We all have those clothes – RTW or handmade – hanging in our closets. The go-tos for slouchy days that keep you from looking like you walked out the door in PJs. The ones for imperfect weather days, if it’s chance of rain or 90 degrees with humidity, because they stand up to whatever life has to throw at them. Those that, if you work in an office like me, you can throw on without thinking in the morning and know that it’s appropriate office wear. The clothes that you wear so much that you (maybe just me) start to wonder if you wear it too much.
When pressed for a reason why it holds such a place of honor in your heart and wardrobe, the only thing you can come up with is, “It’s so comfy.”
Let’s deconstruct the whys behind what makes a garment “so comfy”.
Most of these takeaways will seem like over thinking common sense, but I often find that my common sense leaves the room when I’m fabric or pattern shopping. So, it’s important for me to identify the reasons why a garment is highly re-wearable while I’m sewing or RTW shopping. In a perfect world, ALL my clothes and sewing projects would be highly re-wearable (excepting special occasion items).
For this exercise I’ll be using a RTW top from my closet that fits my definition of comfy, so while the checklist logic is transferable, my criteria for comfy and the “comfy takeaways” might not work for you.
The Example Garment
- Fiber content: 95% rayon, 5% spandex
- Fabric: smooth knit jersey, definitely not a stable knit but hasn’t sagged out on me yet; a firm lightweight or a lighter mid-weight jersey
- Color: bright-ish green, slightly more on the yellow-green spectrum than blue-green that the pictures show
- Design lines and construction (because we’re sewing nerds):
- Raglan sleeve attachment on short, almost cap sleeves that are gathered at the sleeve hem with elastic on the inside
- Straight cut on bodice below bust, with front and back pieces the same width
- Pleats on scoop neck serve both a design and functional purpose by providing some bust shaping
- Facings – see pictures
- Seams finished by serging
Wardrobe Versatility: How does it fit into my overall closet?
My two default color palettes are earth tones and brighter cool jewel tones, both of which include this green. I wear this shirt in both my 9-to-5 and on the weekends.
Comfy Takeaway: The color/print can be worn with the majority of my closet, neutrals and non-neutrals, and the garment can be worn in the two most significant time-chunks of my life (work and weekends).
Fabric Care: Does it wash well? Do I need to press or other fussy prep work between wash and wear?
Machine wash, check.
No pressing, check.
Comfy Takeaway: Fibers and fabrics that are the most washing machine friendly (for my machine, this is primarily cottons, rayons, and synthetics). Construction that can withstand machine washing (serging and machine-stitched seams hold up well; not so much hand stitching or bias cut on everything). Garment style that does not require perfectly pressed fabric, such as a tailored shirt, combined with a fabric that is wrinkle-resistant or doesn’t need perfect pressing, such as linen or the no-wrinkles-here knit fabric in this example.
What makes me want to wear it?
I wear this top when I don’t feel like putting effort into my outfit du jour. I wear it in really hot or really crappy weather, because dampness is a tolerable discomfort with this shirt. If I’m deliberately outfit planning, then I’m up for actually putting effort and thought into what I’m wearing, so I’ll end up challenging myself to use something that’s not in regular, constant rotation.
Comfy Takeaway: Garments that don’t require “thought” because it’s basic and flexible enough in design (color, detailing) and fabrication (fabric, fiber) to do anything (tucked/untucked, casual jeans to work slacks, range of motion) and go anywhere (weather, work, casual).
How do I feel about myself when I wear it?
When I wear it for the office or out-and-about, I want to feel confident, competent, AND comfy – ratty old louse-around-the-house shirts only give me the comfy part. This is a smooth rayon jersey, so it feels positively delightful against my skin.
I’m human, so I sweat, and I need fabrics that breathe well and don’t retain moisture and scent. The shirt is primarily rayon, and the low spandex content doesn’t interfere with its ability to breathe wonderfully. When I do sweat through it, the material dries relatively quickly and doesn’t seem to trap BO. To feel good, I need to know that I look good AND smell good under pressure.
Comfy Takeaway: The physical properties translate into a metaphysical “feel good”, defined by whatever adjectives fits (un-self-conscious, confident, pulled together, composed, interesting, not overwhelming, etc.). Fabrics and fibers that make me forget it’s there and don’t irritate the skin . Fibers that breathe, don’t create a steamroom effect, and don’t excessively trap odors under them when I sweat.
What’s the range of motion?
The knit fabric, looser fit, and the raglan sleeves give me full range of motion in my arms and body without feeling constricted anywhere, worn tucked in or flowing loose.
Comfy Takeaway: FREEDOM!!! To move.
How much work needs to go into putting it on?
Does it need special foundation garments? Does it have hard to reach by yourself zipper or closures? How hard is it to use the restroom? Does it need an underlayer garment for modesty?
Comfy Takeaway: Nothing extra needed beyond a basic bra to get it on my person and make me presentable for public; just pull on over my head and go.
On the Comfort to Aesthetic Value spectrum, this particular shirt is on the extreme polar end of the “comfort” side, criteria for warmer half of the year. (Criteria for winter would differ slightly but not dramatically; more of an emphasis on warmth.)
The recent upsurge in fashion blogs for capsule wardrobes and sewing blogs for “PAC” and “Sewing With A Plan” (SWAP) sewing show that we are becoming more conscious of getting the most out of our clothes, whether purchased or handmade. For me, analyzing what I already have that I use the most is the first step towards a sewing project that will get plenty of mileage.