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Why We Want Comfy, Comfortable Clothes

by LAURA MCGUIRE

Did you have a stuffed animal or blanket growing up? From a young age, we crave comfort. Mine was a silky nightgown I affectionately called “my gown.” Ask my parents and two younger sisters and they’ll know what you’re referring to. It was a staple of my childhood existence – my first “gown” around five years old and along the years, I traded it in for a silkier, softer version my mom found and washed from a yard sale. I craved the soft calmness of it against my cheek at night, cooling, yet somehow warm at the same time. I even took "gown" to college and quickly realized how uncool it would be if someone were to find out.

I was in college before comfort was public and mainstream – before UGG® boots (slippers acceptable as footwear outside the house) and yoga pants (for workout, or really not) became the norm. I remember wearing a pair of fashion-forward shorts with a safety pin closure because the button couldn’t make it; they made my stomach hurt but there was no solution - the shorts had a certain style and there wasn't another size. (Mind you, this is before internet shopping, too.) 

I cut a lot of legwear with scissors in those days. I wished clothes just worked, feeling great on as they did from a mood-boosting fashion perspective. 

I wasn’t the only one wishing because the apparel industry really took comfort and ran with it in the last 20 years. "Gown" today doesn’t actually even feel that soft (yes, I still have it in the back of my bra drawer and once a year test it out) because we’ve had so much softness added to our lives: from ways to make heels comfortable every step, to our high thread count bedding, to the amazing fabrics to clothe our baby. If your mom kept any of your baby clothes, pull them out of the attic trunk and feel. We’ve come a long, long way. Heck, you wouldn’t put your decades-old romper on your baby for fear it will scratch her!

It’s table stakes now to offer comfort. But we overcompensated. Comfort almost went, well, too comfortable. It's a way of life. Casual Fridays every day. Comfort is bra straps hanging out, leggings as pants, and wearing "whatever" out to eat on Saturday night. You dressed up to go to Olive Garden! Remember that? Women vacuumed in heels and weeded the garden in skirts. If you’ve done that in the last 10 years, I want you to email me. 

On the cusp of the comfort movement, shapewear was heavy on the scene. It’s now had to be renamed "comfort shapewear" to appeal to today’s cozy seeker. All this desire for comfort led me in the direction to change hosiery that hasn’t ever been ever comfortable – with its squeezing, like those too-small-safety-pin-shorts I owned. The intersection of comfort and style is the hardest to achieve because comfort is relaxed while style is thoughtful. Two opposing goals. Case and point – shapewear – which I think they’re still trying to figure that one out. Hologram yourself skinnier is next perhaps?

Things have to fundamentally change in the design to successfully achieve the marriage of comfort and style. It’s why I couldn’t design a new pair of tights and pantyhose after tights and pantyhose. I had to design them after yoga pants, which women LOVE.

I want comfort but I don’t want to compromise a stylish presentation of ourselves. What comfortable clothes do you think have style integrity?

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