Pack like a professional


FASHION:Stress-test your clothes before you travel, keep it smart, and whatever you do, don’t overpack. Sound advice from five women who work and travel in style. DEIRDRE McQUILLANreports


Communications Manager, Health Research Board

“I drive up and down from Waterford to Dublin every single week, leaving at five in the morning, and stay in Dublin a few nights, so it’s a demanding work schedule. I reckon I do about 450 kms a week, so I have to be organised. What I’ve learnt is to double up on cosmetics, and always have a bag ready.

“A bit like Jackie O, I tend to use two colours, cream and black, with silver and grey, but black is the staple. The other way to make things a little more interesting is to use different textures, a silk blouse with a woollen cardigan and a skirt with pleats. Also, dry clean clothes so that they are flat and ready for packing.

“I take a small carrier suitcase with a variety of different tops for either trousers or skirts, along with a jacket, blazer or cardigan. I love coats in shades that mix and match, and I rarely wear bright colours except for scarves in winter. I drive in my heels as I always wear heels, but again I tend to stick to the same colours – olive, green, black, silver and grey, to match the clothes and keep things simple.

“Travel to conferences is when it gets more complicated. I stick to the same colours with different textures. Different tights work wonders; I have a pair in very fine cotton that look like lace and they make a plain black outfit look fabulous. If you dress smart, you think smart, that’s my mantra.”


CEO Irish Internet Association and Businesswoman of the Year 2011

“I used to travel six to 10 months a year, but now I have to have a diverse wardrobe – it has been a rude awakening in an industry where everybody wears jeans. The fashion challenges [of the internet industry and accounting] are two different worlds and I believe that standards are very important. I work in the Digital Hub and having left accountancy, where I was surgically attached to a suit, now it is a free-for-all. My feet were once about to disown me because of my high heels, but now I’m down-at-heel all day in ballet pumps.

“I have packing down to a fine art and I am queen of the day dress with sleeves down to the elbows. I swear by Diane von Furstenberg and Max Mara dresses. I have an Issa that I carried in hand luggage from Dublin to Shanghai for St Patrick’s Day, whipped it out of my handbag and it went on without a crease – you can’t beat silk jersey. I must have worn it about 20 times.

“I like smart jeans (mine are from HM) with a suit jacket and a T-shirt. I have a cream blazer I wear with a T-shirt and I have more scarves than I know what to do with. I am a real invest-and-keep person and hold on to things for years, like a wraparound Paul Costelloe leather skirt I bought in London in 1999 and still wear.

“For shoes, I have flat loafers from MS, little ballet pumps, one pair of black shoes and boots all winter.

“For New York, I pack one dress for Manhattan, a great pair of jeans, some vest tops, fresh T-shirts and accessories. In the winter, I take one coat that can be worn at night or trekking around during the day. No chunky stuff. On the plane I wear jeans, a T-shirt with Converse and socks. I remove make-up before boarding and replace it on landing.

“I have a rake of John Smedley jumpers in lilac, black and charcoal grey which I buy in TK Maxx. They are really smart, and at €45, cost a fraction of their normal price of €190.”


founder Gifts Direct.comand

“I travel about once every six weeks, mostly to the US and the UK, from an overnight to three days. For the US trips, it’s usually two nights – I arrive early and leave late.

“I am a divil for getting cold on planes, so I generally bring a warm cardigan that I can wear underneath a coat that will fold up small – usually a light Lucy Downes cashmere from Havana.

“The trick is to bring only hand luggage and invest in a hard suitcase with a good zip. I think you get what you pay for. It’s well worth the investment and besides, I love to have something nice to carry around. I have a John Rocha black coat which can be thrown over anything and looks really smart.

“I usually bring a Daryl K black dress with a bit of detail that I can roll up and Anne Demeuelemeester black boots – they last forever and you can wear them with anything. I also take a white or pink shirt, some white cotton T-shirts from MS, and a colourful scarf because plain black needs cheering up. I generally try to take only one pair of shoes and maybe a pair of high heels. I always have Voya oil for travelling and I use small containers for toiletries which I leave ready in a going-away bag.”


PR Manager, Pioneer Investments

“My job involves trips back and forth to London for a day, or overnight to Paris, and long haul to Boston, and I’ve learnt that less is more. Day trips are definitely about sticking to a neutral colour palette like black or cream and then throwing in some colour. I tend to wear seven-eighths-length trousers with flats travelling and put on heels when I get off the plane. I keep the flats in a little dust bag in my handbag. I also carry a light trench coat as more often than not you don’t need a heavy coat.

“I usually wear a crease-resistant blouse – shirts are a nightmare and don’t travel well – and a little cardigan under a suit jacket. Pure cotton will crumple. For longer periods, at conferences, it’s about day into night and I tend to wear dresses with a nice belt or neck scarf. As for shoes, it’s flats, a good cream pair and a black pair. You are either in your bed or in your shoes and you can’t skimp on either because you need to feel comfortable.

“I’ve discovered Aristoc’s Sheer Ultimate 5 and 10 denier tights and now I wouldn’t wear anything else, as I’ve got so much wear from them. I get white T-shirts from Penneys and always bring a spare one in my handbag. Jewellery in airports is a bad idea, better to have a neck scarf and a good handbag that will collapse easily if you have to put it in your suitcase.

“Always stress-test your clothes before you travel; see whether they fold without creasing – irons in hotel rooms are never good.

“Comfortable underwear is very important too, and trousers are best for flights because tights and dresses aren’t always comfortable. When you are female and working in business, it is nice to have variety, so a dress is worth taking, but nothing too flimsy.

“The way you pack is important – like using tissue paper – but the main thing is to stick to the same colours and not bring anything too fussy. If you sit down before you go and think about exactly what you need and pack the minimum, it takes a lot of stress out of an early flight.”


A consultant to Sothebys and founder member and chair of Kinsale Arts Festival (July 7th-15th)

“I travel a lot both for work and on holidays. I go to the art fairs in Basel, Venice, London, Paris, New York and Miami, where the dress code is much more relaxed, more deconstructed chic, but that is not the Sothebys look. People in the art world generally wear black and are understated.

“The weather is a hugely important factor, but I wear a lot of black for arts events. Sothebys Irish Sale last month, for example, involved a lot of entertaining – lunches and meeting clients – and for that I wore mostly plain black clothes with black or nude shoes – you make the shoes work with everything.

“I love dresses because they’re easy, and particularly red dresses. For travelling I wear jeans, flat black pumps and usually a black heavy silk coat I bought in New York and which looks good over anything. I wear a lot of scarves. Light layers are great for travelling, like long, fine wool cardigans over jeans. I don’t take a lot of jewellery or anything heavy.

“If I’m going away for three days for Sothebys, I would bring a Rimowa suitcase because it’s light and wheels easily. But I can go to Dublin with just a handbag for an overnight. I love Pauric Sweeney bags. I shop when I travel, but at home I like Brown Thomas and Samui in Cork.”

“One of the worst things is overpacking. The fact that we have to be much more compact because of the airlines has improved things a lot, but it takes much longer to pack because I try to make sure that I have everything – and a bar of high cocoa content chocolate.”


1. Make accessories look the part; invest in a really good (preferably hard) suitcase with a strong zip.

2. Keep shoes to a minimum; two pairs should be enough

3. Silk jersey dresses don’t crease; they can work for day into evening wear. (Check out Issa, MaxMara, Diane von Furstenberg)

4. Really smart dark denim jeans and a well fitting jacket with several T-shirts (and a spare one in the handbag) travel anywhere.

5. A good coat for day or evening wear can cover a multitude. Alternatively, a trench coat, and again it’s worth investing in quality.

6. Light layers are good for travelling; fine wool or cashmere cardigans that can be worn under a jacket or coat.

7. Stick to neutral shades, using accessories such as scarves as colour accents.

8. Stress-test clothes before you travel. Will they crease if folded?

9. Work out each ensemble for each meeting/event and pack accordingly. Think in outfits top to toe.

10. Use different textures to add interest to a simple colour palette; a silk blouse, a woollen cardigan with trousers or pleated skirt, for example.

11. Keep a spare washbag with cosmetics, skincare and toiletries ready packed in small containers, ideally in a clear zipper bag.

12. Keep jewellery to a minimum and avoid too much scent.