Myth: Style means that you have to sacrifice comfort.
Truth: Style does not mean sacrificing comfort.
In these times, there are a lot of people who are dressing more casually due to the fact that they’re not going out all that much. Either they’re not working or they’re working from home. They’re not going to shul or to special events (except maybe on Zoom). Casual suits me just fine; my personal style is more casual anyway. But there are those who think that even just wearing real clothes means that they have to be uncomfortable. Wrong!
From me, you get the truth.
This myth does come from someplace. There are people who wear uncomfortable clothes for work, Shabbat/Yom Tov, and special events, and so they associate dressing up with discomfort. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s how I define physical comfort in my clothes:
The item must not be itchy or irritating.
The item must not cause pain.
The item must give me a minimum 95% range of motion.
The item must allow me to wear it for a minimum of four hours with no discomfort whatsoever.
Why a minimum of four hours? Because some heavily-structured items, like jackets and shoes, might feel like a presence for a while and get uncomfortable later.
What do I mean by presence? Most brand-new items will be noticeable at first. You’ll be wearing them and you’ll feel them on you. But it’s not actual discomfort; it’s just that the item hasn’t molded itself to you and so you’re not used to it yet. After one or two wearings, you’ll forget it’s there. A presence is normal. Discomfort is not good.
When trying on any item, always close your eyes and try to just feel the item on you. If it feels itchy or irritating, then it’s not good for you. If it causes pain, that could be because of a poor fit, so try on a different size or style. A proper fit can often eliminate a lot of discomfort. Even fitted clothes can actually be very comfortable. With shoes, try to walk around on a hard surface and see if the comfort is there. You might consider going up one half-size and then adding cushion pads from the drugstore (they do work).
Why did I specify only 95% range of motion and not 100%? Because most of us don’t need or use 100% range of motion except when exercising. That’s when we do need 100% range of motion. I can’t do the triangle pose or the cobra pose in regular clothes. But since I’m not doing those poses or any other yoga poses all the time, 95% is enough to get through regular daily activities like errands and work.
That’s physical comfort. What about psychological comfort?
I define psychological comfort as the clothes and accessories making you look and feel your best. The items have to flatter you and make statements about you that you want made. I want my work clothes to make the statement, “I’m a competent professional who can do this job well.” I want my Shabbat clothes to make the statement, “I’m feeling happy and festive and ready to reconnect with G-d and my family and community.” I want my special-event clothes to make the statement, “I’m so happy to be here celebrating with you.”
Of course, physical comfort and psychological comfort go hand-in-hand. If items are not physically comfortable, the only statement made will be, “I hate this.” If the items are not psychologically comfortable, the only statement will be, “I don’t feel right.” Who wants to make either of those statements? Not I. This is why I stick with warm earthy colors, fun jewelry, and mitpachot, among other things. And I won’t wear anything that makes me itch or gives me pain.
The bottom line is that I can have my cake and eat it too. I can wear great clothes and accessories that are comfortable in all ways and that make me look and feel my best. You can too.