ARE you a roller or a folder? Do you swear by tissue paper layers, like a giant, inedible millefeuille?
Or do you stuff as much as humanly possible into your suitcase and pray the straining buckles will contain your underwear beyond the airport carousel.
Packing. There’s an art to it, as anyone who has jumped furiously on their suitcase prior to the homeward journey wondering how it all got in there on the way out can testify.
For the record, I’m a roller. My suitcase is a box of sausage-shaped T-shirts, dresses and jumpers, interspersed with more pairs of shoes than I’ll ever need. It turns out I’ve been doing it at least half-right. Sausages, you see, are the packer’s best friend.
If anyone knows, it’s the people at Louis Vuitton. The label that began its life making sumptuous packing trunks for the wealthy now has what it calls ‘expert packers’ and their suitcases are things of beauty to behold. To mark the store’s tenth year in Edinburgh, one of them passed some of that privileged knowledge on to me. It’s so top secret I can’t even name them. Nor can we picture them. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. Pay very careful attention and let’s begin.
First, lay everything on the bed or the floor so you can see what sort of task you’re faced with. It is at this stage you might realise some items are not strictly necessary – like that lime green shirt that doesn’t go with anything else you’re taking.
Once you’re ready to start packing, begin with footwear, tucked into cloth bags if possible, not only for hygiene’s sake but also to prevent them from getting scuffed – soles to the outside of the case, distributing the weight so one is at one end, its pair at the other.
The great thing about shoes, I’m told, is that they are perfect little receptacles in themselves, so stash your phone charger in there, a belt, socks, pants.
Taking sandals or lighter shoes? Place them at another edge of the suitcase and balance the opposite side with your toilet bag. Yes, we know it’s usually the last thing to get packed but put it on top and it will crush everything, ruining all your efforts at neatness. So, do what you’re told and put it at the bottom. All your small bottles and toothbrush can go in your hand luggage.
Next, start sausage making. Anything that stretches – T-shirts and sweaters mainly – should be rolled widthways, then curled up on itself to make a Danish pastry (or Princess Leia buns). These items can be tucked in spaces left by shoes on the base of the suitcase, preventing everything moving around in transit. If you have space left, fill it with sunglasses, a jewellery case perhaps, or a guide book.
Now you’re ready to start your second layer. Shirts. Dresses. Blouses. These should not be rolled. And don’t expect a pristine shirt at the end of your journey. The most you can hope for is a neat front and collar – anything else can be concealed by a jacket. The key here is to use other items of clothing as padding.
So fold the shirt at the sides at the widest manageable point, bringing the sleeves in lengthways. Fold everything up at the cuff, then in half. At this stage, place another shirt on top, face down, with the collar at the opposite end, and do the same, making a concertina shape, using as many as four or five shirts folded in on each other.
Crucially, turn the collars up and undo the top two buttons, allowing freedom of movement – restricting the collar will result in creasing and a last-minute trip to the launderette.
Trousers. Take jeans, shorts or something else less crushable, fold them in two or three, then put them inside a pair of tailored trousers before carefully folding it all up together, making a large sausage roll (the jeans being the meat and the smart pair being the pastry). The same can be done with skirts, using less fragile items to protect those that suffer most in a suitcase.
Layer three is reserved for the most fragile item of all: a tailored jacket. Place it on top of the suitcase, unbuttoned, face up. Take a couple of T-shirt sausages and place one each in either shoulder to protect the shape. Fold sleeves lengthways and the jacket in half – using trousers or other items of clothing in the middle as padding.
Finally, place a scarf or, if you are taking one, a lightweight foldable bag (for all that extra shopping, obvs) on top and, voilà, your suitcase is complete.
• Louis Vuitton, Mulltrees Walk, Edinburgh (0131-652 5900, www.louisvuitton.co.uk)