What’s the best way to pack a suit?

How can you travel with a suit and keep it looking as professional as possible? Reader L asks….suit

My son is applying for medical school and will be travelling to (many, we hope) interviews this fall.  He only has one good suit.  Between working and the cost of hotels will probably need to carry on his suit to make sure that it gets there when he does.  He can’t have his suit checked because it would be a disaster if it did not arrive on time. The last two times I’ve checked bags, they’ve been delayed.  Perhaps this is because we live in Seattle which means lots of connecting flights as opposed to direct flights. 

I don’t travel enough to answer the question so I thought I’d ask you. He needs to decide between putting his suit in a standard roll-aboard or a suit bag.  Do the flight attendants still hang up suit bags? He could buy a suit bag or use the fabric one that he got when he bought his suit.  If the flight attendants won’t hang up the bag, he could put it on top of the roll-aboards in the overhead bin. If he puts it in his roll-aboard it will be much more wrinkled. What he wants to avoid is being forced to check his bag.  Any advice?  Thanks and I appreciate your help.  

This is a really good question. Plenty of people have to wear suits on their business trips, and nothing says “unprofessional” like a suit full of wrinkles! The customers I visit on my business trips are all business casual, so I turned to my attorney brother-in-law for help with your question. He has to pack a suit for most of his trips and is experienced at keeping them looking their best.

First of all, he said that he doesn’t use a hanging bag, but rather puts them in the zipper compartment on the inside of the lid of his regular suitcase. This accomplishes two things: (1) keeps the suit from moving around because it’s a tight space (thereby reducing wrinkles), and (2) protects it from any spillage that might occur in the main compartment. A hanging bag would be a great option, but there is no way to know ahead of time if the flight attendant will hang it for you. Another option: suitcases that have hanging or suit compartments inside of them (like one of my personal favorites from Victorinox).

Finally, he said that there isn’t a way to prevent wrinkles all together, but you can minimize them by the way you fold your jacket to strategically place the creases so they’re not as noticeable (as instructed here and here). He also unpacks it as soon as he arrives in the hotel and hangs it in the bathroom while running the shower to steam it for a bit.

For my part, I completely agree that your son needs to carry on his suitcase. The best way to make sure that is possible is to buy a rollaboard that fits within airline size guidelines–9″x14″x22″. The next best way is to board as early as possible while there is still room in the overhead bins. One option is to chose a seat in the back of the plane, which typically boards first. Another suggestion is to get a credit card that has early boarding as one of the perks.

Good luck to your son on his interviews!

Readers, any suggestions for Reader L and her son on keeping the suit as wrinkle-free as possible?

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  1. Downy Wrinkle Releaser is one of my basic travel tools. (It combines well with the “steam from bathroom shower” method)

  2. I always pack my suit inside a plastic dry cleaning bag. It protects the suit from wrinkles.

  3. Leave the suit in the dry cleaning bag or even better, in a heavy plastic garment bag. Then fold it in half (or thirds if necessary.) I find that when I do that it slides around inside the bag rather than have some parts held in place by friction against other clothes while some parts move and thus cause wrinkles.

    If you must fold the jacket, do this:

    1. hold the jacket facing away from you.
    2. Take the left shoulder and wrap it around the back and over the right shoulder.
    3. This will put the right shoulder and put it inside the left one and the suit will fold in half on the back seam.
    4. Shake it a bit so everything hangs straight down.
    5. Move the arms so they’re on the side away from you but otherwise flat against the jacket
    6. Put your arm in the center and fold in half, folding away from you.

    If you travel a lot, have a tailor line the jacket in silk (full lining). Then the things you put on top will slide rather than grab (see above).

    I’ve traveled with 2 or 3 suits at a time, for many years, in suitcases or even carry-ons. This isn’t perfect, but I never found a better solution.

    As someone else said, unpack immediately and use some hot shower water to steam out the wrinkles.

  4. Have traveled with suits on business for more than 20 years, always used carry-on with suiter or garment bag. If you don’t want to buy that, hang suit in store or dry cleaning bag, fold carefully as others said, then put suit at bottom of carry-on, front down, with half lying on lid. Put other clothes on top and wrap the top of jacket arounf the other clothes, now with front of jacket facing up. This will reduce sharp creases from folding the jacket and pants…
    Oh, and only steam the suit if you have enough time for it to dry… Wet pants make for uncomfortable interviews 😉

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