How to Tell if Clothes Will Be Comfortable

I’m taking some time off this week, so here’s a gem from the archive!

comfortable clothes

We’ve already covered how to evaluate a potential purchase for quality and longevity, but what about comfort? I mean, aside from the obvious – does it itch, pinch, pull, or otherwise irritate you from the moment you pull it on – are there ways to determine if a garment will be comfortable under multiple circumstances, and on a longer timeline than its initial dry run in the dressing room?

Funny you should ask.

Wear it as you would in real life.

I’m a big proponent of the Shopping Catsuit: A neutral tank and pair of leggings that needn’t be removed in the dressing room to gauge overall fit. However, you probably don’t wear a Shopping Catsuit on a daily basis, and when investigating overall comfort, you need to give a garment a dressing room test run that is as close to “real use” conditions as possible. Don’t slip on a skirt over your leggings unless you’ll always wear it with leggings. How will you know if the waistband digs, if the seams flap or itch? Try it on as you’d wear it in real life, and make sure it’s comfortable under those conditions.

Sit down.

Most of you probably do the sit-down test for skirts and pants, but I HIGHLY recommend it for all garments including shirts, blazers, outerwear, underwear, and dresses. There are definitely jobs and tasks that require us to be standing for long periods of time, but no one stands all day and all night. So don’t just decide that skirt looks smokin’ hot as you twirl around in front of the mirror. Sit down, sister. Does it ride up? Pinch or pull? How about that button-down shirt? When you sit, does it pull across the bust and constrict your movement? And that darling dress? Still darling when you’re seated? If something is comfortable when you’re up, it had better be just as comfortable when you’re down.

Then stand up. Then sit down again.

You think I kid. It’s not just the sitting that’s important, it’s the interaction with your torso as you bend and contract. This test will also give you an idea of how easily fabric will wrinkle, and how sturdy construction feels as you move about.

Lift your arms straight in the air.

This helps test that all-important arm/shoulder mobility issue; Most tops and layers feel fab when you’re standing up and have your arms straight at your sides, but few of us remain in that position indefinitely. You want to know what’s going to happen when you need to get a jar of peanut butter or a ream of paper from a high shelf, and if this garment is going to impede you in any way. Again, you might know to try this out with shirts and blazers, but I encourage you to do it with everything. Pants, skirts, and dresses shift around and can become less comfy and more restrictive when you’ve got your arms extended, too.

Give yourself a hug.

I mean, obviously you deserve a hug. But also, wrapping your arms around yourself will give further information about arm/shoulder mobility. Also helpful in finding out if short and cap sleeves will dig into your arms depending on your position. Don’t do this with too much force, as even a beautifully-constructed blazer will tear if you yank too hard on its shoulder seams. And the self-hug won’t do much for pants, so you only need bother with tops, sweaters, dresses, and jackets.

Touch your toes.

Do you have any idea how often you lean over to pick stuff up? As someone with an ongoing back injury who has been forbidden to bend at the waist, lemme tell ya, it is WAY more often than you’d think. And when is a waistband most likely to burrow into your abdomen? When you’re bent double. Clearly, you’re not going to stay bent over so some discomfort is totally acceptable. But if something feels like it’s gonna slice you in half? Skip it.

Yes, that’s a lot of contortions. But it’s just you and the clothes in that fitting room, and going through these admittedly crazy-seeming motions can help you can screen out uncomfortable garments before ever leaving the mall.

Image courtesy Old Navy

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