How to Fold a DressBy Kathryn Walsh; Updated August 11, 2017
The best way to keep a dress fresh and wrinkle-free in your suitcase
Nothing says "rumpled tourist" quite like a dress crisscrossed with winkles. And because, in some countries, it's not customary for hotel rooms to have irons, you could find yourself walking into a gorgeous five-star ristorante in Rome wearing something that looks like you just picked it up off your closet floor. If you want to feel elegant and confident and take some truly Facebook-worthy vacation snaps, prevent wrinkles from happening by folding and packing your dresses the right way.
First step: prep the dress
Assuming you might not have a way to iron the dress when you arrive at your destination, always start out with a garment that's as neat and pressed as possible. If you're packing a dress that's been worn a few times since its last cleaning, consider dry-cleaning it now so it's at peak condition.
No matter how carefully you fold and pack them, some dresses will wrinkle more than others. Opt for dresses made of wool and cashmere during cold weather, and bring seersucker or polyester dresses during warm months. Those fabrics will resist wrinkling more than cotton and some other natural fibers.
Second step: bag it
Wrapping a dress in plastic minimizes friction with other items in your suitcase, and gives the garment a little cushion so it can slip and slide as the suitcase moves instead of being bent and crushed. Place the dress inside a dry cleaner bag, or use a clean, unscented garbage bag. Make sure the top of the dress is at the very top of the bag. Clip it in place at the top of the bag if necessary, using binder clips or hair clips. Note: This is only temporary.
Place the bagged dress on a bed or table. If the dress has sleeves, reach inside the bag and fold them over the front of the dress.
If you have a little space to spare in your suitcase, try to let some air into the bag, then tie the bottom tightly closed. That extra cushion of air will protect the dress even more; of course, the air will only stay inside if the top of the bag is sealed.
Third step: fold it
With the bagged dress still on the bed or table, fold the top half of the dress down over the bottom half. If you used any clips to keep the top of the dress in place at the top of the bag, remove them.
The dress may now be the right size to fit into your suitcase. But if it's too large, fold it in half a second time.
Use this technique to pack a dress in either a suitcase or carry-on bag. If you're using a carry-on, you may want to place the dress under your bag of liquids, gels and aerosols, since you'll need to remove those for separate screening at the airport.
Fourth step: pack it
Fill the rest of your suitcase with everything you need, leaving the dress for last. Pick up the folded bundle and place it on top of everything else.
Fifth step: wear it
Even with this wrinkle-defying system, your dress may still look less than fresh when you unpack it. Hang it in the bathroom while you take a hot shower to steam some of the wrinkles out. If you know that your hotel doesn't provide irons, you may also want to pack a travel iron.