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The wrinkle-free wardrobe: How to pack your suitcase

Categories: basics

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Here’s a vacation/business travel dilemma: after carefully choosing your on-the-road wardrobe (with special attention to the weather and your schedule), you arrive at your destination to find that everything in your bag is hopelessly wrinkled. After an exhausting day of airports and rental cars, the last thing you want to deal with is ironing.

So let’s talk about how to pack your bag so that nothing wrinkles. Much.

You have a couple of options for reducing the wrinkle factor of your wardrobe. One is to choose fabrics that resist wrinkling — Chico’s Travelers line is specifically designed not to wrinkle, as are Lands’ End No Iron pinpoint and stretch shirts (available in a nice range of colors and patterns, to go with all your work basics). Wool blend fabrics and jersey knits also tend not to wrinkle, because they don’t typically crease — and it’s the creases that cause the wrinkles, of course.

But what about when you’re traveling in the summer, and you don’t want to haul a suitcase full of wool or polyester blends? How can you pack lightweight clothes — linen and cotton — and not get stuck ironing when you get to the beach? Simple: roll everything, rather than folding it.

The strategy behind rolling is simple: the wrinkles in your packed clothing come from creases in the fabric, caused either by folding those pieces or by being crushed into place during travel. Rolling minimizes the creases you are creating in a garment when you pack it, and — even better — minimizes the effort it takes to get those creases out at your destination.

Here’s what you do: lay your clothes out on the bed; gently fold everything length-wise, so that it is no wider than your suitcase. Then roll it up and place the roll in the bag. Start with jeans or pants, as they’re the easiest to do and will give you a feel for rolling. Lay them flat on the bed with the fly facing you; fold them in half, so that the thighs are touching each other. Roll from the waistband. And you’re done! Repeat with dresses, skirts, tees, shorts, etc.

I pack everything this way; I can get more into my suitcase, and it comes out less rumpled. At your destination, take care of any small wrinkles by patting them with a damp washcloth and letting the pieces hang to dry in your closet. Or you can go with the old fashioned method of hanging them on the back of the door while you shower, to steam out wrinkles. Either way, you shouldn’t need to bust out the ironing board during your trip.

If you are carrying garments that cannot be rolled — a fancy embellished dress, say — pack that on the top of the loaded suitcase, wrapped in a dry cleaning bag; the bag will limit creasing. And hang that garment as soon as you get to your destination. I unpack immediately, always, and hang everything that I don’t want wrinkled. It keeps pieces from getting more crushed than needed, and makes me feel settled and ready to face whatever is on my agenda.

What are your strategies for wrinkle-free packing? And while you’re at it, share your tips for living out of a suitcase — I’m learning a lot from you all about making packing easier!

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