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Anya Meyerowitz

Guest Luxury Lifestyle & Travel Writer



What to Wear to the Airport

An airport is much more than just a terminal for planes and their ever-rotating passengers; it’s a place of promise, where the pervading scent of sun cream mixed with high end perfumes that wafts through the Duty Free cause us to positively prickle with. It’s a place where suddenly sushi for breakfast and champagne before 11am are not only acceptable, but encouraged, and somewhere that the smiles of those passing through seem brighter, bigger and bolder than perhaps anywhere else in the country. It is, in fact, an entire runway of its very own. In short, an airport is a destination all of its own, and so too is the plane journey that follows.

Much is said about the ideal travelling ensemble, and what to wear to the airport is a conversation that echoes around well-heeled households up and down the UK. You want to feel comfortable yet put together, to be aware of layers that you can peel off as soon as you hit the ground at your destination but also pull up to your neck while the aircon onboard bellows. Perhaps you’re headed straight to a cross-Atlantic business meeting, so you want to look put together without feeling confined and, if you’re flying long haul, it’s likely you’re looking to condense your entire comfies wardrobe into a chic carry-on.

The process of going through an airport with its endless security checks might not be glamorous, but you certainly can be. Here’s what to wear to the airport that doesn’t compromise on cool-points or comfort - we might be saying bon voyage to our day-to-day stresses back home, but we’re unequivocally not waving off our sense of style.

If we must dash through the terminal, we’re certainly going to look polished doing so.

Lightweight cardigan

Not only is a lightweight cardigan the ultimate transitional piece when it comes to the seasons, it’s also going to seamlessly transport you from airport to plane to baggage claim and ensure you stay feeling snug throughout. And the good news is that the days where a cardy coverup was immediate fashion suicide, the once-humble outerwear is now keeping many of the country’s fashion darlings cosier than they’ve ever been. A lightweight cardigan - whether you opt for a soft neutral or a statement patterned piece - is also an effective way of softening an outfit, and can easily be removed upon arrival without lumbering you with more heavy items to carry (duty-free perfumes, we’re looking at you).

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Flat shoes

Though we’ve all seen Victoria Beckham striding through the terminal in stilettos, we’re grateful that such is the breadth of comfortable flat shoes out there today, that we no longer need to decide between being able to dash through passport control or queue for the gate in comfort and looking chic. And even better when said flat shoe is versatile enough that we can wear it once we reach our destination too, thus saving precious space in our already overstuffed suitcase.

Chunky mules are undoubtedly the fashion-forward footwear of the summer, and opting for an open-toe version means that your feet will stay aerated at every step of your journey. And, as oversized buckles and metallic flourishes continue to enjoy their moment in the sartorial sun, making a statement has never been easier.

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Oversized blazer

An oversized blazer covers all sins (and distracts from those inevitable under eye bags thanks to an extraordinarily early wakeup call) and is easy to pluck straight off the haute couture runway and onto a runway of a different kind entirely. When styled right, the purposefully ill-fitting, tailored piece offers a slick combo of relaxed, pulled-together and chic. It’s a timeless trick up the sleeve of the country’s most competently-clad inhabitants, that ‘throwing’ an effortlessly cool, gloriously oversized blazer over any look, can immediately elevate it. Pair with an oversized jumper and trousers, a shirt dress (see below for inspo) or even shorts and a vest top, and you’ve got yourself a terminally trendy, off-duty (or, off-to-duty-free as the case may be) look.

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A mere five years ago, wearing a shirt anywhere except to a business meeting wasn’t a sartorial decision that screamed ‘up-to-date’. However, the re-emergence of effortless textiles like cotton, linen and denim have given the shirt the kiss of life, and can be paired with leggings or joggers to upgrade a more humble, casual airport outfit to a more elevated option.

Universally flattering and multifaceted in its design, linen can be easily worn with shorts or a maxi skirt once you reach your destination, while a hardy denim option will work hard in your wardrobe for years to come.

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Cami tops

While the white t-shirt reigns supreme as the ultimate basic top, a cami or vest remains a core part of our wardrobes all year round. Subvert the seasonal-trend by opting for a rib-knit version, bringing its own sleeveless revival to the winter staple, while a v-neck version is an easily-flattering option and creates a slinky silhouette when paired with tailored trousers. In general though, you can layer any of our handpicked options below with cardigans or jackets or simply add off-white jeans or a slit midi skirt to really turn heads during your passport-queue prance.

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When it comes to trousers to travel in, our ever-evolving checklist is one full of non-negotiables, each just as important as the next. We ask that they are versatile enough to wear straight off the plane and into a business luncheon; be comfortable enough to withstand the complex contortions we end up in when trying to catch sleep on a long-haul flight; and pair perfectly with the rest of our wardrobe so that they may be worn on multiple days throughout our trip. Along with those requirements are a handful of secondary concerns like wrinkle resistance, technical fabric, and of course — pockets. In short, finding the right pair is no easy feat, even for the most fashion-savvy among us, however, there are a few key materials and styles to stick to that will never lead you astray.

Wide-leg trousers have been a staple ever since they dropped back onto our radars a few years back. As silhouettes loosened up and we kissed goodbye to all things body-con and spray-on, this cut began to overtake jeans as the fashion pack's go-to. Comfortable, relaxed and elegant all at the same time, these voluminous pants are the answer to every dress code conundrum out there - opt for a mid-weight crepe, with generous pleats for easy styling.

Linen trousers too - as we mentioned, their revival has been meteoric - are a smart sartorial choice when it comes to both the airport and the plane journey beyond. This natural fabric is breathable and highly absorbent, and - what makes them so adept for travellers heading to sun-soaked destinations - is the low thread count of the flax plant-derived material. Linen’s proneness to creasing gives it a certain laissez-faire feel that, dare we say it, hides a multitude of sins when it comes to that slightly ‘creped’ look that many of our outfits assume post-flight.

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Leather jacket

Is there anything more debonair than trusting your leather jacket around your shoulders and sauntering through the airport, your carry-on neatly at your side? Not to mention that, if chosen well, outerwear of this kind boast a sort of gravitas, a staying power and the promise that, rather than wearing out, they’ll get ever more endearing as they age. It can turn neutral styling into an edgy statement and give a more feminine airport outfit a more hardened, modern feel. In short, a leather jacket possesses an almost uncanny power - they manage to evoke cool confidence, romance, daring, and dynamism - all at the same time.

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Long travel days call for comfort - and leggings are the undisputed garbs of this category. With soft waistbands, they can move with you as you sprint to your gate, and they’re breathable, so you’re bound to feel fresher than the average passenger as you disembark upon arrival at your destination. They go with with everything, from a hoodie to a pressed white shirt to a tailored blazer to a cashmere roll neck to a floor length coat, and they’re perhaps the easiest the shimmy into when you arise, bleary-eyed, at some unholy hour to start the laborious trek to the airport.

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Shirt dress

“Less is more” is never more relevant than when the temperatures rise, and layers are cast off in favour of easy separates. Yet, in the specific and solitary world of the airport, this isn’t always the case. Which is why, in our opinion, the shirt dress reigns supreme in this department: it allows you to abide by the first statement once you reach your (hopefully) sun-soaked destination, but it’s a versatile shape and blank canvas for layering as you brave the varying temperatures of the home to terminal to destination transition.

As ever, we’re championing linen, but paying attention to the smaller details also pays dividends too when it comes to this particular sartorial category: look out for glossy metallic details on the buttons and belt buckle, flattering cap sleeves and utility style pockets to bring the considered look up-to-date or opt for an asymmetrical black version to make an understated impact.

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We used to be of the opinion that you were either a shorts person, or not, however, our stance is now that, if you think you’re not a shorts person, you just haven’t found the right pair… yet. These structured summertime counterparts are no longer the lesser-favoured sibling of the midi skirt, and merit an invite onboard all on their own. Not only will they work hard once you actually reach your destination, they’re also an airy, breathable way to travel. Opt for a high-waisted version to cinch in the waist and create a flattering feel to the outfit (lord knows we need it after all those plane snacks we plan on devouring) or give a nod to the utility trend with oversized patch pockets or a double-buttoned waistband.

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No stylish sunseeker worth their salt is going to be donning swimwear to the airport, but the savviest among us know that keeping it in your carry-on for immediate access is a must for maximising downtime. Whether you don’t intend to even wait for the bellboy to bring up your luggage before hitting the beach or you’ve been burned by losing luggage in transit before - sacré bleu! - keeping a bikini or a one-piece to hand is never a bad idea.

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