With respect to the debate that has raged on the Letters pages over the past week, denim is not only self-evidently the foremost fashion fabric of our time – it is the right fabric. True, it began as workwear for the labouring man. But since we’re all workers now, even those of us married to oligarchs (see contracts, wives’ bonuses and pre-nups), denim fits the bill nicely. And talking of the bill, to the reader who wittily pointed out that by the time we can afford the not-so-small one for designer denim, we’re in no fit state to wear it – I’d argue the point of designer denim is that it makes all of us look significantly fitter.
Where denim comes into its own is 35,000 feet up. Was it Buddha or Robert Louis Stevenson who said “’tis better to travel hopefully than to arrive?” I don’t suppose either ever sat behind Kate Moss on an easyJet flight. Even without a drunken rant, travelling these days is emphatically not better than arriving. But could the right outfit elevate proceedings and behaviour? (By the way, Mossy did look chic in that pyjama suit she wore on the now infamous detox holiday. That would have been pretty perfect for the flight.)
Clearly there is no such thing as a universally perfect travel outfit. Perfection is an elusive myth (see Buddha, chapters one to infinity) and we’re all different (see Frozen: The Lyrics ). But there is close to ideal. There is smart yet comfortable, stylish yet laid-back, crease-proof yet not Crimplene.
In short, there is denim. The dark denims fashionable at the moment are the most sartorially versatile, crease-proof and scrub up well at the other end. Acne’s Shore and Raw styles (£260; Acne Studios ) are excellent: tailored, mid-rise, with an elegant loosely cut leg. Whistles’ navy or black Slim Straight jeans , which kick out subtly at the ankle (now in the sale for £47.50; Whistles ) are good too. They’re a bit stiff for sleeping in – so, given that no one needs to see you in actual pyjamas, roll some leggings into the smallest corner of your carry-on.
Speaking of which, keep the carry-on bag light but structured, not too large (or you’ll just fill it with junk), and very smart. At the other end, your glossy bag (and sunglasses) will be your talismen when it comes to shoring up imminent outfit collapse. If you’re taking a trolley case in the cabin, I recommend one with an external sleeve for newspapers, documents and easy access to your laptop.
If denim doesn’t do it for you, dark or khaki cotton drills are lovely and soft, ergo good for sleeping in. But they’re a more casual option. Wear them with layers of light, good quality, long-sleeved
T-shirts in muted shades. I never travel without a DKNY Cozy – I recently picked up three of these drapey, lightweight cardigans for $ 100 at a US outlet. You can wear them in myriad ways to keep the air-conditioning at bay and then style as a scarf when you slip on something more tailored to disembark.
You do want some tailoring, by the way, whether it’s a blazer, a coat or a sleeveless trench. If you can fit in a pre-flight blow-dry – get your stylist to bouff it up more than usual – you’ll feel miraculously groomed upon landing.
If you need to look even more dressed up, a silk or chiffon blouse, neatly stashed in the overhead locker should do the trick. Sleep in a tank vest, which can then be worn under your blouse or T-shirt when you get dressed again.
The insane temperature fluctuations on planes and trains make dresses and skirts challenging, unless you relish the sensation of an eight-hour menopausal flush. But if you insist, something un-crushable, shapely but not tight, is best – cabin pressure has a bad habit of making your entire body swell. Patterns will play down creases.
Unless you’re going directly from red-eye to board meeting with Victoria Beckham and Michelle Obama (one’s six foot, the other stands on the sartorial equivalent of a chair) you don’t need heels. A pair of slip-on flatforms (what did we do before Céline and Prada made these a fashionable evergreen?) are the answer, allowing for a change in foot size and adapting to practically any dress code.
A metallic pair of skate shoes with a trouser suit will easily take you through most work situations, if there’s no time to change. I like Joshua Sanders’s silver embossed leather pair (£190; Avenue 32 ) and the original Vans in bronze (£51.99; Office ) not least because their thick white soles comfortably add height. Clarks’ desert boots (from £89; Clarks ) are another stylish possibility, but you’ll need to wear them with rolled up trousers. If heels are non-negotiable, then I hear reports that Sargossa’s styles (from £215; Sargossa ) are the closest thing to walking on a cloud you’ll want to experience on a plane.
We can’t leave the foot region before talking about flight socks. Is there anything less jet-set? But you need them, to avoid feet and ankles the size of an airbus. Buy black ones rather than “flesh” and no one will be the wiser.
The Victorian explorers got it right in an era that was low on Lycra and Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream. They prepared for travel as an event, whereas we see it as an inconvenient hurdle to be bolted over or, in extremis, smashed through, self-medicated with a few miniature bottles of vodka. Speaking of Eight Hour Cream – yes, yes, yes. Use it wherever relief is required, plus This Works’ wonderful lavender Pillow Spray ( £16 for 50ml ) and gentle In Transit rosewater wipes (£17 for 60 pads; This Works ), Burt’s Bees unctuous Carrot Nutritive Night Creme , (£15.99; Burts Bees ) slathered on while you sleep or catch up on box sets, and MV Organic’s Rose Hydrating Mist (£28; Cult Beauty ). If you really want to turn your journey into a mini spa break, Antonia Burrell’s 7-in-1 Mask Supreme (£57; Amazon ).
To combat that time-zoned-out system meltdown, I swear by Cyto-Night sleep regulating powder (£10.47 for 80g; Cytoplan ), and Solgar’s D-Ribose energy supplement powder (£27.95 for 150g; Amazon ). Both are recommended by nutritionalists and are mild but effective. A squirt of Batiste’s travel size dry shampoo (£1.50; Superdrug ) before landing to add what hair dressers call “guts” to your hair, and by the time you’re through immigration, it – and you – should be at peak buoyancy. Or at least able to fake it.
DKNY Cosies ; Kick-flare jeans, £47.50, Whistles
By Lisa Armstrong