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Packed With Experience : As Veteran Travelers, Orange County's Fashion Experts Have Business Trips in the Bag

August 03, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Business trips require that travelers look put-together and professional even while living out of a suitcase.

When traveling on business, you can't show up to an important meeting in a shirt smeared with toothpaste or a power suit that's been crushed in transit. Vacations are different--you're almost expected to look a little rumpled.

Learning to power pack for a business trip can help you avoid all kinds of catastrophes. Knowing what clothes and accessories to bring, and what to leave behind, can determine whether you'll come off as a suave and seasoned pro or a bumbling character straight out of "National Lampoon's Vacation."

Orange County fashion experts who travel frequently have elevated packing to a hard science. Their methods differ, but they all have useful tips on how to pack for a short business trip:

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Linda Beale, chief executive officer of At-Ease women's and home store and men's store in Fashion Island Newport Beach:

While some travelers pride themselves on getting by with as few articles of clothing as possible, Beale has a different philosophy. She'd rather bring too much than scrimp on style.

"There's too much emphasis on squeezing things into a bag," Beale says.

Many business travelers dress too casually, she says. On a business trip to India, Beale was shocked when two American women showed up for a formal dinner at the home of a wealthy factory owner wearing khaki pants and polo shirts and carrying knapsacks.

"They look like they just parachuted in from Vietnam," Beale says. "One woman was so embarrassed, she left the dinner meeting early."

Beale believes in traveling in style, even while jetting to her destination.

"I'm not into wearing sweats on an airplane," she says. "I went from Orange County to San Francisco to Hong Kong directly into a business meeting. I was wearing a Zanella pantsuit. I didn't have to change because those pants looked as crisp as when I got on the plane."

She stays comfortable yet stylish by wearing elegant pants, skirts and jackets of finely woven wool that won't wrinkle.

"You have to wear the cool wools that keep a crease," she says. "They're like wearing pajama bottoms. On a plane you can wear wool pants with a silk T-shirt and leave your coat hanging up nearby, then slip it on when you get to your destination."

Beale recognizes you can't go on a business trip hauling five suitcases. She advises stretching a small wardrobe by packing classic-looking separates from one design house such as Randy Kempner (a favorite designer) that mix and match effortlessly.

"I don't want to be one of those people who comes to dinner every night in the same outfit," she says.

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Rick Lamitie, partner of David Rickey and Co., a men's clothier in Costa Mesa:

Lamitie, who racks up frequent-flier miles traveling on behalf of David Rickey, has learned to avoid many pitfalls of packing. His view is contrary to Beale's when it comes to quantity.

The chief mistake most people make is to bring too much stuff, he says. For guys, a three- or four-day business trip requires two to three pairs of pants and a couple of sport coats (or a suit), several shirts and ties, shoes and toiletries, all in a carry-on or garment bag on wheels.

To avoid over-packing, stick to one color family such as black or navy, he says. That way all of your accessories--belts, shoes, socks--will match.

Lamitie's other tips: Have your shirts pressed and folded at the dry cleaners, then put them directly in your bag.

"They're wrapped up nice and they get a lot less wrinkled than when they're on hangers," he says.

To keep a jacket from wrinkling, turn it inside out before folding it in half and putting it in your suitcase.

To remove light wrinkles from a garment, leave the shower door open and let the steam smooth out the clothes for 10 minutes.

"Just don't forget to turn the shower off," he says. "We've had clients leave the shower on too long and shrink their clothes to nothing."

Clothes made of "harder-finished fabrics," such as a tightly woven gabardine, travel best, he says.

"Flannel will wrinkle and be really bad in a humid climate," Lamitie says. "On a humid day in Miami, you can kiss it goodby."

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Sandi Clark, co-owner of Image Works, an image consulting business and women's clothing boutique in Irvine:

When packing for any trip, Clark chooses a base color such as navy or khaki for her traveling wardrobe. On a short business trip, she might pack a black suit with a turquoise blouse or red tank for day, a gold tank for night, and a cream-colored jacket that complements the skirt and tops. She suggests men pack a solid-colored suit, three shirts, three ties and a sport jacket.

A three-day business trip should require no more than two pairs of shoes--a comfortable pair to travel around in and a business pair.

"Men can probably get away with one pair, but if you're a woman, a Hertz run through the airport is tough in heels," Clark says.

"Where I don't skimp is on the costume jewelry--it makes me feel good to wear it, and it's not heavy. Plus, it changes the look of your outfit."

Before packing, she lays out each outfit on her bed, including accessories, hosiery and shoes, to make sure she forgets nothing. Clothes are wrapped in plastic dry cleaning bags--sometimes with their wire hangers still inside them--to help prevent wrinkling.

She also calls ahead to make sure the hotel provides a hair dryer in the room, so she doesn't have to bring one. She brings travel-sized containers of lotions, cleansers and other personal-care items, then wraps them in plastic and fits them into her shoes at the bottom of the bag.

Everything should fit into a carry-on with wheels.

"That way you don't have to check it in, and it won't get lost," she says. "If your meeting is immediately following your flight, you don't want to be hanging around the airport wondering where your luggage is."

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