I read my first etiquette book when I was 18 years old. I found my mom’s old copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Guide to Etiquette and I was at once fascinated and amused by some of the things that were considered proper form in the mid 50’s and are completely irrelevant today (do you know how to write to an airline to request a reservation?). Anyway, I ordered a copy of the book for myself as well as one of Letitia Baldridge’s (former social secretary to Jackie Kennedy). Some of the mandates are pretentious and smug, but there is a lot of really good advice hidden between the art of the thank you note and what to do if you need to appear before the President.
Note* If you need a good book on thank you’s, check out Connie Leas’ The Art of Thank You. It’s truly spectacular.
One of the best nuggets of advice I gleaned from the books was how to pack correctly. It’s not improper etiquette to pack in any way you want, but the system I use makes the most of your space and requires the least amount of ironing when you get to the other end. If you’re headed backpacking for the weekend or on a bikinis-and-shorts-style beach stay, this probably won’t be for you, but you might pick up a few things anyway. It may, at least, keep your packing scene from looking like this.
Start by gathering all of your hard items (shoes, curling iron, hairbrush) and arranging them in an even layer on the bottom of the suitcase. If you have any particularly heavy items, place those near the side that will become bottom when you stand the suitcase up. Cover this layer with something to keep your clothes clean and protected from your shoes. You can use a piece of cloth, paper, or whatever. I used a plastic kitchen trash bag that became my dirty clothes bag while I was gone.
Next, address your dresses (or dress shirts, or slacks, or skirts) arrange one piece lengthwise across the suitcase with the top of the garment all the way to the edge and the bottom of the garment draped out the other end. Alternate with the next garment, and repeat, alternating each time, until all the garments are in.
For blouses, tee shirts, and gym clothes, conserve space by folding them into thirds lengthwise and rolling tight.
Arrange rolled items and toiletries (I have an awesome Mary Kay roll up bag, but that’s just shameless self-promotion) in the cavity left by your dresses and whatnot, along with rolled up belts, undergarments, and any other odds and ends. Make sure you pack rolled items into the “crease” of the dresses to prevent wrinkles
In one motion, flip the loose ends of the dresses from one side over the suitcase, followed by the other side. And that’s it!
In a standard sized suitcase, I was able to fit the following:
3 pair, high heels
1 pair, cowboy boots
1 pair, sandals
1 pair, pj’s
1 gym outfit
2 cardigan sweaters
Curling iron, flat-iron, 2 hair brushes
Enough Mary Kay products to open a store out of my hotel room