An Expert Guide to Packing, Straight From a Fashion Insider
There are so many things to look forward to when planning a trip: sampling the local cuisine, checking out notable sites, and of course creating new memories. But unfortunately, traveling can come with a lot of stressors as well — not the least of which is the packing. And while some especially organized folks look forward to this often tedious task, most of us dread it so much, we wait until the last second to shove half of our wardrobe into a too-small suitcase, only to realize upon arrival that we’ve packed nothing that really work together at all. Sigh.
Thankfully, Jessica Taft Langdon, a Los Angeles-based designer/consultant with The Company of Strangers and founder and creator of the recently-shuttered but well-loved footwear line The Palatines, is not only someone who genuinely appreciates the process, but is willing to share the tips she’s learned over her years of traveling. “The first thing that you need to know is that my three my most favorite things in the world are fashion, efficiency, travel,” she says. “So, i’m genetically well-suited to be pretty good at packing.” Sounds good to us.
Whether or not you’ve got a trip queued up, it couldn’t hurt to refine your packing technique for your next excursion. Read on for Langdon’s go-to method and try it for yourself so that you can be as effortlessly chic as possible no matter where you’re headed.
Step 1: The Fantasy
I start ‘pre-packing’ about a week before my flight. A little earlier than actually necessary, because it is the first actionable step in getting excited to go. So, leave the efficiency for actually packing the bag, and give yourself over to enjoying the process of readying yourself and your wardrobe!
This is basically a mental mood board for your packing. You’re picturing yourself in your destination, doing all the things you’re excited to do. And you’re picturing what you want to look like, while doing it. In short, picture your right-now self, with the addition of the glamour of travel.
If it’s vacation, this is easy. but it works well for work trips, too. If there are presentations, client meetings, or anything that might make you a little nervous, envisioning what you’ll be wearing may help you feel like the best of yourself. When I’m anxious about a meeting, I always feel 10 times better after I’ve decided what I can wear to make me feel super confident.
Step 2: The Options
The second step of pre-packing is the natural extension of your fantasy. You’re going to basically pull out everything from your closet that you think could possibly make your postcard version of your trip a reality, without any consideration for the size of your luggage. You don’t need all of your stuff, just the best stuff: tried and true favorites, a few new things, but mostly focus on the pieces you’ve been wearing on repeat recently. They’re reliable, flattering, and feel like who you are right this very moment.
Hang and or fold stacks of all of this stuff — sorted by type of garment — and leave it somewhere you can see it for the few days before you need to put in into a suitcase. Over the next day or two, take note of what pieces are outliers, the ones that don’t really fit with the rest of what you’ve got piled up. Pull those pieces out and make a separate pile. You may start a little editing over the day or so after you’ve laid out all of you options. For example, you might realize that a houndstooth blazer feels too much like work to bring on a vacation, and swap it out for a cardigan. If you feel the inclination to ditch something early, that’s usually a good instinct. Move it to a maybe pile, or just get rid of it all together.
Step 3: The Dirty
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For your final pre-packing step, make sure you’ve taken all of your dry-cleanable [items] to get laundered and back home at least 48 hours before you leave. Same thing goes for getting your laundry done — don’t leave it until the last minute. Once you start the processing of editing options, you’re going to need everything in one place.
Step 4: Editing
Now it’s time to start actually packing. This is the part where we stop taking clothes out of the closet, and start putting them back in. At this point, you should have your options pretty well curated.
Plan enough outfits to cover about 25 to 50 percent of your trip, depending how much of a planner you are in normal life. I never plan outfits at home, so i focus on putting together just a few, in case i run out of ideas while traveling. My packing philosophy really relies on mixing and matching separates (as opposed to dresses and jumpsuits which inherently aren’t as changeable).
For each category of clothing, give your self a limit on the number you’ll bring. For example, for a two-week trip abroad, I packed a few pairs of pants (one comfy, one tailored, and one wild card pair), a couple of slim pull-over sweaters for laying, one cardigan and one blazer for outer layers, around six blouses or tops, layering pieces (tees and camisoles), one or two dresses, one skirt, one pair of underwear and socks per day, three bras (strategically chosen for color and/or function), and three or four pairs of shoes. My number one suggestion here is not to bring two pairs of black pants — unless you never wear anything but black, in which case you probably don’t need help packing.
Start putting looks together with the rest of your options. This is where the editing happens quickly. You’ll focus on pants, and you’ll decide on which fill needs. As you’re putting those looks together, you’ll see which pieces from each category aren’t working well with the pants. eliminate all of those.
Once you’ve nailed down pants, you’ll know some of the other pieces that won’t work with. Move from pants to blouses/tops, then layering pieces, and so on. Any article of clothing that can’t be worn with two or three outfits should be eliminated. Be as ruthless as possible. Eliminate as much as you can, all while keeping your trip fantasy and the reality of what you really wear in mind. It’s a balancing act, and it gets easier each trip you pack for.
if you’re a planner, make sure you’ve snapped a few selfies of the most successful looks you’ve tried. You can duplicate these on your trip, or just use them as reference, maybe swapping out pieces, as you become inspired.
Step 5: Your Toilette
“Pack all of your bathroom bits, being as compact as humanly possible. I recommend tiny travel bottles from Muji.”
Step 6: Load Up & Add Details
I am obsessive about never checking luggage on domestic flights, and so i pretty much only use one Briggs & Riley bag. i like that it’s lightweight, has one large storage area, and a suiter, where I can pretend that my hanging clothes will get a tiny bit less wrinkled.
At this point, you’ll find out quickly if you need to edit further. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know what needs to go (Hint: it’s probably shoes or sweaters). Or, maybe you find you need to add a few more things. If you have extra room for more pieces, I condone making these selections emotionally, not based on reason. I suggest adding prints, color, or pieces that feel fun. Fantasy-fulfillment insurance.
After that, fill any extra space with accessories, since they don’t need much room. Bring all your favorite jewelry, silk scarves, belts, and headbands that you want. For a pro tip, use the inside of your shoes to store small things! These last minute additions should be the pieces that will keep you from feeling like you’re wearing the same thing every day of your trip. Just don’t forget to actually use them!