How to pack dress shirts without wrinkling is one of the greatest challenges facing any traveler.
Dress shirts might be necessary for a destination wedding, a business meeting, or an upscale restaurant. Carry-on backpacks can easily fit a few dress shirts. If you don’t know how to pack one without it becoming a wrinkled mess, then you are better off leaving it at home.
Good news! Dress shirts can be folded for traveling. It is possible to buy a wrinkle-free dress shirt if you are unable to or do not wish to master that level of packing.
In this article, we will discuss both options. A quick guide on how to fold and pack a suit in a carry-on bag, including what type of bag to use and what to pack with your suit.
How to Fold Dress Shirts for Travel
The following tips will help you pack a dress shirt without wrinkles:
- Button the shirt all the way up.
- Place it face down on a hard, flat surface, like a table.
- Spread it out with the sleeves pointing out.
- Fold the sleeves inward until they meet the middle of the shirt (horizontal fold). Repeat this on the other side of the sleeve.
- Put a dryer sheet here for extra wrinkle resistance. The sheet provides “interstitial suspension” so the fabric won’t bunch up after folding. The bag should also smell good.
- Fold each side in about 3 inches towards the center of the shirt. At the top of the back of your shirt, you’ll see a “V” pattern if you’re doing it right.
- Just fold your shirt in half, starting at the bottom. If you need more space, fold it in half again to create a tighter fold.
- Enjoy looking good.
How to Pack Dress Shirts for Wrinkle-Free Travel
A department store uses this method to display dress shirts. Since my first job was with PacSun, I am familiar with this method. Since then, I have worked at several other chains. The method outlined above is the easiest method of packing a dress shirt tightly for travel.
There is no magic bullet for wrinkle-free packing. The clothes get wrinkled when they are packed tightly together and rubbed against each other. Even carefully packed bags will settle over time, resulting in wrinkles and creases on your clothing. However, this “display” folding method will keep your dress shirts tight, which is the most effective way of folding a dress shirt, because a well-folded dress shirt will hold its shape.
We recommend rolling most clothing when packing. Dress shirts are an exception.
Many business travelers pack their clothes in bundles, with clothes arranged around a central bundle. This method seems too complicated to us. You also can’t take out any individual item as your clothes are packed in a solid block.
The only foolproof way to pack a dress shirt without wrinkles is to purchase one that cannot wrinkle. Here are some of the best wrinkle-free travel dress shirts.
What to Look for in a Travel Dress Shirt
Shirts often claim to be wrinkle-free, but the best travel dress shirts are made of synthetic fabrics or a blend of natural and synthetic fabrics.
A natural and wrinkle-free option is merino wool. Do not wear cotton or linen, as both are prone to wrinkling.
Look for nylon, lycra, or polyester in synthetic fabrics.
Testing for Wrinkle Resistance
Do you want to know if the shirt fabric is wrinkle-free? For thirty seconds, crush a corner of the shirt in your fist. If it does not wrinkle, or if it can be easily smoothed back out, you are in business.
Thinner Isn’t Better.
You don’t wrinkle your chunky wool sweater because it’s too thick.
When you try on enough wrinkle-resistant shirts, you’ll begin to notice how thick they are. Thin shirts are more likely to wrinkle than thick ones.
Wrinkling is also a problem with higher thread count dress shirts. Even though that paper-thin collared shirt looks great now, it will be wrinkled after your six-hour layover in Dallas. Test a few travel shirts to determine whether they fit, move, breathe, and resist wrinkles.
Wrinkle-Resistant vs. Non-Iron Dress Shirts
The last thing you should consider before buying a travel dress shirt is the debate between non-iron shirts and wrinkle-resistant shirts. The way they resist wrinkles differs.
See more on wrinkle-resistant dress shirts below.
Shirts that resist wrinkles often resemble “regular” shirts because they rely on the fabric properties (nylon, lycra, polyester) and the thickness of the weave to achieve this effect. While some companies apply chemical treatments to the fabric during the finishing process, not all do so. As a general rule, wrinkle-free shirts feel softer and breathe better.
Non-Iron Dress Shirts
Shirts that do not require ironing are usually made from fibers that have been pre-treated with chemicals. For example, formaldehyde is a major problem. Yes, formaldehyde is a major problem. Shirts that do not require ironing repel wrinkles better than wrinkle-resistant ones, but they sacrifice softness, shape, and breathability because of chemicals like formaldehyde.
You can think of non-iron shirts as regular shirts with a wrinkle-free spray coating. It’s because they are stiffer that wrinkles don’t appear.
Non-iron shirts are not always made with harmful chemicals. Shirts from Twillory contain no formaldehyde due to the use of SafeCotton.
Wrinkles aren’t important enough to me to wear a potentially harmful chemical. That’s your decision. If you must have wrinkle-free clothing, non-iron shirts are for you. You can also iron your shirts. A wrinkle-resistant shirt will meet your needs for a comfortable fit and natural appearance.
The Best Wrinkle-Free Dress Shirts for Travel
Bluffworks Dress Shirts ($98)
Bluffworks’ dress shirts are my favorite wrinkle-free shirts. The travel chinos from Bluffworks are my favorite. The clothes they make don’t feel like travel clothes, which is why I like them. For example, the Bluffworks dress shirt can be worn at home as well as while traveling.
It is made from 98% polyester (which is good), has plenty of stretch, is breathable, and dries quickly. It can also be machine washed.
The shirts from Bluffworks are perfect for happy hour or the boardroom in any city you visit.
Twillory Non-Iron Dress Shirt ($99)
Twillory non-iron dress shirts are some of the best wrinkle-resistant shirts on the market right now because they are made from SafeCotton (which is not treated with formaldehyde).
These shirts are made from two-ply cotton twill (more of that interstitial suspension), are soft, breathe, and feel great. Purchase four to save $200 on a cross-country investment funding round.
Proper Cloth: Hudson Wrinkle-Resistant Twill ($95)
The Hudson Wrinkle-Resistant Travel Dress Shirt is a great middle-ground for business travelers, even though Proper Cloth does offer non-iron shirts (not my cup of tea). It’s wrinkle-resistant, so you don’t have to iron it before the big meeting, but you’ll want to keep it looking crisp throughout the day.
Hudson works well in hotels that have irons. While this shirt is comfortable, it’s not the best dress shirt for traveling with your backpack for weeks at a time.
Wool & Prince 210 Button Down Shirts ($138)
Wool & Prince’s 210 button down shirts are 100% natural and wrinkle-resistant. These shirts are made from 100% merino wool, which provides natural wrinkle (and odor) resistance. The 210 is Wool & Prince’s “most durable, wrinkle-resistant shirting fabric.”
The best way to avoid wrinkles is to purchase a wrinkle-resistant dress shirt and fold it following the steps at the beginning of this post. Any less than that and you might be pulling out an iron while you’re in your hotel room.
Having to touch up a collar, cuff, or hemline quickly isn’t so bad when traveling wrinkle-free.
As soon as you’ve sorted out your shirts, you can move onto a blazer and learn how to pack a suit for your carry-on bag.