At least once a year, in the fickle world of fashion, you can rely absolutely on two things. First, you will see a nautical-but-nice story; second you will find a story shot in an airport the way airports used to be, with a beautiful model striding down the tarmac with a neat suit, high heels and a small hat box of some sort. This is the way people like to think of travel outfits - smart, stylish, chic. This is not the way it is. In the good old days, when travelling was an event, we may have made an effort. Today travel is part of nearly everyone's life and we like to do it in comfort. One whole morning spent at Heathrow's Terminal Four proved this: in our search for style, we found only two people that had made any sort of effort whatsoever, and one of them worked for British Airways. Even the Concorde lounge was disappointing.

Of course, why should we make an effort to look good, but be uncomfortable? Who wants to sit bolt upright in an attempt to stop linen creasing? No, you want to be able to lounge around, sit with your legs apart (although if you're a man you can do this anyway), sleep if you have to, and not worry about hand luggage eating your 10 denier tights. But also, you want to look stylish. Is it possible to have it all?

If you want to wear a short skirt, for goodness sake carry something to put over your lap (a big, stylish scarf is good for this) because your skirt will ride up and people will be able to see your knickers. If you will insist on wearing sheer tights you must do what those lists always tell you to and carry a spare pair because you will snag them. But a good compromise in the short skirt department is a floaty skirt style that can fan around your thighs if you curl up, a nippy T-shirt with a cosy jumper (but nothing with applique) over the top. A big chiffon or wool throw is always a good thing to have anyway, (see Debbie's tip, below) because you can make it into a pillow or blanket, throw it stylishly around your shoulders to hide creases; and if things get really bad, you can put it over your head and pretend you are in mourning or foreign.

Much better to wear trousers, though, and nothing too tight (remember the urban myth of the woman on a transatlantic flight who had to be surgically removed from her jeans because her legs swelled so). A black jacket and matching trousers is perfect. In winter you can wear a neat polo neck underneath, tucked in and belted; in summer a tightish T-shirt. But, I hear you cry, I am fat and things like that don't look good on me, I can't tuck things in. OK, wear a loose tunic (scarf billowing behind), and it doesn't matter if the hem peeks out from under the jacket - this is fashion, after all. Fabrics such as jersey are preferable to cotton because they crease less, ditto fabrics containing fibres such as viscose, Tencel or Tactel. Man-made or synthetic fibres have evolved so that they don't induce perspiration like they used to.

If you're a man, or just into men's shirts, you may well wish to consider Van Heusen's non-iron shirts. Although they crease like any shirt, on a long haul flight you can take it off, spray it with Evian and watch the creases fall out. They come in heaps of colours and patterns, prices start at pounds 30, call 01773 727546 for stockists. Another good little idea comes from a company called Stowaway who make stretch jersey pieces (prices start at pounds 19.99, available from Heathrow Terminal Two, call 0171 431 1040 for further stockists) that scrunch up tiny and fit into their own integral pocket. So you can travel looking like a tramp and then change into a spare dress to look gorgeous for your arrival. If all else fails remember that a pair of sunglasses will always add instant style to all but the most horrid of shell suits. Beverley Cable, PR for Clements Ribeiro, Biba and Space NK: "I was brought up to think you should look smart when you travel, but I am conscious of comfort. I always wear trousers - it's easy to put your legs up and you can't curl up wearing a skirt. I don't wear linen - it creases too much; I wear a small-cut cotton T-shirt, a sweater, cardigan and maybe carry on a coat - I get cold on planes. And my JP Tods booties; I bought them in New York and they're the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn."

Ben de Lisi, designer: "Black jersey trousers that I made for myself, and a shirt. As soon as I get on the plane I take my shirt out of my trousers, put my cashmere sweater on and loosen my belt. I always wear new Calvin's when I'm travelling, rather than something you normally have at the bottom of the drawer; there's nothing worse than uncomfortable underwear."

Debbie Lovejoy, muse and business partner of designer Ben de Lisi: "I wear slim black trousers and a jersey T-shirt or tunic, and a cashmere sweater, always black. I love the idea of travelling in a crisp white shirt but it would go all grubby. I also travel with a huge chiffon scarf that I sleep under on the night flight back from New York - I hate those blankets they give you. Shoes? Something like my Prada loafers.

Sarah Jackson, fashion assistant: "Something comfortable and not too tight, like hipsters and a cropped top and maybe a little jacket to keep warm. In summer I'd wear sandals, in winter boots. Flat shoes? No, I don't own any apart from trainers and I only wear them to and from the beach, but I might wear my Chipie trainers because they're designer."

Zoe Brown, PR for Vivienne Westwood: "I always travel in a Vivienne Westwood suit of course, and high heels. That's if I'm travelling for business, in which case I think you should look smart. If I'm travelling for pleasure I wear loose trousers and a T-shirt. I try to look stylish but then I think, 'Stuff it, I'll be getting into a bikini as soon as I get there so who cares.' But my toe and finger nails are always painted - that's a key stylish travel tip!"