By Laurel Cardone
Two friends of mine agree on just about everything except how to pack a suitcase. One is convinced the best approach is to spread her clothes absolutely flat in the bottom of the case. The other is a passionate devotee of the rolling-up school of thought. The truth: any garment can be folded in more than one way, and any bag lends itself to more than one method of packing.
Read on, and you’ll learn to do the "roll," the "interlock," and the "twin towers," techniques that ensure well-packed luggage, whether it hangs, rolls, or rides on your back.
The theory behind the interlock, which works best with standard suitcases and travel packs, is that each piece of clothing folds over or is cushioned by another piece. It’s really quite simple:
- Lay a pair of slacks or a skirt across an open suitcase from north to south, allowing some surplus to drape over each side.
- Place a sweater from east to west, allowing arms to drape both east and west and tail to drape to the south.
- Now flip the northern part of the slacks over the top of the sweater, fold the sweater arms in over this, then fold the bottom of the sweater and the southern part of the slacks or skirt over everything. You’ve created a neat stack of clothing that provides cushioning everywhere a wrinkle wants to be.
You can add as many garments to this construction as you wish. When you’ve finished, fill in the corners and crevices with underwear, socks, scarves, and so on. Place shoes heel down along the hinges of your suitcase.
A quick aside about packing your shoes: they should never be empty. They should always be stuffed with underwear, socks, a child’s shoe, a purse-size travel umbrella. Otherwise, the hollows of your shoes are just wasted space, and those small items are free to wriggle into whatever crevice they please.
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We all harbor fears that a customs official will fling open our suitcase, revealing our Victoria’s Secret teddy or heart-dappled boxer shorts to the airport community at large. Stuff them in a shoe and he’ll never notice. Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can buy cloth drawstring shoe bags, or you can simply place each shoe in its own plastic shopping bag. But do pack shoes separately rather than as a pair – the positioning possibilities are greater that way.
Rock and Roll
Rolling is an easy way to pack clothing, both light and heavy. It works best for duffels and travel packs, but if your trip is casual, you can roll garments for standard suitcases as well.
Let’s demonstrate with a T-shirt: Lay the shirt facedown on a flat surface. Fold in the sleeves. Then, with the shirt still facedown, begin to roll it up from the bottom hem. Smooth it as you go, so that no wrinkles are folded in. The collar should wind up on the outside of the roll.
Jeans are a natural for this process. So are dress slacks: Hold them upside down, by the cuffs, and lay them out. Then roll from the cuffs up. This technique even works for sports jackets: Fold the jacket in half lengthwise, tucking the arms inside. Then begin at the top and roll down.
Delicate garments should be placed on top of T-shirts or tissue paper before being rolled. I’ve had great luck rolling a piqué sundress by filling the dress with a plastic dry-cleaning bag, backing and fronting it with two more bags, then rolling it from the hem up.
Skirts can be done this way as well. Put a plastic dry-cleaning bag inside the skirt to pad it, then either roll it or fold it in half lengthwise over another garment to pad the crease, and then roll. Soon, you’ll be able to roll anything.
Twin Towers, and a Chronological Approach
This is the way that most people put clothing into their luggage. Fold your clothes and place them in the case in two neat stacks. If you know your trip schedule, pile them chronologically – the first day’s outfit on top, the second day’s clothes below that, and so forth. This will eliminate the need to paw through everything to unearth that purple polo shirt you meant to wear in the opening-day golf tournament. Fill in around the edges and in the center with underwear and socks, bathing suits, etc. Try to pack snugly so that things will not move around in the suitcase. If it has interior straps that you can use to secure clothing, use them.
Alternatively, you can roll your clothes and then stack them neatly like cigarettes in a box. Again, if you lay them in so that the things you plan to wear first are on top, you’ll have an easier time getting to your gear.