Written by: Jill Jones
For summer and warm weather destination travel, nothing beats lightweight, breathable, linen clothing for comfort. But many travellers shy away from bringing it along on holiday because they don’t know how to pack it to avoid having it arrive at their destination in a rumpled state. Fortunately, there are ways to pack linen to keep creases to a minimum, which are well worth the effort, given its special appeal.
As one of the world’s oldest textiles, with a rich history, perfect drape, and soft hand, linen remains a popular wardrobe staple among a considerable slice of the population who appreciate not only its form, but also its function. An elegant, seemingly extravagant, yet casual, unstructured fabric, linen clothing imparts a certain air of insouciance to those who wear it, eliciting a pang of envy in the rest of us who would otherwise cringe at the thought of wearing wrinkled clothing.
And, yes, that is another of linen’s defining characteristics: it wrinkles more easily than most other fabrics and, once wrinkled, remains that way until you do something about it. Whilst some might believe that would disqualify linen as a practical fabric for travel, we, along with legions of jet-setters for whom linen is a wardrobe staple whilst on summer holiday, would respectfully disagree. Linen clothing is just the ticket for remaining cool, comfortable and looking your best, wherever your travels take you. And it won’t add much weight or bulk to your suitcase, though it requires some care in packing. Following are a few techniques you can use which will help ensure your linen clothing arrives at its destination relatively unscathed by creasing.
Packing to Prevent Wrinkles
● An obvious solution is to hang linen garments in a garment bag, if possible. If you’re travelling by car or rail, this shouldn’t be too difficult, assuming there’s room. However, hanging the bag may not be an option if you’re flying to your destination. Many airlines no longer offer hanging space which means you must stow it in the overhead compartment requiring you to fold the bag in half. This will work fine, assuming nothing gets crammed on top of it. Otherwise, consider the tactics described below.
● In general, try to fit the garments in your case with a minimum of folding.
● Pack individual linen garments in plastic (dry cleaner bags or other large plastic bags, for example). This will help stop them pressing against other clothing, which is what causes wrinkling in transit.
● Insert tissue paper within folds of the garments and in between layers of other garments–again to reduce friction and the resulting wrinkles.
● Pack clothing in a hard-sided suitcase. Hard cases retain their shape and protect garments from external, wrinkle-causing pressure.
● Don’t over-fill your suitcase. Creases are more likely to set under pressure in a jam-packed case.
● Pack your linen clothing on the top layer in your case, relegating heavier items to the bottom. However, if you’re flying and checking your bag, pack the linen garments in the middle for protection, as there is a good likelihood the bag will get flipped over in transit.
● Lined linen garments should be turned inside out and then folded. Similar to wrapping garments in plastic, having the smooth lining on the outside will reduce friction, thus minimising wrinkling.
● Rolling—instead of folding. Some travellers swear by this method; others say it doesn’t work. We say it depends on the garment. Unstructured linen trousers lend themselves to this method better than button-down shirts, for example. The trick is making sure you roll each garment tightly.
● Bundling—instead of folding or rolling. This technique involves laying out each article of clothing you’re planning to pack flat on top of each other, with the garments most prone to wrinkling on the bottom. Alternate the direction of each item as you go and overlap sleeves. Trousers should be folded lengthwise and added to the bundle with the waistband aligning with the edge of the pile. Place a compact bundle on top to use as a core, such as a bulky folded jumper or bundle of socks, for example, and wrap the layers of clothing taut around the core, creating a large rounded bundle without the folds that cause wrinkling. The bundling technique for packing involves a lot of effort and physical exertion but, if done properly, works reasonably well. This DOES require unpacking all of your clothing at your destination so if you are travelling from place to place, it would not be a convenient solution.
Upon Arrival at your Destination
● Unpack your linen garment immediately and hang it up. It if does sustain wrinkles you can hang it in the bathroom and turn on a hot shower, creating steam. Leave the garment in the steamy bathroom for several minutes and shake the garment out or pull it taut. The steam will eliminate the wrinkles.
● Another option is lightly spray/splash the garment with water and blow it dry, whilst pulling on the edges; the heat will release the wrinkles similar to steam.
● If water is scarce or steam isn’t an option, you can bring along some wrinkle-release spray which also works to reduce wrinkles.
● Obviously, you can iron the garment as a last resort (but, who really wants to spend their holiday ironing?).
It is true that linen clothing requires a bit more attention and care than clothing made of other fabrics, particularly when packing for a trip. However, there’s a reason linen has endured through the ages, as the ubiquitous summer clothing fabric among those who inhabit warmer climes. Whilst synthetic fabric apparel may look fresh, it’s not nearly as comfortable nor as elegant looking—wrinkles and all—as natural, airy linen.