How To Travel Wrinkle-Free (Yes!)

Courtesy of WSJ:

Experienced travelers have a million and one strategies for one of the most persistent hassles of travel: wrinkled clothes.

Some roll garments. Others swear wrapping clothes in plastic dry cleaning bags wards off wrinkles. “People who travel a lot like me have to have a system,” says David Lax, a Boston-based corporate negotiations adviser. He keeps suits at hotels in Frankfurt and London so he has unwrinkled clothes for client meetings.

The war on wrinkles is also a constant point of emphasis for luggage makers. Suitcases come with flat boards, pouches and straps to hold clothes in place and prevent creases, yet often create their own creases. One new brand called Vocier has a C-shaped interior construction so clothes are rolled rather than folded. Some travelers say it works by eliminating tight corners; others say it’s hard to stuff in shoes and shirts with your wrinkle-free suits.

Clothing manufacturers market wrinkle-resistant travel with fabrics that are tightly woven, chemically treated or made with stretchy materials. Travelers report mixed results.

Airlines also sell wrinkle-busting—for their premium passengers. Some arrivals lounges offer pressing service while you shower.

But airlines are more part of the problem than the solution. Airline luggage restrictions and limited space on planes promote rumples and leave passengers steaming. Baggage size limits leave fewer cubic inches in carry-ons. Planes used to have more closets. In many parts of the world, seat backs have hooks for jackets. But those are rare in the U.S. And good luck keeping clothes crisp in crammed overhead bins.

Amy Carrier of New York, a university development officer, hates wrinkles so much she wears jeans on her commuter train and changes clothes when she gets to work. When traveling, she uses an Eagle Creek folding pouch—a hard, plastic piece with Velcro straps about the size of a Manila envelope. But her best crease-buster is her portable steamer.

“The only thing I’ve found that it doesn’t work on is heavy cotton khaki,” she says. “I’ve used it on everything from my wedding dress to suits.”

Eugene Tong, a fashion consultant, fashion-show stylist and former style director at Details magazine, recommends suit jackets or sport coats and blazers that are unstructured, with little or no lining and soft shoulders. “They’re easier to pack than a structured shoulder, and that kind of soft shoulder Italian suit is kind of trendy now,” he says.

He says turning an overcoat or suit jacket, sport coat or blazer inside out can help protect the exterior from getting wrinkled. And he suggests waiting until the last minute to put a folded jacket in an overhead bin.

Luggage makers say neatness counts—separate sections inside bags for suits and tailored jackets and pants prevent wrinkles, along with tie-down straps to keep clothes from moving around and bunching up.

High-end bag maker Tumi claims its removable garment guard keeps a suit or pair of pants fresh because of the way it is constructed. Its foam “prevents that hard crease from happening,” says Victor Sanz, Tumi’s creative director.

How tight your clothing’s fabric is woven can determine whether it will wrinkle or not. And blending materials can help it stay crisp.

“If you want mostly cotton, then find something that has some spandex, rayon or polyester in it also. They will help create some flexibility in the fabric,” says Megan M. Evans, founder of the Well Coiffed Closet, a personal wardrobe styling company based in Nashville, Tenn.

High-end men’s clothier Ermenegildo Zegna sells suits and jackets of superfine wool with high-twist yarns that it describes as high performance. The more times a yarn is twisted, the more it springs back in shape from any creasing. Zegna also sells a Trofeo dress shirt made of extra-long staple cotton fibers that are double-twisted.

With wrinkle-resistant clothing, just stand up and “shake it out a little bit,” says Mary Beth Blake, brand president of Jos. A. Bank, the men’s clothing retailer which sells a wrinkle-resistant Traveler Collection.

Non-iron shirts are usually treated with a resin that stiffens the fabric. The resin typically releases traces of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical used in embalming fluids. The chemical can be found in a range of household products including sheets and shampoo. Most consumers don’t suffer any reactions to formaldehyde in limited doses, but a small group might experience skin issues such as itchiness after exposure, manufacturers say.

Mr. Lax has tried non-iron dress shirts from Brooks Brothers and Jos. A. Bank and thinks they are marginally better than untreated shirts. His favorite no-iron traveler shirt is a $20 Costco house brand.

Leaving suits at the Conrad London St. James and the Sheraton at the Frankfurt airport not only saves wrinkles but also lightens his carry-on and lets him avoid checking bags. There’s a risk the hotels could lose his suits, but he thinks the risk of airlines losing his luggage is greater.

Mr. Lax doesn’t iron: “I’m just not very good at it,” he says. He’ll sometimes employ the bathroom steam trick, which he finds useful but imperfect. One new problem: some hip hotels don’t have real doors on the bathroom.

Zigmund Denbeck, a public health expert who travels frequently around the world, is a big believer in the power of steam. He’ll hold his jacket on his lap in coach. As soon as he gets to his hotel, he hangs clothes in the bathroom and fires up the shower. “That’s a miracle worker,” he says.

Experts say rolling does work on some clothes. Ms. Evans, the personal wardrobe styler, says women should roll softer pieces like silks and jersey “as if you are using a rolling pin.” She says to fold blazers and more structured pieces and wrap it all in dry cleaner plastic.

The shower trick, Mr. Tong says, can leave clothes feeling damp. So he runs the shower for his clothes while he has breakfast and lets them dry out in the closet while he showers and shaves.

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