I recently posted a tweet about the difficulty of developing a distinctive fashion sense because I’m autistic. On the one hand, I want to look good in the latest trends, but my comfort must come first. I got a few responses from autistic people who felt similar, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to go a little more in-depth about it for those who may not understand.
One of the most common traits of ASD is sensory processing disorder, or sensory difficulties. This is one of the biggest things I struggle with in my day-to-day life, as I’m hyper sensitive to things that wouldn’t affect neurotypical people.
The seam of a sock which may make a neurotypical person slightly uncomfortable can be very uncomfortable—even painful—for me. The material of normal socks makes me so uncomfortable that I’ve worn fluffy socks 365 days a year since becoming a teenager. It means my feet do get sweaty during summer months, but it’s better than being in pain, so I live with it.
In the grand scheme of things, though, socks are the least of my fashion worries. It’s rare that someone can see the socks you’re wearing, let alone notice them long enough to make comments about them. In fact, the only time I’ve ever commented on someone else’s socks is when I realise we own the same pair. And that’s just part of being a teenager, right?
One item of clothing I wish I could wear is a hoodie. I love the look of them on other people, and they’re the perfect addition to a casual outfit in the autumn or winter. However, when I attempted to wear them myself, I used to feel like my neck was restricted. It felt like I couldn’t breathe, and made me feel claustrophobic.
I used to love hoodies, though. There was a purple one I lived in until it was tattered and became uncomfortable. I think it’s common for sensory sensitivities to change, perhaps even daily for some people. You could compare it to the way our taste buds change as we age, but at a much faster rate.
Personally, I try and steer away from ‘maybe’ clothing—clothing that might be okay one day, but painful the next. This means that my wardrobe doesn’t change every season like a lot of other people’s. I often avoid the latest fashion because they don’t fit in with the things that I’m comfortable in.
However, I do own a few items that are exempt from this rule. Remember the cut-out shoulders stage? I have a long-sleeved pink top with cut-outs that I can stand for a couple of hours on a good day. Another addition to my wardrobe recently was a yellow ribbed tee-shirt with lattice detailing on the front.
Those aren’t things I can wear regularly, though. My normal outfit consists of a pair of skinny jeans, a cotton tee-shirt with a slogan on the front, and a cardigan. Not exactly outfits you’d see paraded in London Fashion Week, or featured on a fashion blog, are they?
I don’t often wear jewellery either. It irritates my eczema so I suppose it’s not purely because it’s uncomfortable, but that’s definitely a factor. However, I have recently found two longer necklaces that I will wear when I’m trying to look more formal. They have moveable charms which make them great to stim with, too!
Like I said in my tweet, I’d love to have a better fashion sense than I do currently, but I don’t think it’s feasible. As I grow up, I’m becoming more comfortable with that fact. Individual style is praised nowadays anyway, isn’t it?
I have started to make compromises to expand what I’m comfortable with, though. Like those tops I can stand for a couple of hours on a good day, or long necklaces instead of ones that seem restrictive. I think there will always be an element of comfort over style with my fashion sense, though, and I’m learning that it’s okay to be that way.
Is this something you can relate to, or do you know someone similar? Did you even know this was something autistic people struggled with? Perhaps you have a favourite item of clothing you would wear every day if you could get away with it?
Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!