Recently I have been having an email discussion with RuthieSews about the question of comfortable clothing.
It is such an interesting question. In my view uncomfortable clothes are those which are made from irritating fabrics, or where the fit is wrong – too tight or loose.
When watching (not for very long, mind you) an edition of Big Fat Gypsy wedding, the commentator remarked that from a very young age the gypsy girls get used to wearing very heavy uncomfortable clothes, and they “never once complain”.
And this patient acceptance contrasted with my own early experiences. I am afraid I absolutely refused to wear wool at all, because it was “itchy”and uncomfortable. I never had a coat growing up, despite my mother’s many attempts to buy one for me, settling instead on a “windjammer” whatever the weather. She once produced a heather tweed coat, with a bit of maroon velvet on the collar, and tried to convince me that this would be nice and soft on my neck. To this day I would rather be wearing a zip up hooded jacket – my current ones are filled with snuggly down – rather than a scratchy coat.
I am pretty averse to discomfort. One of the reasons I rarely buy from Primark (except for the excellent stretchy cotton Ts) is that the sizing is so rough and ready. “8/10” anyone? And the fabric used is so skimpy (I found out why on a visit to a pattern cutting department) – in order to keep the prices low they save on fabric at every turn and this creates considerable discomfort in the wearer, with the grain twisting through the day and the hems pulling at every opportunity. I swear they are alive.
If you are a home dressmaker you can make clothes that fit, in the right size. You can choose fabrics that are soft, sensuous, strokable, gentle or delicate. When we say goodbye to RTW’s restrictions we soon create a truly comfortable wardrobe. One reason my middle son George wears grey track pants at home is that he finds them very much more comfortable than off-the-rack jeans which are cut a bit too narrow for his shape. If I really loved him I might make him a pair of jeans that were both soft and the right size and shape.
The fabrics I find most comfortable are the natural ones
- non-scratchy wools next to the skin (eg cashmere)
- feathers (best enclosed for warmth)
- natural fur
I also can’t stand tags inside my tops, scratching my waist or back neck all day. I cut them off even if it means restitching the side seams. I will not wear high heels, and in service of happy feet I will even wear (smart) trainers for work. I don’t think I could bear any constricting undergarments like Spanx or a girdle. In fact I can’t be doing with suspenders and stockings or even hold ups, except on my husbands’ birthday (joke). I like softer fabrics that feel nice when I pick them up and put them on.
However, and this is where I part company with some ladies, I don’t want to focus on comfort to the exclusion of all else. Here a famous actress dresses down with jeggings, Uggs, white vest and unstructured grey cardi. She is pretty (and fully made up) but this is only one step up from appearing in your Jammies in public. I am sure I am not the only one who changes into my PJs, or something very soft and relaxed at home. At weekends I usually wear jeans and a T-shirt. We all do it, especially when we are not at work, but as competent seamstresses we can make comfortable, stylish clothes that we were not be embarrassed to be seen in.
The problem with a very “comfy” wardrobe is that it can look dishevelled and careless. People who put on what they took off yesterday, or stick to black or grey because it is easy, or always choose elasticated waists or stretch fabric can communicate a “couldn’t care less message”. They may hang on to clothes that are worn out and no longer fashionable just because they are comfortable. Unfortunately these items may make you look worn out and dated too.
In conclusion comfort – and fit – is of the highest importance unless you are having a gypsy wedding (in fact many wedding goers look uncomfortable at with their head to toe outfits and fashionable high heels). But don’t use comfort as an excuse for looking like a slob.