How To Pack A Dress So It Stays Wrinkle-Free During Travel

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Traveling out of town for a big event, like a wedding or a family reunion? Perhaps you plan on dressing up to see friends you haven't hung out with in a long time. Many of us love getting fancy when we travel, and sometimes that involves dresses. You might spend a lot of time picking out just the right one, and then you get home and reality hits you: How are you going to pack it?

Dresses don't exactly lend themselves to folding neatly, and doing it the wrong way can make you look like you slept in your frock. Doing laundry when traveling isn't ideal, and if you're in a place that isn't equipped with an iron and an ironing board, what do you do when you unpack a crumpled mess? There are hacks for that, but wouldn't it be great if those wrinkles never got there in the first place? Let's talk about the best way to pack a dress so it stays wrinkle-free — and what to do if you end up with them anyway.

The best way to pack a dress

To pack a dress in a way that keeps it neat, you must start with a wrinkle-free garment. That means using the iron before you pack. Then, if possible, clear off a table to do the folding. Here's how to start: Save any plastic dry cleaning bags that you can, and place one bag (or a large piece of tissue paper) down on the table and put the dress on it. For the best results, put a second plastic bag or layer of tissue paper on top of the dress. This can help keep the garment wrinkle-free.

Spread the dress on the table (with its paper or plastic), pulling the bottom sides out as far as they'll go. As you fold, smooth out any wrinkles and fold the plastic or paper with the dress. Tuck in any straps, and then fold the wider part of the skirt into the center. Do the same with any sleeves. Then fold down from the top and up from the bottom.

The next big step is to make sure you're putting the folded dress on a flat surface in your suitcase. Many suitcases have bars in the back that make the bottom lumpy, so filling the gaps with other items can help. Plus, packing the dress(es) on top of the rest of your clothing (with all the heavy things on the bottom) can help keep it from getting smushed. Keep each garment separate with its own plastic bag or tissue paper.

Pay attention to the fabric of the dress

If you want to look put together in your travel selfies, you might want to think carefully about the fabric of the dress you're packing. Some fabrics are known to attract stubborn wrinkles, while others only need a quick shake to look smooth and polished. To be safe, opt for a frock containing some synthetic material. Synthetics, especially when stretchy (think spandex blends), are highly resistant to wrinkles, so even if your packing skills aren't top notch, you won't struggle too much to get your dress in shape. Another tip: Pay attention to your garment's weave. Weaves that give a piece more texture are less likely to wrinkle compared to smooth-weave fabrics.

Natural fibers are, unfortunately, often likely to wrinkle, even if they tend to be the most breathable (essential if you plan to travel to a warm destination). Cotton, linen, silk, and some wools are among the most wrinkle-prone clothing materials. However, natural fibers blended with synthetics may resist wrinkles better than, say, a 100% linen piece. If you're not sure if a dress creases easily, take a portion of the garment in your hand and crumple it up for about 30 seconds. If it remains unwrinkled after, it might resist wrinkles in your luggage, too.

What to do if your dress still wrinkles

You packed carefully and watched out for easy-to-crease fabrics, but still, you're left with a crumpled dress at your destination. First things first: Hang your garment as soon as you reach your hotel. Gravity can get to work, helping to loosen up unwanted folds and lines.

For deeper wrinkles, try steaming the dress. A portable travel steamer can be a lifesaver when you're away from home, but if you don't have one of these devices on hand, try hanging the dress in the bathroom while you shower. For boosted effectiveness, grab a bottle of an anti-wrinkle spray (such as Downy's Wrinkle Releaser Fabric Spray) and spritz it on the dress while it hangs. To smooth out specific areas, like a warped sleeve or a crinkly collar, get creative with your hair tools. A straightening iron (kept on a low setting) can work in a pinch, as can a little heat from a blow dryer.

Should you roll your dresses?

One of the simplest packing tips to ensure you look your best on vacation is rolling your clothes in your luggage — but does it work for dresses with long hemlines, frills, and intricate details? It depends, according to packing expert Sophie Liard. Liard, also known as The Folding Lady, told The Sun that dresses should generally be rolled to avoid wrinkling and save precious space in your bags. On the other hand, she recommended folding clothes with delicate embellishments, such as beading or sequins.

Courtney Bier, marketing director at luggage brand Béis, also shared with InStyle that bulky or structured items — such as knitted dresses or frocks with a bustier-style top — shouldn't be rolled up. Consider the weight and fabric of your dress along with any adornments, structured boning, and other details before deciding to roll. The rolling hack may work for simple and casual pieces, while heavier and more complex items might get damaged or look sloppy after being packed like a burrito.

Try bundle wrapping

Frequent fliers may be familiar with folding boards, which make it easy to fold garments into a uniform size and shape. Unfortunately, these are often designed for tops and bottoms, not longer dresses. A better way to fold, particularly if you need to pack a lot of bulky clothes in your carry-on, is to bundle wrap the items.

The bundle-wrapping technique keeps clothes tightly packed together, preventing them from moving and becoming wrinkled while in transit. Just as its name suggests, you create a bundle of garments by layering the clothing items and carefully folding them together. Heavy pieces, such as outerwear, go on the bottom, followed by long items (including dresses) and, finally, smaller and shorter garments. One by one, they're smoothed and folded together to retain a wrinkle-free, packable bundle.

What makes bundle wrapping so effective is the way the fabric is stretched around each garment, maintaining the weave and preventing creases from forming. Plus, the layers could protect any delicate detailing on your dress. If all else fails, this might be the perfect way to pack your travel frocks.