As part of the Lolita Blog Carnival, I’ll be writing (semi-)regular posts based on a variety of themes. Each post will link to other participants’ blogs, so you can read their takes on the topic. Be sure to check them out! Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy these updates.
Packing Tips For Lolita, or: making the most of your suitcase space!
As you might be able to tell from the above image, I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to packing a suitcase. Whether you’re traveling cross-country for the weekend or going abroad for a long vacation, the less unnecessary items and bulky bags you have to wrangle, the better. This can get tricky when you want to bring along multiple lolita outfits, but it’s entirely possible! You just have to learn to be methodical about the process.
In the gif, I’ve managed to pack six lolita outfits* (including wigs, accessories, shoes, pajamas, and underwear) comfortably into my 22″ Travelpro Maxlite, which fits within the carry-on limits for all domestic airlines, as well as most international airlines.
*Of course, I forgot to pack the petticoat there! Here’s how I pack mine with minimal bulk- by placing it open on top of all the other clothes and tucking it into the sides.
That brings us to:
Rolling: Rolling clothes up tightly squeezes any excess air out, which makes them more compact. I like to roll up pajamas, t-shirts, pants, underwear, and socks, all of which can easily be put in gaps in the main compartment of your luggage, or packed into the smaller outside pockets.
I personally wouldn’t do this with lolita dresses, blouses, or certain types of outerwear, due to the risk of wrinkling the garment or potentially damaging the screenprint on older pieces. The bulky nature of most lolita garments, with full skirts, heavy embellishments, and (occasionally) structured bodices means that they don’t really lend themselves well to being rolled tightly enough to make any difference.
Folding: Folding is how I managed to pack six dresses in a carry-on! This may seem counter-intuitive, but I prefer folding to rolling because it doesn’t compress the clothes as tightly- which makes them easier to squash down gently into the suitcase.
In my experience, folding dresses in half lengthwise (down the middle of the bodice) and then widthwise (along the waist seam, give or take a few inches) is enough to get them to fit snugly in the suitcase, and produces the least wrinkles. But there’ll always be exceptions- depending on the length of a dress or the way it’s constructed, you may have to fold it differently or resort to rolling it.
Vacuum/Space-Saver bags: These days it’s fairly easy to find heavy-duty plastic bags that you can fill with soft items and then compress by forcing the air out, either with a vacuum or by manually compressing the bag (usually by rolling it). These really come in handy if you find yourself needing to pack a lot of clothes into a limited amount of space, or if you want to make more room in an otherwise full suitcase. The waterproof factor is an added bonus- make sure to check ahead to see what the weather will be like at your destination!
But like the rolling technique, you do run the risk of accidentally pressing wrinkles into your clothing or creasing the lace and trims in an unflattering way. If you do use these bags, just make sure that you’ll be able to re-pack them for the journey home! Access to a vacuum might be necessary (and access to a garment steamer would be ideal).
– It might be a little hard to tell from the gifs, but I start out with the suitcase’s extender (a flap of extra fabric along the sides) fully unzipped while I pack, to give the clothing as much room as possible. Then, once I zip the suitcase closed, I zip the extender back up. This helps to gently compress everything inside and ensures that your carry-on won’t be too big for the compartment. If you try this and find that there’s a lot of resistance when you re-zip it, don’t force it too hard! Try your best to gently compress the suitcase- the age-old technique of sitting on it while you close it really does help- but if it feels like it’s about to pop under the pressure, it might be time to dive back in and re-pack. Better to go without an item or two than to break your suitcase right before your trip.
– If you’re bringing structured bras, stack them on top of each other (cupping each other’s cups) and stuff some socks or other soft items in the cups of the bottom-most bra to help them all retain their shape. It’s probably obvious, but remember to bring enough changes of underwear to last the entire time you’ll be away from home- plus one or two extras, just in case.
– Small items can be stored inside shoes or other rigid objects- anything with a hollow of space that might otherwise be wasted. Sure, your roommate might think it’s weird when they see you shaking toiletries and jewelry out of your boots, but when it comes to traveling, being space-savvy is what really counts. Tell yourself that.
– Always, ALWAYS store containers of liquids or gels inside plastic bags. Double-bagging is even better. You never know when something’s going to get nudged or squeezed the wrong way and burst all over an irreplaceable item.
– If you have to bring outerwear but can’t afford to let it take up all that space in your luggage, do your best to keep it on your person, or at least draped over your arm or your lap. Same goes for hats, as a last resort.
It may be tempting to wear your petticoat on the plane or train to save suitcase space and try to stave off deflation, but remember that it’s (usually) pretty cramped quarters, and your fluff might get caught on things or start to encroach on other people’s space. The petticoat packing method I showed above takes up much less space than you’d expect and hasn’t caused any notable deflation so far.
– You might’ve noticed that I didn’t pack any purses into the suitcase. When I travel by plane or train, I bring a giant tote to serve as my “purse” (to be stowed under the seat or on overhead racks). It’s huge enough that I can store a regular rigid purse or two in it without having to worry about them being crushed, which is a potential risk when they’re in your luggage. I pack smaller purses into those if needed for different coords (purseception!). I also store small, fragile items like jewelry or floral pieces in them if I’m worried about those being damaged.
Arranging everything optimally is important, but it’s only half the battle! Choosing what to bring with you is essential, and by far the biggest influence on your packing process.
1. Versatility is key!
Plan your coordinates ahead of time, and plan to make the most out of each item you bring. If you want to have multiple changes of outfits, it’s tempting to try and make each of them completely unique, but you might not have the space to spare. Still, try to do a test pack to be sure!
In the example shown above, I chose two pairs of shoes and two blouses, each of which can be paired with multiple dresses. I also chose not to pack a huge variety of wigs- the two Prisila hairpieces I chose are fairly versatile and can be styled in different ways to complement different outfits. Try to consider all of the ways you could combine the different pieces in your wardrobe.
Accessories can play a huge part in differentiating coords, so be creative! You can transform the look of a blouse or dress with statement jewelry, corsages or brooches, neck bows or jabots, underskirts, legwear, different styles of outerwear… the list goes on. It’s generally easier to bring a few small accessories than an extra main piece.
2. Consider your own comfort.
This might go without saying, but there’ll usually be a lot of downtime at your event or while you’re on vacation. Even the most comfortable lolita outfits can become taxing to wear if you’re out and about for fourteen hours, and a lot of the time you’ll find that you want to wear a little less than your OTT best to go out or relax with friends.
With that in mind, I packed two cutsew OPs and a change of regular clothes (jeans and tee, rolled up at the bottom of the suitcase) so that I could have the option of something less restrictive than a full coordinate with blouse, dress, headwear, accessories, petticoat, heels, etc, etc. Dress to impress for your tea parties and meet-and-greets, but when you know you’re going to be walking for hours or heading out to a karaoke bar, comfort is king.
Which leads me to another point- bring a pair of comfortable shoes, especially to wear while you’re traveling! They don’t have to be lolita shoes, although if your most comfortable shoes are lolita shoes, congrats! Just make sure that whatever’s on your feet won’t be tripping you up or causing you pain while you’re stuck in that airplane seat or trying to catch your next train.
3. Expect to come back with more.
The more you can pack into one bag, the more room you’ll have in another. I didn’t expect to shop at all at Rufflecon, but I came back with an entirely new outfit! And while I did go to Tokyo expecting to shop, I still didn’t think I’d come back with so much. Unless you’re absolutely broke (which would be a shame on vacation), something will probably catch your eye.
Consolidating all of your clothes to as few bags as possible means that you’ll be able to bring back plenty of souvenirs, and the bonus to keeping everything in your carry-on is that you won’t incur any baggage fees- at least while you’re headed to your destination.
Some shopping and storage strategies I’ve encountered:
– Buying a new suitcase to hold all your purchases for the return trip: a decent plan if you have cash to spare, both for the new luggage and the baggage fees, and a good excuse to pick up any cute suitcases you might find on your voyage. It’s not the most cost-effective way to go about it, though.
– Shipping items home: something that might save you a lot of money if your airline has particularly nasty baggage fees, but you’ll have to do your research and compare all your options to be sure. You would also have to deal with navigating an unfamiliar postal system, and the risk of having no recourse if your parcel goes missing in transit.
– Packing everything in a smaller suitcase, and putting that in a larger suitcase for the flight to your destination: a solid plan if you can check the bag for free!
– Packing only the bare essentials and buying everything else at your destination: ambitious, and sounds like a lot of fun, but I know I’d worry too much about arriving somewhere, heading out to shop, and realizing that everything available was unflattering/not to my tastes/out of my price range!
My preferred method, which I used while I was in Japan, was to bring a compact duffel bag that fit flat in my carry-on. I didn’t have to check an extra bag flying there, it didn’t take up much space, and when it came time to pack up all my purchases, the duffel expanded to fit everything. It does mean one more big heavy bag to carry, but in my experience, it got the job done with the least amount of hassle.
I like to bring a power strip everywhere, especially if I’ll be rooming with other people. Be sure to get the correct outlet adapters if you’re traveling abroad.
Prepping for a trip is the perfect time to reorganize and consolidate your makeup kit. Only bring what you know you’ll need!
Try to keep a few spare bobby pins, safety pins, bandages, and hair ties in each of your bags, just in case.
Write yourself a checklist of the essentials- electronics, chargers, forms of identification, printouts of ticket confirmations, etc.- and give yourself time to double-check everything before you leave.
That’s a lot! I hope it might be of some use. I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to say, but any questions are absolutely welcome- I’ll do my best to help.
Above all, even if you do forget something or can’t pack everything or find that something’s gone wrong, remember to relax and breathe and try to enjoy yourself. You’re going somewhere new, you’re free of most obligations for a while, and you’re probably going to have an awesome time. I hope you do!
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