I spent my late twenties and early thirties following my career, and it took me around the world many times. I traveled to Istanbul monthly for a year. I attended fashion weeks in Europe. When I first started as a photographer for Condé Nast, I flew to Paris, on assignment for Vogue, with six hours’ notice. My heart was pounding when I took the call from my editor—I was thrilled, terrified, excited out of my mind—so I said yes and hung up the phone. In the next five hours before my flight departed, I curated my looks—seven day outfits and seven evening outfits— packed them into one suitcase along with all my film and camera equipment, and took off on time. How did I do this? I packed like a stylist.

At the time, I was assisting stylist Wendy Schecter on shoots with Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair. Wendy has a proven method for gracefully schlepping wardrobes. She hangs clothes on multiple hangers in garment bags in a specific order (size, type, kind, color) and then methodically stacks them into oversized duffel bags, which are lighter than trunks. Then she unpacks them—in the reverse order they were packed—in giant garment-bag-hugs, directly onto the rack, all zippers and hangers facing the same direction. It’s pure genius.

We once styled the Huston family for the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue. We had a wardrobe run-through in Annie’s New York studio—fifteen racks of clothing—then packed it, flew to Los Angeles, loaded two Escalades to the brim (with seats down), and had fittings with each actor before the big shoot day. Everything had to be organized and accessible. Every look was filed in Wendy’s head, and I needed to be able to understand her method. We shot on location high in the desert hills north of Los Angeles and south of Santa Barbara, and we were prepared for anything—from couture gowns to tea-stained vintage Henley T-shirts. There was no time for mistakes, every reason to prepare, and every opportunity to improvise in the face of demands. I’ve never forgotten that shoot and how Wendy taught me to pack and unpack— and I still follow this method.

Packing is a little bit like grocery shopping with a list: It’s easier if you know how many meals you will eat and what recipes you’ll cook so you can shop precisely without aimless browsing, grabbing, and guessing. When I pack, I consult my itinerary of events, meetings, and dinners and plan specifically what I will wear to each one. I travel for fun and for discovery; for work; for relaxation, weddings, weekend celebrations; for important volunteer work in the field. When I travel, I want to enjoy the people and places I visit. When I land, I don’t want to waste a single minute wondering what I’m going to wear.

When preparing to pack, I first try on everything that I intend to take—seeing it on helps me decide if it really feels right. Then I lay all the clothes that I actually wear and that fit me on my bed, in piles of looks. If I have too many looks for the same event, I choose my favorite and put everything else back. The key: I don’t pack random shit.

Next, I pack each look in entirety on thin, no-slip hangers, down to the exact accessory (scarf, shoe, bag, underpinnings, Band-Aids, double-stick tape, Dr. Scholl’s inserts). I zip everything into garment bags (doubles as tissue paper), fold once lengthwise from hanger to toe, and stack into a rectangular roller suitcase (or fold in thirds for a carry-on bag). Multiple looks, multiple garment bags—just like I pack for an actress’s red-carpet appearance. Then I add pajamas, Dopp kit and makeup, and a comfy outfit to wear on the plane ride home. I usually pack the go-to casual outfit I wear while packing so I can feel at home in something. I carry jewelry with me, separately.

When I arrive, I immediately unpack all garment bags (zippers and hangers facing in the same direction) right into my hotel closet, shoes already at the bottom of the bags, lingerie and stockings in there, too, so I don’t have to dig or go looking for anything. Loose casual pieces go in a drawer or stay in my suitcase on short trips, atop the valise stand.

I pack less, and I get more (repeat) wear out of everything I bring. I do the guesswork and planning at home, in my own closet, not in front of the hotel mirror, so I can get dressed in three minutes. This method is foolproof, and I always know what to wear.


Excerpted from the book Classic Style by Kate Schelter. Copyright © 2017 by Kate Schelter, LLC. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved. .

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