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Style vs. Comfort: The Friendly (or Not!) Tug of War

Picture this…it’s cold outside, you’re slightly weary, and you just want to sit with a cup a tea and a good book.   But, you have to pick the dog up from the groomer, your daughter from art class, drop off a document to your new client and make a quick stop at the grocery store so you have something for dinner.  What do you wear?  (Hah!  I bet that wasn’t the first question you asked yourself!)

But let’s pretend it was…here’s where it gets tricky.  Your soul screams for cozy (and let’s just get going) and your heart says, “But I want to feel good about how I look, too.”  If it were your children fighting over a toy, you’d say, “Break it up, you two, let’s play nice!” (well, maybe not exactly those words, but you get the idea!).

So, I am suggesting that you can do the same with your style tug of war.  Let’s play nice!

What I have found is that as we get older something happens…neither our psyches nor our bodies tolerate discomfort in the same way.  There comes a point when we say, enough is enough.  Give me polar fleece or give me…well, it’s not that bad.  And, while we sometimes gain a little extra cushioning on some parts of our bodies, places like the balls of our feet lose it.  (The good news is that we now have many more fashionable choices of comfortable shoes than we did 30 years ago.)

So how do you make peace between the part of you that longs for comfort and that part that loves the confidence that comes from feeling good about how you look?

Here are a few ideas to ponder…

•    Stretch Is Your Best Friend: Get it out of your mind that comfy is equated only with sweats or the equivalent.  That used to be the case, that’s true.  But now with the inclusion of stretch in so many garments, we can breathe a little easier (yes, even after a plentiful meal).  For example, years ago, I never understood everyone’s love affair with jeans.  To me they felt restrictive, stiff, unforgiving (unless you wore them really baggy), and heavy.  Not any more.  Stretch has made a world of difference, and now I have jeans in black, brown, white and blue.  Love them!

This picture of me is from the Studio ( one of my favorite stores in Brookline.  Every item I am wearing has stretch in it (the jacket is by Joseph Ribkoff) – super comfortable and pulled together!

•    Overlooking Possibility: You can’t always tell how something will feel (well, if the fabric feels like sandpaper you can probably pass it by) until you actually try it on. You might be pleasantly surprised – and if you’re not, it can easily go back on the rack.   For example, I happen to like high heels (although I wouldn’t exactly describe them as “cozy.”).  I try to be smart about how often I wear them so I don’t torture my feet, and I try to get ones that are relatively comfortable while I have them on.   That said, it always amazes me that sometimes I have shoes that have 3″ heels that feel miles better than a pair with a heel height half that high.  What’s my point, you ask?  Do not dismiss something simply because you “assume” it will be uncomfortable.  If it intrigues you try it on and figure out the comfort level from there.

You’ll probably think I’m crazy (I thought I was at first, too!) but I walked all over New York City in these shoes and the sandals I wore the day before which were much lower heels gave me blisters!  Go figure!

•    Messy Begets Messy: Ever wonder why you feel so disheveled, out of sorts, not pulled together?  If your closet looks like a bomb went off in it then it’s hard to find the energy (especially when you are rushed or tired) to filter through all the stuff to get to something you really want to wear or to mix and match to create an outfit you love.  Often, as a result, what gets worn is what is easy to find and the subsequent outfit can often look a bit piecemeal at best.  Controlling closet clutter can do wonders for your style in the long run.  (Hint: Don’t try to tackle it all at once.  You’ll just get frustrated (or never do it).  Take baby steps to create an organize closet over time.)

•    Cozy And Shapeless Are Not One And The Same: Some of my most comfortable clothes are Joseph Ribkoff designs.  They are incredibly versatile, washable (yay!), and super duper comfortable.  Even his jackets have stretch and feel amazing on.  They are form-fitting, and if I could have an entire wardrobe of Joseph Ribkoff, I think I would (now, if he’d just stop making so much black…).

Anyway, my point is that just because something follows your body shape does not mean it has to feel restrictive or uncomfortable.  Believe me, I understand because I have no patience for that any more either.  But, I know lots of women who buy clothing that is 3 sizes too big (and I understand that comfort is not always the driving reason behind it but 9 times out of 10 it’s part of it at least) because they do not want to feel constrained in any way.  Don’t let this false assumption keep you trapped in yards of unnecessary and unflattering fabric!

Whether you see yourself in one, two or all of the above scenarios, the bottom line is that we often tend to have a narrow, pre-conceived interpretation of what comfort means when it comes to our wardrobe.  Yes, I admit that few things are as delicious as polar fleece, but I have also seen many surprised (and delighted) smiles on women’s faces when they discover that something they think is pretty is also comfortable.  How exciting and how fun!  It will open up a whole world of comfy-cozy options…just you see!


10 Responses

  1. After attending the April 2010 FFG retreat I bought a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ) based on recommendations at the retreat. I was very skeptical. I am a petite, plus size and envisioned the jeans being similar to wearing a boa constrictor. Keep an open mind, Karen! The jeans are so stretchy and extremely comfortable, no binding, cutting, or rolling. Yay! I have a habit of buying my clothes too big. These jeans are form-fitting, actually give me some shape, and look great.
    Look for them on eBay to get them at a better price. They are well worth it and will become your go-to jeans.

    1. Aren’t they amazing, Karen! I have NYDJ in 4 colors and might even get another one. They look fabulous and are SO comfortable. Thank you for sharing your experience. Now, how about posting a picture of you looking wonderful in them on the Who Taught You How To Dress forum?? I know others would LOVE to see you.

  2. Good, Ginger! I wondered what you would have to say since “the life of comfort is the life for me” (as the 3-Penny Opera song goes). You gave us some helpful ways of thinking and doing. Thanks, dear.

  3. My motto is comfort! After meeting and working with Ginger, it is now style, beauty and comfort! She taught me that I can look beautiful while being comfortable and being comfortable is part of feeling beautiful!

  4. Brava! They say the best revenge is looking good. Running around doing chores in Midtown Manhattan, I want to avoid “scruffy” like the plague – hey, you never know when you’re going to bump into an ex-boss or ex-boyfriend, and opportunities for vengeance are so limited nowadays! I find that Chicos Travelers and Nygard pieces often save the day – they are practically destruction-proof and nicely finished. Gotta find a local source for Ribkoff, which seems to be attracting an almost cult following. And I will, of course, obey all of Ginger’s advice…

  5. If I hadn’t already accumulated a stack of clothes my first time visiting the Studio I would have gone for that Ribkoff jacket. I’ll have to go back soon and maybe pick one up along with some tops! Stretchy jackets are good… well as long as the arm length works. 😉

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.