How to Keep Your Professional Clothing Looking Good While Traveling

Businessman packing professional clothing wardrobe in suitcase for business trip

Do you take business trips or travel for work?

If so, it’s probably important to you to be able to wear professional clothing and keep your wardrobe looking good while you travel. Impressions matter when you attend work meetings, and no one wants to arrive looking bedraggled!

This isn’t always an easy thing to achieve. While in the golden age of aviation, flying somewhere meant something and was heralded by well-dressed passengers with plenty of legroom, the modern era is far removed.

If you’re fortunate enough to travel business class, you still get a little room to spread out, but if you’re flying economy, you tend to be packed in like farm animals on a stock truck. Cramped conditions can mean havoc for your professional clothing as shirts get wrinkled and blazers get crammed into overhead lockers.

You start to worry about any meetings that are scheduled shortly after landing, so what can you do to stay looking fresh?

Download our business travel packing list for professional men here

Invest in quality luggage

First of all, it is well worth investing in the right luggage to carry your wardrobe! Good luggage keeps you looking stylish and protects your clothing.

If you’re going for more than a couple of nights, a sturdy wheeled-case, made of lightweight, durable material is a must. Think aluminum, polycarbonate or leather. If the duration of your trip is a couple of nights or less, consider a casually stylish holdall.

Professional clothingThe right luggage is one thing, but how you pack it is also very important. Wrinkles are caused by friction among your belongings, so one suggestion is to pack clothes in plastic garment bags, or even among dry cleaning bags. The plastic reduces friction. Stuffing your clothing with tissue paper first keeps it from flattening out and helps it to maintain its shape. Consider using packing cubes to stow your small items and toiletries.

There are many travel sites which suggest rolling clothes in order to save room and to avoid wrinkling your garments. However, we do not suggest you roll your tailored shirts or good trousers. Rolling still leads to wrinkles in the clothing and if you look closely at that advice, it’s often accompanied by pictures of t-shirts or other more wrinkle-resistant clothes.

One suggestion to avoid rumpled clothing is “bundle packing.” This is definitely a better idea than rolling clothes, especially if you’ve got a few items you need to pack. Bundle packing involves wrapping your clothing around a bundle of wrinkle-resistant clothes, with your most delicate items being on the outside of the bundle. So, your suit jacket or tailored shirts would be on the outside.

It’s not a perfect system, but it can work to at least keep your most wrinkle-prone pieces in good condition. This is because those items on the outside have less pronounced folds in the making of the bundle. The video below from NBC News gives a demonstration of bundle packing:

Plan your travel outfit

No matter how conscientious you are about packing, you’ll still almost certainly arrive with some clothing in need of an iron. Of course, if you’re dashing from the airport straight to a meeting, you don’t have time for this!

One strategy is to carefully plan your travel outfit ahead of time. Choose crease-resistant clothing where possible to wear on the plane. This means choosing high-quality fabrics such as wool, jersey, cashmere or knits. Wearing your blazer helps to save it from getting wrinkled in your luggage or the overhead locker.

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Professional clothing

Canali suit, made with wrinkle-resistant wool.

Consider your footwear as well. Shoes take up valuable room in your bag when space may already be at a premium. They also have to be taken off and put back on again quickly at airport security.

With this in mind, something like a high-quality pair of loafers can be a good choice to wear as you travel. They slip on and off easily, look stylish and can be dressed up when worn with your suit for work meetings, and dressed down with chinos or good jeans for evening drinks.

Choose crease-resistant shirts

Creased shirts are a common nuisance for business travelers. Even following packing techniques to avoid wrinkling clothing it’s difficult to keep shirts looking their best out of a suitcase.

Choosing crease-resistant shirts can be well worth the investment. “Resistant” means that, if you follow packing techniques to minimize folding and creasing, the shirt should still look very presentable.

Professional clothing

The Eton dress shirt is made from 100% premium cotton and is crease-resistant.

You can’t always prevent your shirts from getting creased during travel, but you can take steps to ensure you’ll be able to get them looking their best at your destination. Try to book a hotel room that caters to business travelers, including having an iron available. If you don’t have an iron available, try hanging creased clothing in the bathroom while you shower. The steam can work to smooth out any creases.

Be a minimalist

You need to consider the weather at your destination and any functions you will be attending when you pack. However, it is better to be a minimalist when it comes to the number of items you pack.

Overstuffed suitcases lead to creased clothing, so it’s a good idea to prioritize classic, and versatile pieces. Look for items that you can mix and match to create different looks, whether you’re meeting with clients or headed to an informal gathering.

For example, your crease-resistant dress shirt can be paired with chinos or a dark pair of jeans for an after-work event, or, wear your blazer with a plain t-shirt or polo shirt, paired with jeans. Another suggestion is to pack your clothes in three coordinating colors, allowing you that mix and match flexibility. You really don’t need to pack a lot of pieces, as long as you focus on bringing the right ones.

Carry “emergency” items

It can be irritating and downright stressful to realize you’ve got a wardrobe issue while you’re away on business. Missing buttons, loose threads or unraveling seams can put a blight on your day.

You can pack your own emergency sewing kit so that you’re prepared if a malfunction happens. Simply put rolls of black, white and grey thread, a sewing needle, a few buttons and a handful of safety pins into a small box or tin. In a pinch, a safety pin can take care of a loose seam or hem, while it only takes a couple of minutes to sew on a replacement button.

Another thing to consider including is stain removal wipes (such as Shout Wipe and Go). Let’s say you were holding a cup of coffee when your aircraft hit a spot of turbulence – you want to be able to remove the evidence as quickly as possible! Stained clothing creates just as bad an impression as creased clothing, so these are useful to keep around even while you’re not traveling.

Get our business travel packing list here

Don’t live out of a suitcase

As a final piece of advice for travelers, the less time your clothing spends bundled into a suitcase, the better if it is to remain looking good. A top tip is to unpack as soon as you reach your hotel room and hang all clothing up. The longer it sits, the more likely it is to crease.

If looking your best while traveling is a priority for you, this is possible to achieve with a few smart packing and grooming choices. Look for items that are versatile and well-made, and pack to reduce creasing. Consider the seasons and look to mix and match items as much as possible. A minimalist suitcase means fewer items squashed together, helping your wardrobe to stay looking good.