Friday, April 13, 2012

Comfort Equals Style

I'm doing a post and run this morning before a busy day. We're getting drenched here, very unusual weather for this time of year. And unusual for this area at any time - the weather service counted 750 lightning strikes in the San Francisco Bay area last nite! We awoke repeatedly to huge, rolling, baroque thunder all through the night. Exciting and dramatic, but by mid-afternoon i bet i'll be ready for a nap.

I've been dressing for comfort in easy-dry clothing for my walks, then donning comfy yet put together duds for the day at home. Here in the U.S. the thinking is so constricted about comfort. You are either wearing sweats, a tee, or jeans (possibly leggings) or you are dying of pain and constriction and suspiciously vain. Growing up in the 1960's and 70's i couldn't help but notice that thick, stiff seams running up my tender inner thighs to even more tender areas wasn't feeling 'comfy and relaxed' to me. But when i wore soft, wide trousers with a big of ease i was accused of being 'so dressy and stiff'.

Early on i figured i better chart my own path in these matters and started to pay attention to how particular fabrics and cuts actually felt when i wore them. This came to mind recently when i looked in the mirror and realized that this look would be dubbed 'dressy', 'fussy', 'too fancy to relax in' by many people of my acquanintance.

Yet - cotton leggings provide warmth and total freedom of movement. Ditto for the rayon/spandex wrap top. Both silk crepe slip and poly chiffon skirt feel like nothing, and wash in the sink in a snap.  All-over patterns in dark colors hide the odd stain or two.  And nothing's more comfy and fun than a low heeled slip-on sandal.
yep, high humidity = big hair
 I have to say that i've found absolutely no connection between comfort and style. Some dressy, stylish, pulled together looks feel fabulously comfortable, even luxurious on the body; while some of the most uncomfortable clothing i've ever worn has been stereotypical comfort wear. (Huge handfuls of scratchy poly sweat/fleece bunched up between your legs? ugh.) And in my philosophy the more comfortable you feel, the more you will exude style. Frankly, this false equivalency mythology is one of my biggest bugaboos regarding dressing. How many times have i heard, "Oh, i'd love to dress up like you do but i just want to be comfortable....." (Usually said with the implication that their version of comfortable is more 'authentic', but that's another story.)

What's your experience with comfort vs. style?


  1. I heartily agree! Clothing that fits well is more comfortable. Baggy, saggy clothes are not comfortable. A structured sheath dress that skims my body feels delightful, smooth, neither too clingy nor too much fabric. It feels just as good as being naked!

    Btw, I'm a plus-size lady, & while finding clothes that fit can be difficult, it's 100% worth it. Sack-like clothing is like being wrapped in a tangled shroud. It's cumbersome.

    Even when I'm just hanging out at home & nobody sees me, I prefer leggings, yoga pants, fitted tees, & casual clothes with shape. These are comfortable but not oversized & bunchy & sloppy.

  2. I'm the same way about knit dresses worn with leggings or tights. It looks "dressed up" but really is as comfortable as pajamas.

  3. Good points! I must say though that I think high heels are stylish but I've yet to ever wear a pair that was truly comfortable. You look comfortable and stylish here to me.

  4. This is one of my fave outfits you've done to date. I love the mixed patters and the leggings with the skirt. I have to dress daily for a combination business casual/conservative law office, but try to combine comfort and classics with fun accessories. As my middle-aged body changes, I find I am increasingly unwilling to suffer discomfort for style :)

  5. Several years ago I took to wearing skirts all day long in the summer because I found them cooler and more comfortable. Love the leggings with the look.

  6. Greetings Trystan! i am so excited you chimed in on this! You are a brilliant example of how so many things that supposedly made dressing stylishly 'impossible' - non standard bod, not 20 anymore, outre style references - really are no impediment. Dressing well does take time and effort, but no more than the effort it takes to look happy when you're physically uncomfortable and feel dowdy and weird.

    "Clothing that fits well is more comfortable." Yes! it's why i sew and alter my own :) "It feels just as good as being naked!" heehee, i'm all for that! and really silk velvet or a heavy charmeuse can feel even better.

    Bonjour deja pesu! Truer words.....and these days the selection of knits and dresses is just phenomenal these days. Great uniform, too.

    Hullo Veshoevius! oh, thank you! i can find heels up to 2.5" to 3" that are very comfy as long as the heel is chunky and the last is strong and well-constructed. Frankly, i have more trouble finding flats that are comfy for me, as so many flat have no support whatsoever.

    I think finding and wearing shoes that feel good on the foot are vital.

    Thank you Lynne! i love it when looks and physical comfort come together so nicely :) and that's excellent that you're focusing more and more on physical comfort as you get older - i think it's great when we become more non-comformist!

    Hi Terri! so many skirts & dresses are so practical and comfortable, it's a shame they get a bad rap. really sometimes ideas can just be pests!!!

    Happy Saturday! steph

  7. I've always been a "jeans" girl, but I definitely don't think they are the most comfortable clothing.

    Many years ago, I had abdominal surgery. Post-surgery, and for a couple of years afterward, dresses were all I could comfortably wear. Then later, I started wearing pants again, but still avoided jeans. It wasn't until the surgery that I became aware of just how much jeans really do bind and constrict my movement. And the truth is, they were binding just as much before, only I was able to ignore it.

    Now I'm wearing jeans again, every day, because I like them. But I realize that I like them because they're *easy* to wear, not because they are more comfortable.

    Having said all that, I do think there are honest differences when it comes to evaluating physical comfort. For example, that outfit that you're wearing in the picture is not something I'd feel comfy in. I'd be constantly adjusting the front panels of the blouse, worried that it would come untied (unlikely, say, at work, but likely around the house where I move a lot more and slouch on the couch.) And polyester? No thanks, it feels claustrophobic to me, even in a loose skirt.

    And I know plenty of people who can't stand the thought of wearing sleeves or long pants in summer, but I don't feel the difference at all.

  8. Hullo Ms. M! very nice to see you :), i hope real life is treating very well!!

    you illustrate brilliantly how this type of thing really needs to be evaluated by the individual, and how comfort can vary over time. And 'easy to wear' vs. 'comfortable' is a subtle but very crucial point!

    re: wrap top, they drive me nuts in RTW. But i've found if you make your own you can stabilize the neckline with fusible interfacing and adjust where it inserts to the side seams and presto! No worries.

    i would only add that i find it's worthwhile to re-evaluate regularly. Polys gave me the unmitigated heebie-jeebies for decades, it's only in the last five years that they've made chiffon style polys that i can very comfortably wear. (and to be honest i'm wearing a silk crepe de chine half slip under the skirt.) But as you point out, poly has not gotten there for *you*! I can't believe all the young bloggers cooing over vintage 1970's poly pieces, when i was a girl i could not run away from those things fast enough!!

    Happily, with lightweight stretch denim and instructions for making your own jeans readily available i can now wear jeans in perfect comfort.

    And, since they are so easy to wear, i am thrilled! :) steph

  9. p.s. just read your comment again - the front panels of the top are sewn into the side seams on both sides, so there's nothing to come untied. The jersey has quite a bit of spandex, it just pulls on like a tee shirt. hope this makes it more clear, steph

  10. heehee, which should make it clear that i don't like to fuss with clothes either!!!! :) steph

  11. Oh, that top does sound more comfy, then.

    Alas, I've tried wearing the new polyesters, and alas, I still can't wear them. :)

  12. I'm all about comfort! Yet I have sacrificed comfort for a sense of style. The older I get, the less inclined I am to do so, though. Now I seek comfort in the styles I like, and am learning to admire from afar those garments which excite the artist within but have no business on my body.

  13. Thank you for posting this. It’s exactly what I was looking for!

  14. Somehow also for me comfort stands for equal importance with style.I can not look good if I am not comfortable in my wear...therefore you have chosen very stylish yet nice and comfortable wears.Maybe you could give some other shoe options too?

  15. I've been rereading this post and comment thread a lot. I was initially having trouble over the forced choice. :D I rule out items that pinch, abrade, bind and restrict, itch... I do remember as a very young woman we wore long length rubberized girdles (I was 95 lb.!) and high heels so tight that our toes went numb and still we walked for miles in them. Nowadays, I refuse to wear Spanx, figuring I've done my stint in all that.

    So I guess for me it's about psychological comfort vs (?) style. It's psychological comfort all the way for me. That IS my style. I like to think that I can fit in/get by anywhere. I seem to have an inner vision of myself as always arriving. A traveler. I suppose I like to look like I've come from somewhere and am heading out to somewhere else. I haven't quite reconcile that with not seeming to rudely disregard others and the event. I suppose that has to be the fitting in well part.
    Maybe it's all a shyness-defeating mechanism for me.

    My son's fraternity is having a charity event. He wants me to go. Hubby works evenings and this is on a weeknight. I used to live for the times I could get dressed up and be on display. Haven't been anywhere like that for quite a few years. Have a few things in readiness, says the back of my mind. Have a couple of elaborate metallic, beaded, etc, tunic length tops, one someone gave me. Haven't the slim evening pants they would go with. And such a cliched look, isn't it. Starts me off thinking about the whole red carpet photos industry and the tastemakers.

    Have 3 different silver grey full length skirts. A silver metallic pleated one, a subdued silk print, a kind of dulled satin "ball gown" lite. Would wear with silver grey velour tee or grey cashmere looking tee. But it's springtime. Do like the sweater and skirt aspect, though.

    Have a thick black stretch lace tea length Cabi dress. Not a sheath. Just a tad low in the front vee. Nobody would blink at it but I prefer not to wear it that way. Also, very sexy with the black lace and the stretch fit. Do not want to be the kid's hot cougar mama.

    Remember a time recently when I went to a family dinner event for an organization and it was held at a hotel with very dim lighting in the public rooms. Or that newfangled yellow lighting. I'd always felt fine before and that time I felt blurred out, indistinct and therefore invisible. I didn't like feeling invisible.

    I'd wear a hot pink silk shantung dress because it's so happy a color. But I neglected to ever acquire one. One that I made for myself decades ago, I wore out completely, decades ago. I think I do like the idea of the color I've chosen speaking up for me in advance.

    I also like the idea of not fussing overmuch about what I'm wearing. I know that takes a lot of beforehand backstage fussing.

    Maybe I will wear a black crinkle rayon dress with thick dimensional "lace" inset at front chest. Has ties that I can use to adjust how I want it to clasp me. I know this is condemned as a little girlish style but I say if they looked fine in that style they wouldn't condemn it so quickly. Dress has some movement but falls against the body. Has short sleeves. Tea length. I like that it's a black dress that is not overtly sexy but only romantically so (in the sense of Edwardian mourning, perhaps, alas). I'll tell ya, I sure would be physically comfortable!

  16. This is GORGEOUSLY written, and can I just say thank you, thank you, a million times thank you? Because I want to! As a college-age girl who will not be seen in public in sweatpants and loves long skirts, elegant blouses, and other "dressy" clothes, I get so tired of constantly having to defend my clothing choices as comfortable! Frankly, I find a loose, flowy ankle-length silk peasant skirt with leggings or soft tights and a ruffled silk blouse is far more comfortable for me than jeans and a t-shirt. Jeans never fit me right (big hips and thighs + small waist= constant gapping or crunching) and I'll take silk (or even rayon/viscose, if they're a good enough quality) over stiffer t-shirt cottons any day! Physical comfortableness can be found in lots of "dressy" clothes, and it makes me sad that so many people think it has to mean dirty sweats and old Ugg boots!