10/12/2012 10:59 am ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

Jet-Set Style

I love packing for a trip: standing in front of my closet, thinking of my travel plans and what I'll be wearing for all the different activities I'll be doing at my destination. The art of traveling requires clear, concise reductions in wardrobe, without sacrificing personal style. Factoring in what kind of trip you're taking is also an important variable.

The most chic travelers, the put-together, fresh-off-the-plane ones, whether in coach, business, or even private jet, are, without a doubt, the less-is-more philosophers. Leaving behind your velour tracksuit (that should have been banished from your closet 10 years ago) also helps, but I digress. Let's illustrate the difference. Sometimes to prove a point, we must go to extremes; but I can vouch that each of these women were passengers on the last flight I took.

Her seat is 29J, the blow-up head pillow so practically (cough) accessorized around her neck. You can almost give her credit for an attempt at styling a messy bun, but after noticing the unflattering, oversized sweat pants, you immediately take back any attempt at a silver lining. Flip-flops overwhelm the ensemble. Her look is sobering... I need a drink.

I want to know her process. Was she late? Maybe just off a long flight and had no other idea of how to be comfortable other than to wear pajamas? Is she a gypsy? Is that mustard on those pants and coffee on her shirt? How do those two things even happen in the same meal?! Her bag wont fit easily in the overhead bin, so she empties the contents into her backpack that is also entirely too full. It takes an army of robotic smiling flight attendants to situate her. I don't think it can get any worse, and I know I'm in good company with the rest of the aggravated passengers whose flight has now been delayed due to this disheveled woman's inability to obey the "fasten seat belt" sign. 

I glance across the aisle: What I see is like an oasis of fresh, cool spring water in the middle of the Sahara.

Her seat is 28D. I spy a small, hard case, an efficient handbag for a carry on, a blazer and a scarf, in case it's cold, over a simple basic tee. Layering: A smart concept for travel, don't you agree? You have to give her credit for an easy, dark stretch denim for comfort and a stylish flat to be sensible. She's in her mid-sixties, obviously well-traveled and effortlessly pulled together. No fuss, less stuff. I want to know her process. I bet she wasn't worried about being late. She's wearing very few accessories... for less hassle at security? Her easy-to-access laptop bag fit cleanly under the seat in front of her. 

Coach truly is a melting pot these days.

It used to be sexy to fly, a luxury to travel to a different place, with a cocktail in hand, on the way to vacation with a good friend or lover. While airlines are somewhat to blame, the ever-increasing casualization of travel is becoming more like an episode of Hoarders rather than an elegant trip over seas. 

Just because your ticket says "coach" does not mean you can't look like you fly business class. Take it from 28D: Minimalism will always have a place in travel. Maybe, the difference between these two women is their age, or their confidence and a personal feeling of self worth. All women should take enough pride in themselves to look presentable, no matter the circumstance. Streamlining yourself and your luggage for a flight will give you much more time and ability to enjoy your vacation. One feeds off of the other: If you are prepared for travel with minimal accessories, layered options and comfortable, yet stylish, shoes and pants, you will undoubtedly be less stressed and more refreshed when reaching your destination.

If you want to over pack and wear sweatpants, that's your prerogative. But, consider what it does to your psyche, and to the psyche of others around you. Planes are unhygienic enough as it is; don't add to the problem with dirty hair and clothing. In flight, comfort is nothing when your bags are too heavy and you can't find anything, and you've spent your souvenir budget on the overweight baggage charge. Visualize 28D. This woman is the future.

My top tips for traveling:
- Accessories left to a minimum: We all know about detectors; leave jewelry safe in a carry-on.
- Denim or a chic silk pant is a great idea for long flights. Something that will hold its shape to prevent wrinkles and still allow for comfort.
- Style with a scarf: Temps change quickly in flight, and it's easy to stuff in your bag if you don't need it.
- Proper luggage, and knowing what you'll need and how to pack it. 
- Smart footwear. It needs to be comfortable for standing, easy to remove when sitting and stylish as a rule. Think ballet flats or Tod's loafers.
- Organized carry-on. If a bag goes into the overhead bin, it should stay there for the remainder of the flight. Keep a small purse or laptop bag stocked with the essentials and under the seat in front of you.

Travel may not carry the glamour of days gone by, but by trying to make a flight more comfortable we've ended up ruining any of the magic that was left in flying, not to mention nationally driven down our style status with every neck pillow worn as a choker. Yet, there is hope. We can reclaim our right to be comfortable and chic on a plane by easily removing excess and dressing for a casual dinner rather than a sick day in bed. Try it once, see how it feels to walk off a plane being able to go right to a public place without having to schlepp your overweight bag to a taxi.

We could all use less clutter, and what better a place to trim it than in a crowded Boeing 747?