I’m heading to Los Angeles soon to partake in InStyle’s big Golden Globes event and while checking off items off of my to-do list, I suddenly realized I have a big question at the top. How do you travel with a gown these days? Baggage limitations for carry-ons are strict, and I don’t want to schmush my lovely floor-length, mermaid-hemmed dress. Luckily my colleague, InStyle’s fashion director, Melissa Rubini, is here to advise me—and you! Hopping on planes with over-the-top gowns is part of her job description, as she is the fashion force behind InStyle’s covers and fashion shoots. Here’s her seasoned advice on how to travel with a gown, whether you’re attending a glitzy Hollywood affair like me, or your cousin’s black-tie wedding. —A.M.
Melissa, tell us: How do you travel with a gown?
You have a few different options when traveling with a gown. You can either put it in a garment bag and have it as a carry on depending on size—a huge ball gown wouldn’t be allowed. Or, you can put it in a garment bag and a suitcase. Depending on style and detail, like beading and lace, you would fold it, adding tissue paper between fabrics to prevent damage—this way, different parts of the dress don’t touch each other. When packing the gown in a garment bag, your hanger is key. If the dress is heavier, like a ball gown or something embellished, you can use two hangers at the same time so that they will be able to handle the weight without breaking. With delicate fabrics, definitely use a fabric-covered hanger or a suede hanger to prevent damage.
If carrying it with you is not an option, there are shipping services that you can use—I prefer IBC (ibcinc.com). Make sure to give yourself enough time for shipping delays and double-check that all shipment information is correct. If you are shipping to a hotel, alert the concierge ahead of time. But the safest way, I suggest, is to carry it by hand—even with checked luggage, there is always a chance of misplacement.
Also, don’t forget to find out in advance the best dry-cleaning and alterations services in town. Most hotels provide it for guests, but if not you don’t want to be left with a broken zipper or an undone seam.
Storing your gown once you get to your destination can be a bit tricky too. You can either ask your hotel to press and steam it for you or bring along a portable steamer and DYI it. I also like to try on my gown one last time before sending it out to be steamed; this way, if there are any minor things that need to be fixed (for example, a loose strap), they can still be done without major stress.
Last but not least, do a final mental checklist from head to toe. Make sure you have all of your accessories and any necessary undergarments.
Melissa's Checklist for Traveling with a Gown
1. Handheld steamer—we recommend either a Jiffy ($59; amazon.com) or Rowenta ($30; target.com)
2. Stylist kit ($13; amazon.com)
3. Tissue paper
4. Garment bag