Big Chill Meets the Big Itch

Apart from erratic fluctuations in temperature, other sources of major discomfort are itchy materials.  Fabrics like acrylic, polyester, rayon, acetate, and nylon or lace and wool against bare skin will be a source of major discomfort.

So even if you rock an outfit and it looks good on you, when the cabin becomes warmer, skin will be more easily irritated.  You don’t want to be continuously scratching and wriggling the whole flight because you picked the wrong dress.

“Dress like you are going to church”

This is a sage advice given by a seasoned airline stewardess. Choose low-brow clothing, not one that makes you stand out, choose comfort over style, after all, your most important goal when flying is not to impress, but to have a safe, uneventful comfortable flight towards your destination.

Happy Flying!

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