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How to Pack Dresses for Travel and Great Photos: 9 Tips

Dancing in my Leota dress at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey!
Dancing in my Leota dress at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey!

Over the course of six years of travel blogging and 700 photo-filled articles, I’ve amassed tricks to help YOU pack dresses for fashionable travel and great pictures. To illustrate each point, I took a suitcase full of frocks from my favorite dress company, Leota, to the most awesome tourist attractions in Turkey.

Red works well against blue!
Red works well against the blue sea at Kusadasi.

1. Pack dresses with color contrast.

Keep in mind that some dress colors get lost against certain backgrounds, ruining your photos. On the fifth day of my Turkey trip, I knew we were going to Pamukkale (world-famous pools on a naturally white mountain), and Ladies Beach in Kusadasi. Both sites feature azure blue water, so I picked a red dress to contrast.

As you can see from the photo above, a blue or green dress would have blended awkwardly with the background, but red was great! For the photo below, I picked a dark dress to contrast with the light tan ruins at Ephesus. When you are packing, make a mental list of the places you’ll be visiting, and pack a range of colors to contrast.

A dark dress stands out against the famed ancient ruins of Ephesus.
A dark dress stands out against the famed ancient ruins of Ephesus.

2. Find durable, packable dresses.

It goes without saying in an article about packing dresses, but a frock isn’t worth packing if it can’t roll up into a wee ball in your suitcase and unfurl 48 hours with nary a wrinkle. There is a certain polyester and spandex jersey knit fabric that achieves this magically, and all the Leota dresses pictured here are made of this fabric.

I love this textile because it’s machine washable (air dry), but also dries fast if you just want to do a spot clean… say, because you spilled Turkish coffee all over your skirt in the middle of the day. Not that this happened to me or anything. Also, consider packing prints versus solids, as the colors mask stains and stray wrinkles well, and also add flair to your photos.

I enjoy how this bright print brightens the photos, and I enjoyed this Turkish yogurt!
I enjoy how this bright print brightens the picture, and I enjoyed this Turkish yogurt!

3. Pack dresses with bodice variety.

I recommend you pack a mix of styles with regards to the upper half of your dresses. In the first photo of this article, the dress’s bodice is smooth and simple, which makes a nice clean line in a photo. It’s also very easy to layer with a cardigan for temperate changes.

You will also, however, want a more structured bodice, both for modesty and to feel extra dressed up (“effortless glamour” as Leota says). The sweetheart neckline pictured below and in the second photo of this article fits the bill well.

The ancient ruins of the Basilica of St. John in Selcuk pair well with a flowing skirt.
The ancient ruins of the Basilica of St. John in Selcuk match with a flowing skirt.

4. Pick travel dresses with skirt variety.

Now let’s turn our attention to the lower half of the dresses and note the difference it makes in photos to have a full, swirly skirt versus a fitted one. In the photo below, the fitted skirt improves the photo because it creates a clean line.

In the picture above, however, the flowing, wide skirt adds great Grecian drape that meshes like a dream with the ancient ruins behind!

The Gate of the Sultan at the Dolmabace Palace in Istanbul worked with a fitted skirt.
The Gate of the Sultan at the Dolmabace Palace in Istanbul worked with a fitted skirt.

5. Pack dresses with length variety.

I highly recommend investing in at least one full-length dress. I found myself wearing the “Perfect Wrap Maxi” (pictured below) nearly every evening, because it was ideal for feeling fancy even as the air got cooler after the sun set. The elbow-length sleeves are another wonderful evening style.

Enjoying the sunset in gorgeous Kusadasi, Turkey.
Enjoying the sunset in gorgeous Kusadasi, Turkey.

6. Pack layers to go with dresses.

It’s sufficient, however, to pack just one long dress, and several mid-length ones, as the latter can be mixed and matched with neutral leggings, camisoles, and cardigans for ultimate versatility in temperature and modesty. Many days, I found myself wearing leggings for the first part of the day, then switching them out for shorts under the dress once the mid-day sun hit. Yes, I do suggest you pack and wear very light shorts under your travel dresses, especially the dresses have full skirts.

If you need to squat down to get a particular camera angle on your journey, you’ll thank me! Regarding cardigans, try to pack one extremely light one that you could wear even in sweltering heat if modesty called for it. I find this style can usually fit into a purse, too, which would be convenient if you wanted to tour the Blue Mosque but didn’t feel like borrowing a used sheet for your shoulders.

This dress is more comfortable than any other "fancy" clothing to sleep in.
This dress is more comfortable than any other “fancy” clothing to sleep in.

7. Travel dresses should be somewhat loose.

Pack at least one dress that is loose enough to feel like a comfy nightgown (but with a cute tie belt) and wear it on long flights with leggings. I wore the “Nouveau Sheath” dress pictured above on both 10-hour flights between Boston and Istanbul, and slept like a baby (er, slept much better than a baby) in it.

The advantage to flying in a dress versus sweatpants is you actually feel like a classy traveler instead of some schlub who just walked off her couch. Granted, I am currently on my couch wearing sweatpants right now, so there’s nothing wrong with that, but I did feel much more confident getting off the plane and greeting my Turkish hosts in my dress!

Pamukkale, Turkey is stunning: A naturally white mountain with azure pools.
Pamukkale, Turkey is stunning: A naturally white mountain with azure pools.

8. Watch out for dress damage from purses.

Though I haven’t noticed this issue with Leota dresses, I’ve been highly vigilant about it after ruining one of my favorite dresses this way, and want to warn you: Carrying a purse or bag along your side can sometimes cause bad pilling in the frock from the two fabrics chafing.

Ever since the whole side of my favorite dress got pilled from a long walk with a messenger bag, I’ve taken to holding one hand between my purse and dress, holding the bag stationary so it’s not swishing against the dress, or wearing a backpack. Gotta protect the frocks from rubbing damage!

The right dress is more comfortable and cute than any other outfit for travel.
A good dress is more comfortable and cute than any other outfit for travel. Here: The Ephesus Library.

9. DO pack dresses for travel!

Pack at least two dresses for your trip! The right dress is actually much more comfortable and durable to travel with than shorts and shirts, and, as I explained in my previous song of love for dress travel, often makes people treat you better than if you were wearing a “normal” tourist outfit.

Paired with light shorts or leggings and supportive but classy sandals, you can hike a mountain in a dress just as easily as a track suit… and your photos will be a lot spiffier!

Would you prefer this photo with me in a neon green track suit?
Would you prefer this photo with me in a neon pink track suit?

There you have my top dress packing tips.

What do YOU have to add or revise on this list? What questions do you have? I could talk about dresses for a shockingly long and detailed time, so no thought or query is too small. I eagerly await your comments! For a convenient link to browse Leota’s awesome dress shopping site, click here. To see an affiliate link to Leota dresses on Amazon at a big discount, click here. Yay!

Leota provided gorgeous dresses for this photoshoot, but all opinions and Turkish coffee spills are my own.

 

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SydneySider

Monday 18th of January 2016

Could you please tell me the size you chose? Currently trying to decide which size to get...buying from Australia so returns are difficult!

Lillie

Monday 18th of January 2016

Hi Sydney, Good question! I'd actually suggest reaching out to Leota directly (either by email or social media) as they respond well to questions. I am 6 feet tall and 150 lbs and curvy, and mediums seem to be best for me. I have, however, fit ok into a small or even a large. The fabric is stretchy, so it's sort of a question of what look you're going for. Good luck and enjoy!

Rease

Sunday 13th of September 2015

I always travel with a couple dressing and I also do the loose-dress with a belt and leggings on planes! However I have never heard of this dress brand and I must look into it! They look super comfy,

Do you have a recommended shorts brand for under dresses? I can never find a pair that doesn't create awkward lines under dresses, feels comfortable, etc.

Lillie

Sunday 13th of September 2015

Glad you're looking into Leota! It's such an addicting brand! For shorts brand, I have no recommendations except to look in the pajamas and exercise sections of cheap department stores. Often pajama shorts are really thin and work well, and exercise shorts can help avoid lines. Good luck!

Margarita Ibbott

Wednesday 29th of July 2015

God lord I LOVE your dresses. I love the contrast of the red dress against the blue pools of water.

Deb

Monday 20th of July 2015

Looking fabulous!

Lillie

Monday 20th of July 2015

Thanks, Deb!

Alouise

Sunday 19th of July 2015

I think dresses look great on other people, but I always feel stupid wearing them. Really wish I didn't because they look like they would be so much more convenient and versatile to take on a trip.

Lillie

Sunday 19th of July 2015

Aww! I'm a firm believer that there's always SOME style of dress that looks great on any one person. Perhaps someday you shall be connected with it!

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