Formalwear can be tricky to pack. Fancy items need extra care and I have tips to pack delicate items so they look fantastic.

There are lots of reasons to travel in life: for fun, for business, to get over heartbreak, and because you got invited to attend an important event in a loved one’s life. I’m talking weddings, graduations, you know, the kinds of trips where you need to pack something nice to wear. Packing formalwear is a slightly different game and involves a few modified tactics to my usual packing hacks.

Pick an outfit with a travel-friendly fabric

First off, consider the actual dress or suit you plan on packing. Is it silk, linen, wool, something else? There are choices that will be more travel-friendly than others. For example, a wool suit that is labelled as crease-resistant might be made of a blended fabric that “bounces back” more easily. Or you might choose a pleated dress that holds its shape better and also hides any possible wrinkles.

best fabrics for travel

Natural fibres can wrinkle more easily, although I also find them easy to iron or steam if you have time. But I mention fabric because if we’re talking about packing formalwear, we have to talk about how to choose travel-friendly suits and dresses. Darker colours are also better at hiding creases.

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Can you get around packing your formalwear?

Like most of my trips, the trip length and mode of transportation have a big impact on the bag that I use to pack. And in turn, the bag has a big impact on how I pack my formal attire. Is it a weekend trip in a car? Or a 2-week trip by plane?

If I’m travelling by car, the best way to pack and transport formalwear is to have it freshly pressed and suspend it, on a hanger, onto a hook in your backseat. That way, you don’t even need to fit it into a bag at all! You might want to put them in a garment bag, just to protect your items, but otherwise, this method has the least chances of causing creasing.

tips for packing formalwear

Get a great garment bag

If a suit or dress needs to be ready to go upon arrival, I recommend using a garment bag as a personal item. This is more than just a garment bag, it’s also a travel bag in itself. Business travellers love these and often, if you’re flying Business or First class, you can ask to have your bag hung in a coat closet on the plane. 

For those who’d rather not transport a garment bag like that, you can also get a thinner garment bag that folds into your suitcase. Clip it into your suitcase and gently fold your item into your suitcase. It’s not perfect, but it can limit the creasing to a minimum. Once you get to your destination, suspend your items as soon as possible.

I recommend getting your item dry-cleaned and pressed before you pack it, but if you’re doing it at home, just please do it the night before your trip at least. If you try to put your bag after a few passes of a hand-held steamer, you have to let it completely cool or you’ll get tons of wrinkles if you pack it warm.

packing delicate items

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Get a travel steamer for formalwear

If you have room, I would recommend packing a travel steamer. Or, you can make sure the hotel, Airbnb, or place you’re staying has one there. A few sprits of a wrinkle-release spray, or even water, can help speed things up. Hanging a dress or shirt in the bathroom while taking a steamy shower can also help, but not as effective as a straight-up steamer. If you’re really fancy, you can inquire at your hotel if they have dry clean pickup service and have them press your item after you’ve checked in.

Tips for minimizing wrinkles when folding formal clothes

If you must fold your clothes, I recommend rolling and folding along seams or creases so the creasing is more intentional or less visible.

There are tips for packing a blazer if you don’t have a garment bag or can’t spare the room. The trick is to pack it inside out and fold along the garment seams.

For delicate items that have beading, having a bit of tissue paper between folds can also protect items from snags. I also highly recommend fully closing zippers of packed items so nothing snags as you pull it out of your bag. The tissue paper trick also goes for beaded purses. In fact, if you have a purse that’s extra delicate, I recommend stuffing the inside of the purse too, so it keeps its shape.

Packing fancy shoes

To protect fancy shoes, I recommend using a shoe tree, those inserts that keep a shoe’s shape, when packing them. You can also stuff the shoes with more tissue paper if you don’t have a shoe tree. You can pack the shoes in a bag, a shoe packing cube or a box to protect them.

Boxes don’t make the most use of a suitcase, but if keeping the shoes pristine is the most important thing then a box is the best way to go. You might consider filling the cracks around the shoes with socks and underwear if you really want to maximize space. If you think you might need a quick polish of your shoes, bring a small shoe shine kit.

For jewelry, I recommend investing in a jewelry case that is soft on the inside, so your items don’t get scratched.

Protect your delicate items from spills

Apart from tips on packing formalwear, pay close attention to how you pack everything else, so you can avoid any accidents. Back scratchy or sharp objects far away from delicate items, and please be extra careful with liquid cosmetics. Double bag them, or back them in a different bag, so you don’t run the risk of anything spilling in your bag, which would be just awful. 

It can happen to the best of packers because sometimes when you check a bag, and security goes through your luggage, they don’t put things back the way you packed them.

I hope these tips were helpful. But don’t stress about it, if you’re travelling to share a special day with a friend or family member, your presence is the most important thing, not the condition of your outfit.


Happy travels xo