(Caption: Last Christmas in my favourite Flannel from Roots...Unfortunately I lost weight and this shirt had to go...but I am constantly on the look out for another shirt like this...I LIVED in this shirt. What can I say- I spent my formative years in the nineties:)
Clothing is a tough conundrum for many highly sensitive people. THIS BLOG (click) wrote a humorous post on her struggle with finding clothes for women who have sensory needs or whom simply find that they are not able to wear most types of clothing without being uncomfortable or in pain. I have gone through many stages of fashion and un fashion in my life. I am not an expert nor am I trendy anymore. I simply do not have the time nor inclination. I have had years when heels and dresses were a staple in my closet and years when yoga pants and soft tanks were the only item I bought. Through all these manifestations I have found a few handy tips that have worked for me and I hope can help others who are sensory sensitive/ Autistic/ ect. First I wanted to cover Three General Clothing Guidelines before I get on with comfort tips:
1.) Dress for YOU. Of course it is important to find the colours that mostly flatter your beautiful skin and I would urge you to attempt at least a try in this regard. I also feel that it's often better to find fashion choices that generally compliment your figure (embrace whatever size you are and buy clothes IN that size- donate the rest) but once you have attempted to optimize the way you present yourself to the world...disregard the world's opinions. You tried. Now it's time to feel fabulous in clothes that may not be fashion forward but can still be flattering. Don't be afraid to shop in the opposite gender's clothes if that is what you feel best in. Find what works for you!
2.) In the initial stages of finding what clothing works best for you- don't be afraid to try styles that look awful on the hanger or that you normally may never consider. You may be pleasantly surprised. Don't just stick to one style as the tried and true. Aspies are especially guilty of this and if you have found what genuinely works for you- that is awesome. However, sometimes stepping outside our comfort zone actually can give us more comfort in the end. I am thankful my sister (who is not at all in my fashion style) and cousins pushed me to try on a few items I would have never considered but which are now a fabulous addition to my wardrobe.
3.) Keep it simple. Keep the Classics. There are plenty of trendy blog posts on this. Minimalism is huge right now. But the staples are an excellent starting point to a wardrobe. Here is an example: http://bemorewithless.com/how-to-simplify-your-closet/ My numbers would look slightly different from this but you get the idea.
On to Comfort! Comfortable Clothing Ideas for the Sensory Sensitive:
1.) Buy second hand from reputable vintage stores. Higher end second hand stores also carry nice clothing for good prices. I have found that I am more successful at finding soft fabrics and clothes that fit if they are already pre worn and washed. I find this especially important for jeans. Jeans are already worn in and conform better to my body if I find a pair that fits pre- worn. It's a bonus that I often find designer jeans for at least half the price. Shirts are usually already shrunk so I know that the fit in the store is going to be the fit after a wash too. I have kept most of my clothes from second hand sources longer than new clothes because of these factors. If you are going to buy new, make sure it is from a clothing shop that has a reputation for quality clothes with softer, heavy fabrics if you crave warmth, and light clothing if you need to stay cool. In my twenties I found that American Eagle often had clothes that were comfortable for me without sacrificing too much in price if I didn't end up liking the item later. My store preferences change according to my age and sensory preferences. Don't be afraid to stick to one store if it gives you the sensory requirements for clothing that you desire.
2.) If you have to wear a dress and you are Dyspraxic or clumsy, save yourself some embarrassment and wear little stretchy black shorts underneath. This also gives you more freedom of movement if you need to run and less issues of uncomfortable cold drafts ect. This works under most dresses (even tight ones.) It is possible to find sexy little black shorts and not sacrifice your dignity.
3.) If you are going to wear heels bring flip flops. ALWAYS bring flip flops or an alternative to the heels. Your timeline for being uncomfortable is shorter than a normal persons. Honour that. You can wear heels for a few hours maybe but for the drive or walk, switch to a more comfortable option. I keep black flip flops in my bag because they match any dress/outfit and usually by the time I am ready for another option I don't care what people think anyway.
4.) If you have a job that requires dress clothes try to buy pants that can slip off the hips with a little tug. Sensory people tend to have to use the bathroom quicker than most people. Also Dyspraxics can struggle with buttons and zippers which can be inconvenient during certain moments of life. I buy my dress pants in comfortable textures but classically tailored enough to flatter and fit a tad higher up but stretchy enough to pull down and skip the buttons and zipper. It probably helps that I have sizeable hips to hold them up but this works for me. Also, if you must work in heels, splurge on low heels from a store like Rockport that are known for comfort and arch support.
5.) Always bring a small bag with another clothing option. Sometimes if I am shopping and I feel uncomfortable I will NEED to change. Changing isn't an option. I will start to feel sick if my clothes are causing constant discomfort. Sometimes I wear pants that are too tight but I don't realize it is bothering me till a few hours in... or a shirt that does not fit right and makes me feel awful...or a texture that scratches. If this happens, even if the shirt looks amazing on me, I go to the restroom and change into my extra clothes and donate the shirt to a charity shop (or put it in a bag to do so later.) It is important to remember this step because otherwise I will find myself in the same shirt again going through the same frustrations. Make sure the clothes you pick for your extra emergency clothes are clothes you love and KNOW you are comfortable in, have versatile style for most occasions, and are seasonally appropriate.
6.) Buy 5 different types of underwear to try over a period of time. If you do not know what type is the most comfortable on you this will save you tons of money later on. Wear them, grade them on comfort and stick to the type that wins. Re- evaluate if you loose or gain weight and of course you can keep a few sexy pairs for short (FUN!) bedroom occasions but otherwise, buy only in the type you feel best in and buy lots of varied colours.
7.) If you know your EXACT accurate bra size - order online. I have had more success online shopping for bras than at the store...but that could just be me...I also find the prices are cheaper and if I read the reviews I am more likely to find the bras that offer the most comfort because availability or selection in the stores is usually limited.
8.) Skip the fashion trends that make you feel uncomfortable...or even "fashion essentials." For example...I can not wear belts. I try to wear belts sometimes because some outfits simply look better with them, but it is guaranteed that half an hour into wearing a belt- I will pull it off. My husband, on the other hand, can not enjoy wearing jeans without a belt. He says he feels less secure and like something is missing. I feel like I am being constricted and my gut starts to hurt- even when I was super skinny this happened. (I think this is due to Endo.) Each persons needs will be different. Find out what bothers you and work around it. I simply don't purchase outfits that look better with belts. I also do not buy pants that are too big and if they do get big on me I donate them.
9.) CUT OUT TAGS. This is so important for many Autistics. I will leave a tag in for the first week I buy something new in case I need to take it back. Unless it is a special item that I want to keep the tag in or has special wash instructions, I try to remember to cut out most tags. Tags look messy when they stick out anyway and they are scratchy. Save yourself some annoyance.
10.) Know your materials. This can save you so much money and comfort. My mother knows her fabrics, and although it is not something I am personally interested in, having her knowledge has kept me from many comfort blunders. I didn't know that buying something all polyester would be a mistake. Lucky for me, she did. Different people prefer different types of fabrics so I can't say what would work best for you but do a little bit of researching. If you find an item that is soft and screams comfort to you read the tag and remember what type of fabric it was so you can repeat your good fortune in the future. Also know for the sake of washing...if you are sensitive you are probably not going to want to take items to the (smell heavy) dry cleaners. Find options that work for you.
I hope this list helped narrow down some ways that clothing can become more comfortable for your sensitivities. Please leave additional suggestions in the comments. I would not describe myself as trendy or fashionable. I try many different styles and sometimes I can be found in a dress and other times I will be in a baseball cap, tee and jeans. I do not particularly care about trends, though every now and then I can enjoy one. I love styles from the 1970's and tend to have a more bohemian style at times...but if there was one word to describe what I wear it would be COMFORT. I sacrifice comfort on rare occasions...but only if it is what I CHOOSE. I don't make the mistake anymore of sacrificing comfort for special occasions because then the occasion becomes less special. I generally wish to savour special occasions thus the events call for quality, comfort and beauty in my clothing. I don't meet other's expectations of what I should wear as long as I am being somewhat respectful of the general rules of society....but even in that regard there is flexibility. Who cares if everyone is in shorts and you are in a sweater because you tend to be cold? It's not attention seeking...it's pleasure seeking and pure beauty to respect your own needs. It's your one short life- live it in comfort.
This is one of my favourite songs to clean to and it applies beautifully to this post...I love this song.