Q: I have recently begun traveling a lot for my job. From your experience, can you give me some packing tips to ensure that my clothes will still look professional when I reach the hotel?
A: The longer your trip, the more important are the items that travel with you in your carry-on bag. Your checked-on suitcase may wind up in Tulsa, but your hand is firmly on your carry-on bag as you deplane in Houston. Business travel is stressful enough without adding worries about luggage.
My most anxiety-avoiding nugget of advice is to wear (or carry with you) at least one acceptable business outfit. After that, the rest is icing.
When packing, hang jackets unbuttoned. Place freshly dry-cleaned clothes in your case -- still on their hangers and in their plastic bags. The plastic bags prevent creasing. Never travel with a too-empty suitcase. Garments with too much room tend to slip around and wrinkle each other.
Socks and underwear make great padding. Insert them in clothing folds and in shoulder curves to minimize wrinkling. Fold clothes along natural creases and seams.
Pack heavy items such as shoes on the bottom (anchored so they cannot possibly slip and become the "top") or, better yet, in pockets provided for them in the sides of well-designed luggage.
Never, I repeat, never pack toiletries in the same bag as your clothes. Even when you are confident that jars and tubes are tightly closed or protected in sealed plastic bags, keep them separate.
As soon as you get to your hotel room, hang up your bag and unzip it to relieve the pressure -- even if you don't have time to unpack. If all else fails, slightly wrinkled wool garments will "steam out" over a tub of hot water or overnight in a moist bathroom.
Q: My idea of a well-dressed man is Bob Barker of "The Price is Right." The suit is probably made right on him. The pants just touch the shoe with a slight break: straight down off the butt, no wrinkles. The jacket is snug at the collar, smooth across the shoulders in back, no creases in front. Half an inch of cuff showing. He never unbuttons the jacket. Perfect smooth shirt and collar with slight spread, neat knot in his tie with a dimple. He is my idea of a perfectly-dressed man. How can I look like that?
A: One way to look like that is to spend a lot of money.
It sounds as though you are describing a custom-tailored outfit ,, that would cost well over $1,000. But a man need not spend a fortune on his clothes to look terrific. Sure, it's easier to look great when money means nothing, but big bucks are not necessary. Of equal importance is skillful color coordination, fastidious grooming and care in choosing the basic elements of your wardrobe.
Close attention to all those details you noticed is crucial. A perfect body -- or an excellent tailor -- also helps. With an ideal body, less expensive clothes can still look good. With imperfections comes the need for more time and care in the choosing, more diplomacy with the tailor and enough patience to return for fittings until the whole look is right. Neither the Cary Grant nor the Bob Barker look is effortless.
A hint: Buy one perfect combination at a time -- a terrific looking tie that coordinates with the right color shirt for your suit or blazer -- instead of several so-so items that you mistakenly believe will "go with everything." It will give you one ideal outfit and probably the makings for a number more.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.