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posted: 8/1/2010 12:01 AM

Get ready for takeoff - clothes that is: Tips for traveling light

Air Pockets

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What do you wear when you fly?

Doug Wood wears a vest. It has 30 pockets. He keeps his camera, computer, Walkman, phone and his toiletry kit in it. It even holds a change of clothes. When he gets to security, he just slips the vest off, puts it on the belt and breezes through.

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"It makes flying easier," Wood said. "On an overnight trip, I don't even need an extra bag."

Jean Cowden wears black. She carries a small duffel because she refuses to pay for checking a bag.

"I used to bring my wheelies, but they're too heavy to lift into the overhead bin," Cowden said. "And many of the flight attendants refuse to help." So she packs light and limits her wardrobe to an extra black T-shirt. She adds a colorful scarf for each day she's gone. She says it makes her feel like she has several outfits.

My Aunt Edith hates removing clothes at security. So she wears pants with elastic waistbands. She leaves all jewelry at home. But her fashion statement is her footwear.

"I don't wear any," says Edith. "I wear hospital, disposable shoe covers and pack my real shoes in my carry-on bag."

She probably avoids a lot of foot fungi by not "baring her sole." But I digress.

Mabel Witchurch is a sleeper in the fashion world when she travels. Literally. She wears pajamas. Witchurch travels overseas a lot and finds flannel pajama bottoms and fleece nightshirts more comfortable than daytime attire. And because other travelers are so concerned about keeping track of their luggage and making their flights, nobody ever notices she's dressed in "evening" attire.

Dave Johnson used to wear business attire when he flew. But after his flight last week from Chicago to Denver, he says he might start wearing a plastic poncho. Johnson was seated next to a 2-year-old who had mastered pouring Hawaiian Punch out of a nonpourable cup.

"Sippy cups should be renamed 'Drippy cups,'" said Johnson, whose white dress shirt looked tie-dyed by the end of the flight.

In the glory days of flying, travelers dressed in their best. Ladies wore suits with high heels and matching bags. Men wore suits with wingtips and matching briefcases. They all carried leather. After deregulation when flying was no longer limited to the rich and famous, cutoffs and flip-flops became familiar and nothing matched.

Now that terrorism rules the runway and security agents make you feel like you're on the 10-most-wanted list, dressing for success focuses more on just making it through security and on the aircraft without losing your shirt - both literally and figuratively.

With body scans revealing more about us than we would ever want anyone to know, I wonder what the travel wardrobe of the future will be. Do you remember the advertising campaign several years ago which said, "I dreamed I flew to Europe in my Maidenform bra"? Last week, I watched a security agent require a lady to remove a short-sleeved button down shirt from over a T-shirt. If airport security requires us to take much more off, that dream might become a reality.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at gailtodd@aol.com.

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