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I was 25 before I bought my first thong. I’d just gotten out of a relationship and was getting into a new one – my first foray into dating apps – and my pals were shocked at my choice of festive or neon boy shorts.
I remember it. White. Lacy. Itchy and forever needing to be picked out after walking 4 steps.
I was 19 when I wore my first mini dress. I was at college and was going clubbing for the first time. I wanted to wear clothes the other gals were wearing and I wanted to appear way more confident than I actually was.
I remember that too. Strapless, silky, black on top with a fruity, brightly coloured pattern on the bottom. Probs from the Lipsy sale. Defo worn with concealer lips and Maybelline mascara.
I was 23 when I wore my first pair of proper high heels out on a night out – believing I needed to graduate from Vans, Converse and ankle boots if I wanted to attract guys.
I remember going over on my ankle whilst holding a kebab and being asked by a police officer if I needed a lift home and having to try and convince him that I wasn’t pissed – even though I was eating a kebab at 2am and definitely was. My ankle hurt for 2 weeks afterwards LET ALONE the throbbing pain in the balls of my feet that only an 11am bacon sandwich the next day and a full 10 hours could fix.
I was 24 when I wore my first pair of Spanx (but the Primark version obvs) under a Miss Selfridge body con dress for a uni night out because, well Lauren Conrad, obvs.
I remember still not feeling like LC and almost peeing myself in the bathroom because trying to peel the dress up and those pants down was a MARATHON.
I was 31 when I bought my first pack of M&S cotton pants* that covered my entire butt and went up to my elbows.
I remember the sigh of relief as I pulled them on, jiggled around and could still feel comfortable after a full day of wearing them under jeans.
I was 33 when I threw away all the tights that chafed my thighs or gave me the bottom of butt itch when I’d been sat down too long.
I remember promising myself I’d never need to wear tights ever again unless I reeeeaaally wanted to.
But I was 33 when I finally gave up choosing uncomfortable clothes.
No underwear that would cut into my groin or give me a yeast infection from being synthetic and totally unbreathable.
No tights that were so tight they’d make me want to throw up after a Nandos with the girls.
Or wouldn’t quite go up over my thighs and bum so I’d be totally aware of the gap between vulva and tight crotch all day long and feel them cutting into my inner thighs the entire time (could people see it if they walked behind me?)
No jeans that wouldn’t fit so that I’d be constantly monitoring my builder’s bum.
No tops that made me pick at the material around my stomach and boobs, constantly rearranging it and ensuring it wasn’t disappearing down to my belly button exposing my greying, comfy crop top bra.
No dresses that I had to constantly pull down or worry if my bum was showing.
And no shoes that make my feet ache after being in them for more than 10 minutes.
As women we are not only constantly monitoring our outward appearance but we’re often trying to force ourselves into clothes that are uncomfortable and awkward for the sake of ‘fashion’, trends or to impress others.
And. I. Got. Tired.
I was chatting to my therapist about body image one day (we’ve focussed a lot on this in therapy) and she asked me what clothes I felt comfortable in or that made my feel good about myself.
I described silky leggings, cosy, brightly coloured jumpers, jeans that fit on the waist AND calves, high waisted trousers made from a lush material and flowy dresses I could just chuck on with trainers.
She asked me why those clothes make me feel good.
I said that I didn’t have to think about how my body looked when I wore them.
And a lightbulb went off.
The more uncomfy the clothes were – restrictive blouses, mini skirts, skinny jeans, structured trousers, tight dresses – the more I had to think about my body. And the more I thought about my body, the worse I felt.
Then she asked what would happen if I didn’t wear clothes I felt uncomfortable in for the sake of trends or appearing ‘put together’ and just wore what was comfortable?
I said I’d worry I’d look slobby, frumpy, and unattractive.
She said that sounded like I was more worried that other people would think those things and then asked what was more important – how I felt in my clothes or what other people thought.
Obviously, as neurotic as I can be, being comfortable way outweighed what I perceived other people to think.
And what does ‘feeling put together’ really mean anyway? Who made these rules? What does it matter if we’re simply wearing ‘clothes’ rather than an ‘outfit’?
She also asked how I perceived people if I saw them wearing leggings, flowy dresses, trainers instead of heels, comfy trousers and cosy jumpers. Would I make a judgement that they were frumpy, slobby or unattractive or did I just not care? Or did I look at them and think, ‘yasss comfy queen, I wish I was wearing that!’
She then said, ‘what sort of clothes do the people most important to you wear?’
I realised then that I either didn’t know or couldn’t care less because the qualities that I cared about in the people closest to me didn’t look like the New In section on Zara.
It was these questions and the resulting discussions that was my wake up call.
If I was to become body neutral and accepting, my first step was to stop wearing clothes that made me feel bad about myself or distracted me from being in the moment – because of being conscious, having to fuss with them or feeling restricted.
Now of course, ‘level of comfort’ is relative and what may feel like being wrapped up like a meatball Subway to me, may be pyjamas to you, but if any of these feelings resonate with you – I urge you to do a comfortable clothes audit too!
For me, it was out with any underwear that had wires or was made from really syntheticy material.
I even disposed of socks that cut into my ankles, and gave them to Olive as toys!
I also donated skirts and dresses that were either short enough that I was always concerned with flashing or tight enough that I felt restricted.
I replaced these with the Zara dresses of Hot for The Spot fame because the JOY of chucking one on with trainers and a hoodie or my faux-leather jacket in under 5 minutes with no further faffing or fannying felt so freeing.
And out with tops and jackets that I would have to fuss with or that felt too tight on my arms.
I now have an array of brightly coloured jumpers* that go with all of my leggings, trousers and jeans.
My wardrobe of today isn’t likely to win me any Fashion Blogger of the Year awards but it does mean I can run around the field after Olive, make the train on time with a coffee and sit down for 9 hours on my laptop without anything feeling like it’s digging in, itching, flapping open or riding up.
I’m no longer constantly monitoring how I look on the outside or how the clothes feel and I’m much better at donating or returning something that does make me have to think about it whilst I’m wearing it.
Clothes and fashion can often be a great way to express your personal style and taste but do they have to be uncomfortable and distracting?
For some the trade off between expressing themselves artistically or stylistically in clothes and feeling uncomfortable is one they’re happy to ignore or bear.
For 33 year old Vix, working from home, playing with a puppy, building a business or bopping round town they’re something I enjoy experimenting with and styling up but not to the extent that I’m willing to give up my comfort any longer.
I don’t think there has to be an all or nothing approach. Otherwise we’d all be walking around in tunics. I’m certainly not going to be hanging up my & Other Stories blazers for North Face cagoules any time soon because I still do enjoy fashion and styling but I’ve just drawn the line at pieces that make me feel uncomfortable and am choosing all future purchases based on my comfy test.
Will I be pulling it up or down?
Will it be tight against my crotch?
Am I going to be on alert for builder’s bum?
Will my arms feel like circulation is going to be cut off?
Will I get annoyed at a baggy crotch?
Will I be constantly picking at the material or rearranging it?
If it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t come home.
Where are your clothes on the comfy scale?
And does choosing comfort over fashion mean, ‘you’ve let yourself go’ and is ‘all part of getting older’ or are these myths perpetuated to keep us monitoring ourselves so we’re distracted from bigger things?
All the big questions!