We may earn a small commission from product links. Blog posts at Nimble Made are written to provide value and advice for our readers—any product(s) we recommend are items readers use and love.
Written by Tanya Zhang
Chances are, if you’re packing a dress shirt when you travel, it’s for an occasion where pressed, professional collared shirts are a must. After an especially long journey, it’s a huge pain to whip out the hotel iron and straighten out every shirt for travel.
Of course, you can try the old hack of hanging them in the bathroom while you take a steamy shower. However, if you haven’t tried it, here’s a spoiler alert: it doesn’t work well for shirt folding.
In fact, it’s only vaguely better than patting your shirt down through the day and hoping the wrinkles fall out. Here’s how to fold dress shirts for travel the right way.
How to Fold Dress Shirts for Travel
1. Lay out your dress shirt and button it up
Make sure you lay your shirt out nice and flat. Don't do it over your bed, couch, or any other uneven surface. Smooth out any wrinkles and make sure your dress shirts are even on all sides, even the side of the shirt.
Before you fold and pack your dress shirt, make sure it won't get creases on the way. The best way to do this is to button it up. Don't skimp and just do a few buttons. Button it all the way up from top to bottom to get the best fold for travel.
2. Fold the dress shirt sleeves in lengthwise
Your dress shirt is all prepped, and now it's time to start folding. Begin with the arms of your shirt. Start with the left sleeve, then right, and be careful to keep it nice and straight. You want to fold it right along the crease where the shoulder is and follow the shirt lengthwise.
Fold the sleeve of your dress shirt diagonally, then fold it in half again. By this point, the sleeve cuff should still be diagonal, and lined up with the shirt's collar of the shirt.
Then, simply repeat the process with the other sleeve of the shirt. It may seem tedious, but it’ll keep your dress shirts in good shape while you travel.
Another way to take care of folding the sleeves is to start with the buttons of your shirt facing downward (toward your folding surface). The process is very similar to the first method, but you’ll fold each sleeve diagonally across the breadth of your dress shirts.
Lay one sleeve diagonally across the other, taking care to ensure they’re straight and wrinkle free. Then, make sure the creases in the sleeves are ‘tight’ and begin close to the collar.
No matter the method you prefer for dealing with sleeves, the next steps are pretty much the same. Then, start your next fold at the bottom of your shirt.
3. Fold your shirt upwards twice
Use both hands to ensure the folds are even and keep a few wrinkles away. Fold the bottom of the shirt upwards, toward the collar. The shirt should now be folded in half.
If it’s a shorter dress shirt for travel, you can stop this step now. If you’re folding longer dress shirts (or are really short on space), go ahead and fold it again. Keep your folds even if you fold it twice. They should be lined up with each other to keep your shirt looking pressed.
4. Pack away your dress shirt for travel
Smooth out any other wrinkles and make sure all your dress shirt folds are crisp and tucked in the right places. Pack your dress shirt in your suitcase and you're good to go!
(Our favorite shirt folding board for travel)
Folding multiple collared shirts?
If you’re packing more than one dress shirt, use this hack to keep them in even better shape. Folding a dress shirt properly can take time, and it’s tempting to cut corners for a folded shirt. Most of the time that results in wrinkles you end up ironing out as soon as you get to the hotel.
With this hack though, you can feel good about saving yourself some time. Even better, it’s more effective at keeping wrinkles away from your dress shirts.
Start like you would if you were folding a single shirt flat. Buttoned up, facing down, and on a sturdy, flat surface.
Instead of folding sleeves diagonally however, you’ll fold them nearly straight down. Basically, the cuff should point at the tail of your dress shirt. You’ll still fold along the crease, or seam, that connects the sleeve to the body of the shirt.
Do one sleeve at a time, pinching the seam to make sure you have a precise fold. Make sure to smooth out any wrinkles, and then move on to the next sleeve of the folded shirt. Once both sleeves are folded, smooth them out again for good measure.
To add another dress shirt to your travel luggage, fold it using one of the methods for single shirts we discussed above. Then, take the second shirt (while still leaving the first prepared as you have it), and stack it neatly onto the first shirt.
You still need some room at the bottom, or tail, or your first shirt for the hack to work. Typically, 3 to 5 inches is a good length.
Then, fold the first shirt (with the second laying on top of it), roughly in half. Again, use both hands to make sure your shirts look nice and neat. At this point, the first shirt should cover the second like a book cover or sandwich.
Before you put them into your suitcase, there’s one more thing to do to pack your dress shirts properly. Smooth them out, and use both hands to flip the button sides upward. Then, go ahead and put them in and keep packing.
Folding shirts vs Rolling up shirt
This debate again? Who hasn’t argued with their roommate, spouse, or traveling companion about whether you should fold or roll your clothes? Some people tout rolling as the end all be all, claiming it saves tons of space. Some people refute the claim, and prefer folded clothes. Let’s look at the grand debate:
Benefits of rolling
Whether or not you truly get more space is up for debate. However, if you roll your clothes, there are some undeniable advantages. First, you can see what you have and where it is, clearly. Because of this, it’s easier to pack.
Not only that, you can make the most of the space you have. Rolling is good for medium weight fabrics that roll easily and can come back wrinkle free. Nobody wants to try and roll a wool sweater. Here are the main benefits of rolling shirts up for travel:
- Minimizes wrinkles: Rolling shirts can help reduce creases and wrinkles, especially if you roll them tightly.
- Saves space: Rolled shirts generally take up less space in your suitcase, allowing you to pack more items.
- Easy access: Rolled shirts can be easily identified and retrieved from your suitcase without disturbing the other items.
Benefits of folding collared shirts
If you’re a ‘fold your clothes to pack’ person, chances are you hate dealing with wrinkles. While you may not be able to see everything in your luggage at a glance, you also have less wrinkles when you arrive at your destination.
Of course, there are also some materials that it really doesn’t make sense for folding shirts. Very light, easily wrinkled fabrics are always best folded. However, if you're thinking of bring a sweater to wear over your dress shirt, you'll want to roll it as it’ll easily take up more room than if it’s folded.
In short: very thin or thick fabrics are best to pack folded, and if you hate wrinkles, anything else is game, too. Here are the main benefits of folding dress shirts for travel:
- Easier organization: Folding shirts neatly and placing them in stacks can make it easier to locate specific shirts and maintain a tidy suitcase.
- Fewer wrinkles for certain fabrics: Some people find that folding works better for certain fabrics, such as stiffer dress shirts, as it helps maintain their shape.
- Ideal for business trips or formal occasions: Folding shirts can create a more polished look when you unpack them for business meetings or formal events.
Packing can be a dreaded activity, but it’s not quite as dreaded as hoping the hotel iron doesn’t burn your best dress shirt. Naturally, there are some things it’s fine to roll if you want to stay more organized and potentially save space.
It may seem like more steps than you thought possible to properly fold a dress shirt. Don’t worry, once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite simple. If you worry you’re taking more time than a dress shirt merits, remember there’s minimal ironing.
Frequently asked questions about how to fold dress shirt for travel
Should you roll or fold dress shirts for packing?
Both rolling and folding dress shirts can be effective for packing, but rolling tends to minimize wrinkles and save space, while folding allows for easier organization and a more polished look when unpacking for formal occasions.
How do you fold a shirt to save space for travel?
To fold a shirt and save space for travel, lay it flat, fold one side inward about halfway, fold the sleeve back, then fold the other side over the first fold, resulting in a compact and stackable shirt.
Is it OK to fold dress shirts?
Yes, it is generally okay to fold dress shirts. Folding them properly and neatly can help minimize wrinkles and keep them in good condition for travel or storage.
How do you fold a shirt into a travel bag?
To fold a shirt into a travel bag, start by laying the shirt flat and fold one side inward about halfway, then fold the sleeve back, and finally fold the other side over the first fold to create a compact and space-saving bundle that can be placed into the bag.