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How to Pack a Suit for Travel Without Wrinkling It
What’s the best way to pack a suit? Whether you’re trying to pack for your airline carry-on, or simply get your suit to your wedding in pristine condition, the last thing you want to do is damage it or crease it so it can’t be worn on the other side. Today, the team of expert tailors from Oliver Wicks takes an in-depth look at how to properly pack your suit for convenience and safety, without having a wrinkled mess to sort out at the end of the trip.
Did you know that the number one cause of wrinkles and other issues when packing a suit, for airline travel particularly, is simply overpacking? Because of those funky weight limits, we cram as much as possible into each bag, and it is really not the way to go with something as expensive and important as your best suit. Years ago, we’d use a garment bag to carry the suit onto the plane separately, but with carry-on luggage becoming ever more limited, that’s no longer quite as practical as it once was—you probably need more than just your suit and laptop on the plane, right?
Garment bags certainly still have their uses—if you’re traveling by car, for example, one will be invaluable to help your suit arrive in one piece. And you may like to use one to hang your suit in when you arrive at your destination. But for airline travel, we advise ensuring you have a high-quality, sturdy piece of luggage instead. One with sufficient room to fit all your items in without cramping them. Make sure it has a hard shell or stiff sides to protect your suit and other items from the jostling in the cargo hold. It’s important to make sure that the suit that fits you also fits your luggage well, so you don’t damage the garment. This preparation will pay you back when you look fitted, tailored, and amazing on the other side.
If you’re able to squeeze it into your luggage allowance, a small hand garment steamer will be the single best investment you can make. If you can’t, there are some workarounds—hotels often have ironing services, or you can do a lot with some hanging time in the steam of a hot bathroom. But the ability to properly de-crease and care for your garment on the go will be invaluable to you.
Next, make sure you really do have your full suit. Do you want to hear fun stories of guests, grooms, and businessmen who’ve landed to find one cufflink, a shoe, or a belt missing? Sure, that’s fun! Do you want to be that guest, groom, or businessman? Not so much.
Dressing is a pretty instinctive act, especially if we often wear a suit, but you’d be surprised how many little details you can leave out of the mix in a rush. And if you’re not wearing a suit often, unfamiliarity will catch you. So, take some time before the rush of packing to itemize everything and make sure you have every detail—from the jacket, suit pants, and dress shirt right through to belts/bracers/cummerbunds, shoes, socks, cufflinks, pocket squares, ties or bow ties, and any accessories that you plan to wear. We suggest making a list and ticking it off as you pack for extra peace of mind.
Now you have everything you need for suit packing, let’s get to the nitty gritty—how are you going to make this stiff, bulky, and expensive item fold up neatly and safely? Don’t worry—it can be done, we promise! Learning how to pack a suit for travel is surprisingly simple.
If, however, you’re really not able to squeeze your suit into the luggage space you have available, you can always consider wearing it to fly. After all, men and women alike used to dress up for travel! While it comes with an element of risk (a bit of turbulence and your inflight meal might end up in your lap!), it will ensure your suit gets there. However, the rigors of travel will leave small creases, so don’t expect it to be ready to wear—luckily, your hand steamer will help with that!
By far the hardest part of a suit to fold is your jacket because it has the thickest fabric and most complicated construction. Take a moment to examine exactly how your jacket is built. Whether it has a full or half canvas, for example, will drastically impact your ability to fold it, as well as how badly affected it will be by the process.
So, get to know your suit a little and you’ll feel more confident about selecting the best packing method. Knowing what suiting fabric was used in your suit will also help you determine how it will hold up in travel.
We are going to focus on packing the jacket for now—we will touch on other parts of the suit under different headings below. Knowing how to pack a blazer for travel is the toughest part.
When folding a letter to fit inside an envelope, you’ll fold the paper on itself, and run your finger down the fold for a nice flat crease. Take note - Try to avoid doing this with garments.
Instead, try to make gentle, loose rolls. When it’s time to unpack, this will lower the chances of having any crease/fold marks left in the jacket, which would be equally as bad as wrinkles, thus defeating the purpose of trying to pack carefully in the first place. In many cases, a deep crease is actually harder to rectify than wrinkles.
This has similarities to the classic method. It is best for satin/silk-lined jackets as it will cut down on creases a lot. If you were wondering how to pack a tuxedo in a suitcase, this could be your method of choice.
Spread the suit jacket on a flat surface with lapels down
Fold one shoulder to the center midline, with the sleeve back
Fold it back toward the outer edge as needed
Now, turn the other shoulder inside-out
Insert the first shoulder into the “pocket” created
Bring the inside-out sleeve toward the center
Fold the jacket in half down the center
Fold the bottom to the top
(Optional) Encase the folded jacket in a dry-cleaning bag
Place it into your suitcase, on the top to avoid additional pressure. There are some variants of this “pocket” method you can try, too.
The bag will keep wax, polish, and any dirt from impacting the rest of your luggage. Ideally, use two and pack the shoes individually at the bottom of your bag. If necessary, you can pack them in one together—place the soles on the outside, and the shoe heel to toe. This may crush them together a little, though.
You can roll up socks, ties, belts, bracers, pocket squares, and other accessories and place them in the shoes for safekeeping and extra space.
However, we do not advise storing cufflinks, watches, or other expensive and small jewelry items in your shoes. Those are best placed in your carry-on luggage in a small, discrete bag for safety. They should not be checked due to theft risk. You can grab a cheap woman’s jewelry roll to keep them safe and easy to find. There are many styles of these—you can see one in the following DIY video. A drawstring bag or old sock will do in a pinch but if you let the individual pieces move against each other, they could scratch or catch.
Don’t be disheartened if your suit still arrives with minor wrinkling. It’s often an unavoidable aspect of traveling, but follow these steps and you will greatly reduce the problem. If possible, it is always a good idea to have a plan on how you might deal with minor issues at the other end.
Need some more helpful tips and tricks like this? Remember, the Oliver Wicks newsletter will bring them right to your mailbox, weekly. All you need to do is head to the bottom right of any of our website pages—it’s free! You’re also welcome to reach out with any questions you have to the helpful Oliver Wicks team at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time—we love to hear from you!