Since coming out West for college, about four years ago, I’ve put in about 40,000 miles traveling for work, holidays, and friend’s weddings. (Nothing compared to Tom Stuker). The most frustrating thing for me is traveling with nicer clothes–button downs, slacks, etc–since they always end up wrinkled. Over the summer I flew out to Maryland for a buddy’s wedding; when I got there the white shirt I packed looked terrible, so, of course, I tried to iron it. Turns out, not every iron is as effective or as clean as the one’s in our plant. I ended up having to toss the shirt out.
I’ve learned a few tips, pressing pants and pulling wrinkles out of jackets, to help keep your clothes looking great while traveling. Get ready to learn how to pack like a travel ninja!
How to Pack the Suit
Perhaps the most difficult thing to pack is a business suit. The pants are one thing, and I’ll get to those, but that suit jacket is a whole other beast. Some people will just wear a jacket on the plane. This is a very effective and easy option; although, after having numerous drinks spilled on me, I tend to forgo it. Folding a suit jacket, or the stand-alone blazer, can be as mysterious as folding a fitted sheet (which we will kindly share later). It actually is rather simple and rather effective at keeping it looking nice.
The first step: grab your jacket from behind by both shoulders. Next, flip up the collar and lapels. Take the left shoulder and turn it inside out (note that you don’t have to pull the left sleeve through, just the shoulder). After that, fold the jacket in half, inside out, tucking the right shoulder into the left. Your jacket should now be completely turned out and folded in half with no sleeves sticking out. Check out how Mark from the Ike Behar store does it.
Now that you have a nice jacket all inside out, you can do one of two things depending on how you pack your trousers. There’s the traditional two fold or the roll up. For the two fold: match the two front belt loops together, line up the creases on both legs, lay them flat and fold lengthwise. Instead of folding them in half lengthwise, simply roll the pants from the hem up to the waistband. Rolling reduces any strong wrinkling associated with folding.
You’ll notice that Mark demonstrates the first method. Saving on space he places the pants right on top of the jacket and then folds it in thirds. The other option is to take your rolled pants and stick them in the shoulders of your jacket and roll your entire suit around the pants from the shoulder downwards. Rolling your clothes reduces more wrinkles and, actually, takes up less space. With each of these methods, you should still take your clothes out of the bag when you get to your hotel and put them on hangers. If you have any small wrinkles you can hang it up in the bathroom while taking a hot shower and the steam will pull out a few of them out.
How to Pack the Dress Shirt
You may have heard, seen, or, heck, even invented new ways to fold your dress shirt for the long haul. Some people just fold it normally; others, roll it. Then there’s still others that just jam it in the bag hoping for a decent iron on the other side (like I’m guilty of). We’ve found that it’s best to fold the shirt around a piece of cardboard, held in place with a paper band, and then placed in garment bag. The shirt stays crisp and clean and packs up nicely since it’s so flat. If you have any cardboard lying around, around 8″ x 11″, you can keep your shirt looking nice.
Starting from the collar, button every other button (there’s no better way to describe it) all the way down. Lay it button side down on a flat, clean surface. Place the cardboard at the base of the collar and equally spaced between the two shoulders. You can then fold the shirt as you normally would; just take care that the sleeves and body of the shirt roughly match the size of cardboard you are using. Placing a band around the shirt will keep it in place (we use a long, narrow sheet of paper that doesn’t constrict the shirt and leave “pucker” wrinkles). Roll up your belt and place it inside the collar to keep it from getting smashed down.
As with the suit, remove it once you get to your destination and hang it up. You might notice a few wrinkles along the cardboard, but these are significantly reduce from simply folding the shirt. The piece of cardboard immobilizes it and keeps it from wrinkling like it would normally. You can always hang it up in the bathroom while taking a warm shower. Or, you can always try to find an available iron (just check to make sure it’s clean).
There are countless items to pack and just as many ways of packing, but these are two quick tips that will save you some time and stress. Now you just need to sign up for that yoga class so you can pack yourself in a carry-on. Stay looking your best. Cheers!