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Air wear: Be mindful of clothing choices, scents while travelling

Passengers wait to rebook their flights at Pierre Trudeau airport Friday, March 23, 2012 in Montreal. With no formal dress code among Canada's major airlines, the decision of what to wear is left to the discretion of passengers. But even in lieu of firm guidelines, travel and etiquette experts say passengers should be mindful of what they choose to wear in the air. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

TORONTO - Faced with long lineups, security checks and idling in the lounge prior to takeoff, even a short-haul flight can feel lengthy for travellers taking to the skies these days.

Perhaps in a bid to stay comfortable, many seem to have embraced a decidedly casual dress code when boarding a plane.

Media representatives from Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines told The Canadian Press they don't have formal dress code policies for passengers. But carriers south of the border have made headlines for cracking down on the sartorial selections of passengers.

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight last year for wearing saggy pants. And in June, the same airline told a passenger to cover her cleavage (they later apologized and offered her a refund). The airline's contract of carriage says they may remove or refuse to transport passengers whose clothing is "lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."

But even in lieu of formal guidelines among major Canadian carriers, travel and etiquette experts say passengers should be mindful of what they choose to wear in the air.

Aside from comfort, the reason for travel and where they're heading are all key considerations in choice of dress, said Laurel Mayne, Toronto-based marketing manager for Mayne Travel in North Bay, Ont.

Those travelling for business will want to dress professionally, while individuals will need to be aware when heading to more conservative countries where they may need to keep parts of their body covered, she noted.

"You just have to be sensitive of other people around you. That's kind of what it comes down to. And those guidelines are going to change depending on your purpose for travel and your destination."

While those heading to sun-soaked hotspots may want to be decked out and ready to greet the warmer weather from the moment of touch-down, Mayne said that isn't necessarily required for the flight itself.

"I understand that people want to dress for the climate they're going to. The climate onboard the plane is controlled, so you're not going to be hot," she said. "You don't need to dress in beach apparel on the plane."

For the journey itself, Mayne recommends keeping add-ons spare.

"Jewelry, belts, buckles — all those accessories that we love day-to-day, they just slow you down. People lose them in the scanner, so it's really better to travel light."

"In terms of fragrance and fashion ... everybody's going to have their own style," she added. "For comfort in a small space, dress loosely, and dress in layers. You're in a section with other people. You don't want to be sitting next to the guy in a Speedo and a tank top. And he doesn't want to sit with you like that, either."

Mindfulness doesn't just extend to the wardrobe. People should be wary before spritzing on scents as many people have sensitivities to fragrances, noted Joanne Blake, president of Style for Success, an Edmonton-based firm specializing in business etiquette and image consultancy.

"There are some perfumes that actually give me a headache, so when you're in close proximity to someone it just magnifies that," she said. "I suggest that for travel it's best to forgo them all together, but use an unscented deodorant because body odour is also magnified. Also, wear natural fabrics as opposed to synthetic fabrics which don't breathe and tends to trap odours."

Both Blake and Mayne agree pashminas are stylish, versatile accessories for travel.

"Pashminas are great. On airplanes, the air is either too cold or too hot, and wearing layers you can put on and remove easily are a big plus," said Blake. "So pashminas can also double as a blanket and they can dress a look up."

Blake also believes there's a great advantage to dressing up for flights.

"(There's) a greater chance you'll be treated better by airplane personnel, and possibly, even security," she said. "There's a chance you'll run into people, clients and colleagues, so you don't end up having to apologize for being overly casual. And then your destination and the people that will be meeting you should be another important consideration."

Blake said she can recall being upgraded to first class on more than one occasion because of her tendency to dress up for flights — a practice she still maintains.

"Certainly, the standards have become much more relaxed. I look at it as part of branding, because you never know who you're going to run into, who you're going to have a conversation with next to you."

Blake recently sent an email to someone who'd expressed interest in one of Style for Success's programs whom Blake had originally met while on a plane.

"If I was dressed in a schleppy fashion, that probably wouldn't have happened," she said.

Even when she's taking a more casual approach to airline dress, Blake said she'll wear a more "professional jean," opting for dark-wash denim as opposed to a more casual, sandwashed pair with holes.

Blake recalled picking up a speaker at the airport who arrived in comfortable sweats — attire not suitable for the presentation she was to give that evening. Trouble was, her suitcase didn't arrive with her, leaving them scrambling to find an appropriate ensemble.

"If there's a small chance your luggage is going to get waylaid, sure, it will probably turn up, but oftentimes not when you need it," she said. "You can always bring an extra pair of shoes in your carry-on and have your jacket with you just in case.

"I'll sometimes travel in a nice sweater, and then I'll have my jacket so I can put that on for the formal meeting when my client either greets me at the airport or I take a cab to their office or what have you. So expect the unexpected."



Mayne Travel:

Style for Success:

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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