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Irons Need Not Apply For business travelers, a new breed of wrinkle-free cotton means rumpled days are over.

A cotton dress shirt that stays crisp after a slog through the airport, three hours in coach, a long dinner meeting and a rinse in the sink--this, my friend, is the holy grail of the business traveler. OK, maybe not the grail. But the truth is, for years "no-iron" shirts have either wrinkled when they said they wouldn't or been coated with so many chemicals they looked flammable. Worse: They were often made of polyester or some other sweaty synthetic. We gave up and started packing a travel iron.

But this year, no-iron shirts are worth a second look--particularly those in the women's department. Manufacturers have made enormous improvements in fabric chemistry. Thinner, lighter and softer cottons such as broadcloth and stretch blends are now available in wrinkle-resistant finishes. And apparel makers have figured out how to tailor the flimsier no-iron cloth so seams don't pucker and collars stand up. "When we first started with no-iron technology, we made only a men's pointed collar dress shirt," says Walter Bearden, president of Foxcroft. Adding styling details was arduous, "but there's not a whole lot that we can't do now."

The category has boomed-but how do these shirts perform under pressure? We road-tested four popular brands, wearing them to work, play and even nap. We packed them into stuffed suitcases, wore them on long trips, machine-washed and dried them according to instructions. And in the end, we sent our travel iron packing.

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