Leggings, Jeggings, Tights – What Can You Wear to Fly?

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With all of the hubbub over leggings and United Airlines yesterday, many have been left scratching their heads wondering “what can you wear to fly?”

The answer is still simple “almost anything you want – within the bounds of decency”.  That’s not to say that is what you SHOULD wear.  I know that when the paparazzi catches the celebrities deplaning at LAX, it’s not the ragtag fashions that catch my eye.

There are plenty of self-appointed arbiters of personal style and passenger shaming ready to call you out on anything inappropriate.  And lest the airline try to enforce a rule (whether it be decency for a revenue passenger or the dress code for a non-revenue one), there are always social media tattletales standing ready to tell their altered version of the story.

You should, however, dress in accordance with the policies of the supplier of your ticket.  In my case, that is often my employer, which means I follow their required business casual dress code when traveling for work (and have my own travel uniform for doing so).

No one appointed me to serve as the fashion police.  But I do hold some pretty strong opinions about dressing to fly so I have a few opinions about what exactly constitutes decent these days.  What is the boundary between leggings versus tights?  What can you wear to fly and not be totally offensive?

Of course the feminist in me would like to answer “whatever you want” or “whatever you can get away with”.  But the truth is, I know I’m treated much better when I look great.  So I’m going to offer the opinion I’d give to a younger colleague or friend which is the one that takes the interest of mutual respect.

So… leggings, jeggings, or tights?  Let’s see…

Slim fit pants

First off.. the slim fit pant.  This is always an appropriate choice.  It looks great with a jacket or top (tucked in or out) and it’s comfortable.  You can wear it straight from the plane to a client and its versatile.  An absolute win.

what can you wear to fly

YES… these work!


I’m a huge fan of jeggings.  When they first came out, they were not an appropriate business pant, but now that they make them in luxe fabrics, they can be a win with the right fit and color.  Be sure you have an appropriate fit and finish before wearing for work.  If they are too thin or skimpy, they may be too casual for work wear.  But these are almost always airplane appropriate.

what can you wear to fly

Yes… these will usually fly, provided they meet your business needs.


Ahhh… the currently controversial legging.  I used to be in the “leggings are not pants” category but I’ve slowly been won over in the past few years.  I now believe that leggings are sometimes pants IF the fit is good (no camel toe, no panty lines) and the fabric is thick enough to not be see-through.  I still think that almost all adult women would benefit from a top that covers the tush and torso though.  I also cannot think of a situation where leggings are business appropriate unless you work at Lululemon or are a yoga instructor.  Sorry.  As for airplane appropriate, the same rules above apply.

what can you wear to fly

Maybe… proceed with caution!

Leggings bordering on tights

There is no grey area here.  These are not pants unless are appearing in a Candies shoe ad from the 1980s.  Otherwise you need to add a skirt or dress or you are not appropriately dressed.

what can you wear to fly

Danger zone… what are you wearing with these and where are you headed when you land?


These are undergarments.  Period.  I love a good pair of tights, but leave them under a skirt or dress where they belong.

what can you wear to fly

NO… unless you are wearing them as undergarments!

While I do not make the airline rules, the next time I am asked “what can you wear to fly”, I will point to these rules as a starting mark.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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