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Though Santa can somehow make do with one sack for all the world’s presents, your weekend bag doesn’t boast the same capacity. Which means you need to pack smart. “Especially because your bag needs to fit not just clothes, but presents too,” says Thread stylist Alice Watt.

The few clothes you do pack have got to do double duty. They need to be both comfortable enough for your post-Christmas dinner walk, but smart enough in case you bump into an old flame at the bar. Things like a blazer and button-down, with a pair of dark jeans, cross that divide nicely – just change your footwear to make it mud- or pub-ready. As for accessories, Alice’s tip is to add colour as needed with a scarf.

With this kind of packing, everything needs to work together. But unlike a holiday suitcase, where crease-resistant clothes are essential, chances are that you’re visiting friends or family who have an iron. That said, it still pays to include a couple of jumpers, which will look good straight out of the bag and are an easy way to make the same basic outfit feel fresh.

On the topic of knitwear, don't waste space with novelty. “If you’re going to wear a Christmas jumper, then go for a Fair Isle knit," says Alice. "It's festive enough but you can wear it all winter – even in January. It’s also easy to make it smarter with the blazer, or you could literally wear it with PJ bottoms while watching TV.” It also acts as padding for any fragile pressies.

Speaking of pyjamas, they’re one of the most important but overlooked categories at this time of year. Even if you sleep au naturel at home, you need something that's relaxed but decent when you greet the in-laws on Christmas morning. "There’s a luxurious feeling about treating yourself to something just for lounging around in and it makes Christmas feel a bit more special," says Alice. If you're the one who's been demoted to the sofa, they're non-negotiable. Ditto an eye mask and ear plugs, just in case there's amorous foxes about and you can't figure out how to turn off the garden security light.

On a similarly practical note, a wash bag will make it easier to keep all your toiletries in one place and ensure no leaky mishaps. Mum doesn't want her new cashmere jumper covered in your shaving cream. If you don’t have one already, add it to your Christmas list.

Lastly, upgrade from your usual pair of trainers. “A pair of brogue boots are versatile and can go from a restaurant to country walk," says Alice. "The brown tone goes with everything and leather's more weatherproof than canvas. Wear them for travelling and pack a lighter pair of shoes, or even slippers, for wearing round the house.”

Now all you have to do is buy your presents. 

Alice’s Top 5 Packing Tips 

1. Roll, don’t fold

You’ll be surprised how much more you can squeeze in.


2. Wear the heaviest items

Not only will this lighten your load, it also leaves you more room for presents.


3. Use dust bags for shoes

This is advisable at any time of year, but especially in winter when muddy boots are a common occurrence. If you don't have any, shower caps over the soles will do.


4. Use clothes as padding for fragile presents

Just keep the cashmere away from any sharp corners.


5. Take a spare bag that you can fold up

You never know, you might end up leaving with more presents than you packed. A cotton tote is ideal for this type of emergency.

Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Chris Howlett
Styling: Millie Rich