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BY DESIGN : Leaders of the Pack : Travel Makes the Case for High-Tech, Low-Maintenance Fabrics, Easy Styles

August 11, 1994

It's summertime, and traveling should be easy, sartorially speaking at least.

Space-age fabrics for pragmatic jet-age travelers, from knits in natural fabrics to wrinkle-resistant cottons and lightweight wools to high-tech polyester and other synthetics, help make the going great. In easy-to-wear styles, these fabrics can be scrunched into a small suitcase and emerge to perfection hours later.

Wrinkle-resistant collections are available from Eddie Haggar, Jantzen and Cherokee, among others. Or, for a new wrinkle, consider Issey Miyake's Pleats Please collection.

Pleats Please is a travel-friendly micro-pleated polyester collection. Terri Howard, divisional merchandise manager at I. Magnin in San Francisco, says it did particularly well in the first two weeks after it was introduced in I. Magnin stores in San Francisco and Phoenix and in the I. Magnin catalogue.

"You roll the merchandise right up, and you don't ever have to worry about its condition in your luggage," Howard says. "The pleats are permanently set, so you have an elegant look as soon as you take the clothes out of your suitcase."

Each garment weighs only a few ounces and is made of fabric that drips dry in less than an hour--the perfect candidate for hotel sink laundry.

Miyake's line consists of turtlenecks, shells, T-shirts, shorts, pants and skirts, ranging from brights to neutrals ($95 to $290).

If your junket calls for more business than pleasure, suit up in 100% wool. But not just any wool. Make it mid-weight, says Tony Krohn, sales manager for Brooks Brothers.

"For both men and women, what you want in wool is a year-round weight, which is nine ounces," he says. "It's not too hot in summer or too cold in winter, so it'll take you from Miami to Minneapolis.

"Besides, it's a resilient fiber that performs well. More than cotton, linen or even wool blends, it recovers well from abuse. So when you hang it up in your hotel room, the fibers recover."

Brooks Brothers mid-weight wool suits range from $300 to $1,000, for men or women.

Don't let a clothes crease or two put a wrinkle in your brow. Expect them on natural fabrics such as linen, cotton and washed silk. Even embrace them.

Wear your linen loose and unpressed--and pack it in a hard-sided suitcase if you're really bent on minimizing wrinkles.

"If it's a slouchy silhouette, wrinkling is certainly acceptable," says Deirdre Corcoran of Episode, which has a store in Costa Mesa. "Linen in particular is a good, breathable fabric that is easy to travel with--if you're the kind of person who understands that that's what linen does."

Los Angeles designer David Dart seconds that notion.

"With the wrinkles in it is really the way it's supposed to be. You simply roll the clothing and stick it in your suitcase," he says. "And when you arrive, pull it out, throw it on a hanger and hang it in the bathroom so steam can get at it while you shower."

If you like linen but can't abide rumples, pick a linen blended with viscose, cotton, silk or wool. It's a bit heavier and crushes much less than all-linen.

Whatever you choose to take along, follow these simple rules:

* Keep packing to a minimum.

"It's very important not to introduce too many concepts when packing for an excursion," Corcoran says. "Everything that's in your suitcase--with the possible exception of a black evening gown--should really mix and match with everything else.

"For a weekend, limit yourself to three colors. You can enjoy your travels and not think too much about what you're wearing."

* Don't jettison the essentials. Make a list of basics. For the beach, it will include a crushable sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproof beach shoes, beach bag and two swimsuits, one for a quick change.

* The more you organize, the less you'll take, and the less you'll have to pack, unpack and tote around. So fight the urge to pack everything you love. You'll hate it when you have to lug it everywhere--and you'll have nothing fresh to come home to.

* If you didn't pack enough, the worst that can happen is that you might have to buy something on the road. Keep in mind that the size and cut of European clothing differ from American standards. For size-conversion charts, consult travelers' guidebooks. Some European department stores offer charts at their information desks.

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