Gate C33 feels like a mob. You’ve never seen so many families traveling with small children in your life. The gate attendant just announced that this is a completely full flight, and they’re offering a complimentary night at the airport hotel and a $200 voucher for anyone willing to fly out tomorrow.
Meanwhile, you’re in boarding group 7 and you can feel the overhead bins filling up as you stand there waiting, waiting, waiting. The last thing on your mind is how many wrinkles your dress shirt is going to have in it when you pull it out of the bag at your hotel later. But if you’ve ever packed a business casual outfit, you know that wrinkles in your dress shirt usually strike when you least expect them.
Good news: there’s a better way to pack a dress shirt. Better news: there’s such a thing as a wrinkle-resistant dress shirt, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s start with where you’re going. Here’s everything you need to know about folding dress shirts and packing them for travel.
Planes, Trains, and Poorly Packed Dress Clothes
Folding a dress shirt without wrinkles starts with knowing your destination. For example, are you bringing a suitcase or a backpack? And are you packing your dress shirt alongside a pair of flip flops or some ski boots?
In either case, knowing how much room you have to work with is key. But let’s start with the basics about folding clothes.
How to Pack Dress Shirts for Travel
At the base level, packing a dress shirt is all about the fold. This visual shows three methods for folding, but it basically goes like this.
Step 1: Make sure all buttons on the shirt are buttoned and lay shirt face down with sleeves fully extended.
Step 2: Fold the right sleeve across the back of the shirt to where the cuff is about two-thirds down the length of the left sleeve.
Step 3: Fold the right sleeve back over itself with the cuff now in-line with the bottom hem of the shirt, making a diagonal line from the right shoulder of the right sleeve to the center of the shirt.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with the left sleeve. Your shirt should remain face down with both sleeves laying parallel and covering the back of the shirt.
Step 5: Fold the shirt upwards in thirds and then once more across the middle if desired. Voila. A folded dress shirt.
How to Pack Dress Shirts in a Suitcase
Now that you have the basic fold down, the next step is giving yourself the right amount of room in your bag. Suitcases are the most generous of the travel bags, but there are still some key missteps worth avoiding.
Avoid These Packing Mistakes
For example, if you have a rolling suitcase, you likely have either a single rod trolley case or a double rod trolley case. Knowing the difference is key because the rods that connect the rolling handle to the rest of the bag and the wheels are notorious for leaving huge wrinkles in whatever clothes get folded against them.
An easy workaround is to fill the base level of your suitcase with shoes, socks, or underwear (really anything that can get wrinkled) and then build on top of that firm base. The other little trick your suitcase might pull on you happens when you pack everything nice and neat while the bag is flat, but then you stand the bag up and everything slides to the bottom, wrinkling up every single article of clothing in the process.
Whether you’re packing collared shirts, shorts, polos, pants, or whatever, think about how you’re going to carry the bag and how it’s going to rest in the overhead bin. Or, if you’re checking the bag, remember that you have no control over how that suitcase is going to end up being stowed below the plane.
The more you control during the packing process, the less you have to worry about along the journey.
How to Pack a Dress Shirt in a Backpack
If you’re only heading out of town for a quick weekend trip, then something as simple as a backpack may be all you need. Here, we suggest the most controversial of the dress shirt folding techniques: the roll.
Step 1: Make sure all buttons are buttoned and lay shirt face down with sleeves fully extended (same as before).
Step 2: Fold the right sleeve over the back and align the two cuffs so that the shirt is folded perfectly in half across the buttons.
Step 3: Fold both sleeves diagonally down and align the cuffs with the bottom right corner of the hem or just slightly above it. You should be left with a long and thin folded dress shirt.
Step 4: Roll from the bottom to the top.
This dress shirt packing process is going to leave you with a neat cylinder tube that will fit in just about any bag. While there is much debate over whether this process actually keeps the shirt free or wrinkles, it’s the easiest way to make the most of limited space, especially in a backpack. Even if you’re aren’t spending your nights in a tent, consider organizing your pack the same way as hikers.
The Only Sure Way to Avoid Wrinkles
At the end of the day, you could use a ruler to perfectly align and pack every single one of your dress shirts and still end up with nothing but wrinkles. The only sure way to stay wrinkle-free is to invest in a dress shirt that’s built for packing.
Your stiff, cotton dress shirts are always going to have a little bit of wrinkle in them, but with , you get the look of your favorite dress shirt with the fit and feel of your favorite athletic t-shirt.
Not only are these shirts moisture-wicking and wrinkle-resistant, but they’re also machine washable. That means no more trips to the dry cleaners after a weeklong business trip. Just toss these dress shirts in the washing machine with everything else and you’re good to go.
Still want to know how to pack a performance dress shirt? It’s a simple two-step process.
Step 1: Toss it in the bag.
Step 2: Go.