Unsuited to travel
November 5, 2007 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Pointlessly dull, sleep-inducing question on packing woolen suits in a bag for airline travel. For masochists or good Samaritans only.

I'm about to embark on a 14 hour plane flight, and I'm at a loss as to how I should pack my all-season woolen business suits.

Do I need to buy a bulky plastic suit container? (You know, the long, vertical, zippered containers that cover the suits like a shroud. I'm not sure what they're called . . .) I'd prefer to avoid this option, which would add to my luggage.

Would it be acceptable to fold my suits into my large carry-on bag (which meets the size limitations on carry-ons, 'natch) and transport them this way?

If so, what are the best folding techniques, assuming that they don't involve upper-level origami skills, for the jacket and pants?
posted by Gordion Knott to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When I fly with a suit, I wrap the jacket and pants between layers of tissue paper, then stick the whole paper-y mess into a couple dry-cleaner bags. Anything that doesn't look spectacular when I arrive gets ironed (where you're going, I assume, has irons).
posted by mdonley at 4:13 AM on November 5, 2007

The only times I've traveled with suits I've also usually ended up in a hotel of some sort. They might do pressings if you ask.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:23 AM on November 5, 2007

I would buy a nice semi-soft garment bag that fits within the carry-on restrictions. You can usually get one for $40, and it will be worth its weight in gold--as you only have to do minor touch-up with an in-room iron.

But--like you said, it will add to your luggage. I believe if you carried the suits on another way it would count as luggage too, though.
posted by rocket_johnny at 4:24 AM on November 5, 2007

Also, please remember just how small the foot-space is under the seats of airplanes. If you can get multiple suits into a single carry-on bag that can then be somehow shoehorned into the Liliputian area under a modern-day airplane seat, I would guess that they're going to come out fairly wrinkled after 14 hours.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 AM on November 5, 2007

Honestly, these days when I need to travel and bring suits, I opt for the single garment bag. These garment bags these days have so many side pockets that after hanging up every single article of clothing I can, I simply put whatever doesn't fit on a hanger in one of the many, many pouches they have.

And most hotel will send up an iron and ironing board. A lot of travelers are in the same situation as you.
posted by Dagobert at 4:29 AM on November 5, 2007

I've never found a garment bag to be effective, and I travel full-time. Depending on the suits, I would recommend a) folding them carefully or b) putting each one in a separate dry cleaning bag, stacking the bags on a bed, and rolling them together. You'll end up with a slippery, roundish roll of clothes that won't wrinkle much, especially if you laid them out carefully to begin with.

Most places in the world offer irons and pressing services. Call the front desk if their system isn't immediately apparent. But for most materials, steaming works just as well and takes no effort whatsoever. Just hang up the clothing in the bathroom before your shower, and the wrinkles will fall out after the bathroom steams up. This works especially well with silk and synthetics -- it won't make cotton look crisp and may not be able to penetrate wool. Some garments may require multiple showers to steam fully.

Bon voyage!
posted by equipoise at 5:03 AM on November 5, 2007

I followed the instructions here when my boyfriend and I were packing his suit for a 20 hour trip to Turkey. Upon arrival? A wearable suit right out of the bag.

I don't know how broad your shoulders are, but I know that suiters (the name, apparently, for those roll-y suitcases with built-in fold-out boards for packing suits) come in carry-on size.
posted by minervous at 5:16 AM on November 5, 2007

Use a sturdy suitcase, not a garment bag. Carry-on size will work. Fold suit per instructions in Minervous's link. Lay suit into bottom of suitcase - first thing in, with collar end hanging over one side and bottom end hanging over the other. (You can similarly lay in another suit, spare trousers, etc.) Now, pack folded shirts, underwear, jammies, socks, etc. atop the suit. Then, fold top and bottom of suit over the other folded clothes. All this should fit snugly into the bag when it's closed; if not, use a smaller bag. Note that by essentially rolling your suit around the other clothes, you minimize the number of folded edges.
posted by beagle at 6:15 AM on November 5, 2007

Someone on here recently FPP'd this site, it has a page on bundle packing which might be worth a read.
posted by brautigan at 6:32 AM on November 5, 2007

Ironing an expensive wool suit is an excellent way to ruin it. Using a hot iron directly on wool will create a distinct sheen aka "iron shine" that does not come out and will instantly make you look like your suit came from a thrift store bag sale.

If you do need to touch up your suit, iron from the reverse side of the fabric (ie. turn the pants inside out) or buy yourself a pressing cloth at a fabric store and use that to create a barrier in between the iron and the fabric . Better yet, buy a little hand held clothing steamer and use that to freshen up your suit in your hotel room. You could also hang the suit in the bathroom while you are taking a hot shower and let the steam relax the wrinkles.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:11 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can fold a suit jacket up folding it half lengthways and tucking the outside of one shoulder inside the inside of the other shoulder then, folding in again, top to bottom.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:17 AM on November 5, 2007

My bag came with a folding suit insert. After a bunch of experiments I came to the exact solution illustrated in Minervous' link, but I can also tell you the thing that makes the insert work is that it has a roll of foam that keeps the folds from being, well, folds. Instead the suit just curls around it at about a 1" diameter, so if you were careful with how you laid out the jacket it will come out essentially wrinkle-free. As Beagle says you can accomplish much the same thing just by packing other neatly folded clothes inside the suit, but I'd advise getting a suit insert. If the TSA opens your bag, they're not going to repack it as nicely as you left it, and you'll have a wrinkled suit. With the insert they're unlikely to unpack it enough to do any damage.

Wool is also a great travel fabric, as it tends to lose wrinkles on its own if you hang the suit up overnight. You can also hang it in the bathroom while you shower for the poor man's steam.
posted by fedward at 8:43 AM on November 5, 2007

Ah, I was thinking of steaming. Not ironing. Oy.
posted by mdonley at 3:30 PM on November 5, 2007

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