How To Pack Clothes

Individually folding items of clothing and then piling them atop one another is sometimes just about the worst thing you can do from a packing perspective. It results in:

    1) folds that will “set”, producing creases
    2) garments moving (sliding) against one another, producing wrinkles (tiny folds) in the fabric, that will also “set”.
    3) difficulty fitting everything into your luggage

Rolling clothing reduces the number of folds (problem 1), but actually increases wrinkling.

Wrapping individual clothing items in plastic dry-cleaning bags or tissue paper helps to reduce wrinkling (problem 2), but does nothing about the creases.

Although it can involve some (very minor) inconvenience, a much better solution to the problem of wrinkles and unwanted creases is the use of the bundle wrapping technique. As the name suggests, bundle wrapping involves the careful wrapping of clothes around a central core object, avoiding the folds that result in creases. The tension created in the fabric by the wrapping process significantly reduces the chances of wrinkling.

Clothing is wrapped in a specific order, so that the larger and more tailored garments will end up on the outside of the bundle, with less easily wrinkled pieces closer to the core.

Begin by selecting the object that will form the core of the bundle; an organizer pouch is an ideal choice. The optimal size will depend somewhat upon the configuration of your bag and the amount of clothing to be packed, but something around 11 × 16″ (30 × 40cm) should work well. The pouch is filled with soft items (socks, swimsuit, undergarments, sheet bag, etc.) to form a sort of “pillow” around which the clothing will be wrapped.

Here is an appropriate sequence (beginning, as you will begin your packing, with the outer layer):

    1) jacket
    2) skirts, dresses (a particularly long, straight dress or skirt might be better placed before the jacket)
    3) long-sleeved shirts
    4) short-sleeved shirts
    5) slacks
    6) sweater, knits
    7) shorts

Button the fronts of shirts, and perhaps the jacket (unless it is overly wide, in which case it is better to let the sides overlap more than is possible with the buttons done up).

The easiest place to form the bundle is on a large flat surface, such as a bed. If your bag features a zipper around three full sides, it will open flat for packing, which enables the wrapping of the bundle right in the bag; it’s more easily accomplished on a flat surface, though.

Begin by taking the item highest on the above list, laying it out flat on your working surface. If it’s a (tailored) jacket, lay it face down, orienting the sleeves so as to lie the most naturally. Such jackets are the exception to the rule. All other garments are placed face up. Smooth everything out carefully, eliminating any wrinkles.

At this point, consider the size and position of your core object, which will eventually be placed atop the pile of clothing. The top (collar) edge of the first garment should align with (or extend slightly beyond) the top edge of the core. As you add additional garments, their directions will alternate, and the size of the core object will dictate their locations.

Continue with the remaining garments. Shirts and the like alternate “up and down” (to maintain an even thickness), with their collar edges aligning with (or extending slightly beyond) the top and bottom edges of the soon-to-be-added core. Slacks and most skirts alternate “left and right” (skirts are often folded lengthwise first), with their waistbands aligning with the left and right edges of the core. Strive for a smooth placement, avoiding wrinkles as much as possible.

When all items are down, place the core on top, forming the center of the bundle. Then work your way back down the clothing stack, wrapping each piece around the slowly growing bundle before moving on to the next item (don’t interleave garments with one another). For sleeved garments, wrap one side of the garment around the bundle as far as it will go (part of the sleeve — which is wrapped straight across — will typically end up underneath the bundle); repeat with the other side. Then bring up the bottom of the garment, again wrapping it as far around the bundle as it will go. Cross the sleeves of jackets in more of an X-shape around the bundle (because of the tailoring in the shoulders). Wrap each item firmly (the intent being that the wrap is sufficiently taut to prevent wrinkles from appearing, but not so taut that the cloth is actually stretched).

Place the resulting bundle in your bag and tie it in securely — but not too tightly — with the bag’s tie-down straps. If the bundle is allowed to shift around during travel, much of your work will have been in vain. Should your bag not have tie-down straps, consider adding them; it’s an easy do-it-yourself project.

When you arrive at your destination, open out the bundle to let the clothes “relax”. If you plan to be there for any length of time, hang the clothes where possible (doing so in a bathroom with some steam generated by running a hot shower should get rid of any wrinkles that did occur — if it doesn’t, find garments of a more forgiving fabric).

The downside of bundle wrapping is that you are likely to need items from your core pouch, so you must resign yourself to unwrapping the bundle at each new location – but this is not much of an inconvenience: few items are involved, a little practice makes one quite fast at bundle wrapping (the whole process shouldn’t take more than a minute), and unpacking/hanging clean clothes is a good idea in any case. Naturally, it is inadvisable to pack anything that you may need during the day in the core pouch.

© 2008 – 2015, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

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