TikTok’s ‘333’ Packing Method Just Simplified Carry-On Packing Tenfold

Outfit options to infinity and beyond

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

333-packing-method-explained-three outfits
Getty Images/Edward Berthelot, Jeremy Moeller

Packing is hell, even for the cleverest among us. Here are some notes on packing from the late great writer Joan Didion, a woman who interviewed sources as various as rock stars and civil servants during her years as a magazine writer:

"This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily. The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture.

To Pack and Wear:

2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes

I thought of Didion and her list of essentials as I watched TikTok user @Ayeshayeshbaby6 explain the 333 Packing Method—an easy-to-remember rule of thumb that basically updates Joan Didion’s packing list published in the 1979 classic, The White Album. The 333 Packing Method dictates that you should pack only three tops, three bottoms and three pairs of shoes, and you’ll wind up with 21 looks. (This particular creator also splurges on three accessories and wears a coat and T-shirt—and presumably some pants—on the plane but it’s not worth quibbling about the exact math.)

Sure enough, taking in the 21 looks, I am thinking there’s a soothing quality to the pretty young woman’s looks, and that she too could “pass on either side of the culture,” as Didion did. She can look profesh or casual, with room to spare in her carry-on…say, if she wanted to make some purchases on her trip or have space for those cigarettes and bourbon that Didion held so dear in her luggage. We’ve sourced out our own 333 packing method pieces below, but most of them we’ll wager are already in your home closet. Just be sure to keep everything to relatively non-clashing neutral tones, like you are building a capsule wardrobe, and don’t wild out with anything too tight (because comfort is key when you’re on the road) or overly trendy. After all, you may want to blend into the background, as Didion did, to learn the hot goss and become a legend.

333-packing-method-explained: chunky loafers

Three Pairs of Shoes

Pointy black heels
333 packing method explained heels
Buy Now
Black chunky loafers
333 packing method explained loafers
Buy Now

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

Why You Should Trust Us

PureWow's editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series (where we rank items on a 100-point scale) to our painstakingly curated lists of fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family picks, you can trust that our recommendations have been thoroughly vetted for function, aesthetics and innovation. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.