Clothing Comfort Work-arounds

I’m willing to put up with some discomfort for the sake of a look. I have shoes that make my feet ache, blazers that make it impossible to reach for items on high shelves, and pairs of tights that transform me into a Segmented Worm. But I don’t LIKE being uncomfortable. It makes me crabby and scowly and entirely un-fun to be around. So I’ve found a few simple ways to achieve the looks I love by utilizing slight variations on the gorgeous-but-uncomfortable pieces I adore. Prepare! I will now divulge my secrets:

Jersey knit button-down shirts

Oh my GOSH button-downs are controversial. Who knew that an item deemed “classic” by every style guru on the planet could cause such strife? Button-down shirts are stiff, they wrinkle easily, they gap at the placket, they stain, they’re just generally a pain in the butt. And yet, even women who loathe this garment often long to find ways to wear it. My workaround? Jersey knit variations. They stretch, they breathe, they’re washable, they don’t wrinkle, and they give a good 90% of the sleek, classic look conveyed by a true button-down. Although my first exposure to this style was via Boden, they’re not selling this particular shirt this season. However, there are usually a few on eBay, if you keep your eyes peeled. If the shape of button-downs doesn’t work for YOUR shape, even jersey versions may thwart you … but since they’re more flexible and soft than their woven cousins, they’re worth mentioning.

Jeggings

I don’t hate jeans as much as I used to, but the very presence of a zip fly and metal button at tummy-level irritates and unnerves me. Plus the digging waistband. Bleh. Workaround: Jeggings. Jean-leggings hybrids are the epitome of comfort, tuck into boots easier than any skinny jean, and maintain the chic of denim without any of the hassle. I prefer fly-free jeggings myself, like the HUE ones pictured above, but I also own Gap Jean Leggings and give them the thumbs up.

Scarf and tie belts

Stiff leather belts can pinch and dig, create artificial segmentation, and slide around crazily on your torso. Using scarves as belts allows you to accentuate your waistline without all that fuss and discomfort. Tie belts made from soft leather are another great option. Scarves and tie belts are both easily thriftable, in my experience, but more options on Etsy and Amazon.

High-waisted tights

It took me a while to determine if high-waisted tights were worth the extra bank, but after a few seasons of wearing them, I have a final verdict: YES. Yes, yes, yessssss they are worth it. If, like me, you find that your tights squeeze and pinch your midsection and if, like me, you find that it’s comfier to yank that waistband toward your ribcage where it has actual bone to counteract the squeeze instead of sensitive internal organs, this workaround will make you joyous. I have several pairs of SPANX High-waisted Tight-End Tights, and truly hope that more vendors hop on the high-waisted bandwagon soon.

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  • Great tips!

    Blazers. Instead of always wearing those tight fitted and stiff ones I’ve got a few made of cotton that are super soft and feel like wearing a sweater but just as stylish as the normal ones! http://www.femininebravery.com/2010/11/red-lips-bugs-and-brooches.html

    • I have to agree with Charlie – I’m crazy broad-shouldered, but knit cotton blazers are super comfortable, not at all binding and still look great.

  • I love jersey button downs and they are so hard to find. They satisfy my need to be t-shirted whenever possible, while still looking sharp. I used to have an iris-blue silk jersey blouse, it was the most beautiful thing ever…and I got Sharpie on it. Hazards of the trade. The next best compromise is the stretch silk blouses from Talbots, I always try to scoop those up when they go on deep sale.

    My feelings about Spanx are well known on the interwebs, and I didn’t like leggings/jeggings the first time around, but I have definitely figured out that soft, skinny waist belts are much more comfortable than wide waist belts.

  • Mirjam

    Is it just me or is that button-down on the picture gaping? Maybe my definition of “gaping” is different from yours, but isn’t that exactly the look we are trying to avoid?

    • Sal

      Hahaha, nope you’re right. They’ve got her in a size too small. The same style is shown in the other link and fits THAT model properly.

  • Jersey Knit button down? I need to try that. I am so uncomfortable in button downs.

    I’m with you on the high waisted tights. Much more comfortable!

  • molly

    Those knit button-downs often fit me when regular ones don’t, but they always pull at the buttons–even on the model above! Does that just not bother you, or do you use fashion tape, or go up a size, or….?

    • Sal

      No, you’re right. Buttons shouldn’t gap, period. It depends on the body and style of shirt, and some women will have that problem no matter what and may need to rely on fashion tape. But you’re right – they’ve got this model in a size too small!

  • Sal

    Just swapped out the jersey shirt image for a different one. This one fits its model properly! Same product, just better fit. Good eyes, my friends. I should’ve been more careful when selecting my image …

  • cinnamonsticks

    Two words. Elastic belts. I love ’em and I didn’t see them on your list. I get mine via thrifting and I’ve seen them crop up at F21 and TJMaxx. Great tips Sal.

    • WORD. I wear the heck out of the 2 wide elastic belts I found at NY & Co. around Black Friday sale time. They’re a perfect fit, & the elastic makes them so supremely comfortable. Plus, I can hike them up under at the ribcage for a high-waisted look or down towards my natural waist, giving different styles w/different outfits.

  • Laura

    You should have seen me dancing in the dressing room when I discovered jersey button ups last weekend. I kid you not, I was dancing. But here’s the clincher: the buttons on this shirt were a scam. It was a pull on shirt with all of the detailing of a button up (seams, buttons, various tailored spots), and because the front was stitched up, there was NO gapping. I’m a skinny chick with a pair of prominent Girls, so my desperate love for button ups always results in leaving all the top buttons undone (cami underneath). Which works, but doesn’t have the same visual feel of a shirt worn as a shirt, not as a cardigan. In the case of this shirt, it stretched to accommodate and flatter my body, but the stitched up front meant that I got the button up look without the fear of my boobs shooting buttons off into the night like mini rockets.

    • Laura

      Oh, and high waisted tights? YES. Because it doesn’t matter how skinny you are (seriously, I’m little), the normal spot the waist of a pair of tights hits me segments my body and gives me lumps and bumps I don’t actually have. The higher waist negates that problem so I can wear clingy dresses or tunics or whatever and not have a caterpillar body underneath.

    • Peggi

      Laura, where did you find this wonderful shirt? I definitely want to find one!

      • Laura

        I got it in the Sears juniors department. Both juniors and women’s sections were having mega winter clearance so I ended up with a bunch of shirts, cardigans, and jackets for around $3 each. I just went to see what brand it was because I thought maybe the shirt might be found on ebay or something even though it’s not in stores now, but I realized I cut off the tag because it was visible through the lace detailing across the shoulders. I *think* it was Bongo.

        Similar to this: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_002B7360000P?prdNo=4&blockNo=29&blockType=G29

  • Rad

    Great tips! I love some jeggings! I even wear them with blazers and tunics to be “professional.” Also, I need to find some knit button downs. Who knew this was an option?

  • Tab

    So what you ladies are saying is all tights aren’t high waisted? I’m 5’10” and all legs and I have never in my life found a pair of tights that don’t fit me at my high waist line! (I’m seriuosly like boobs then waist) what annoys me about tights is the crotch is always too big!

    • Sal

      Ahhh, tights definitely fit different torso lengths in different ways. Most regular tights that I’ve bought hit me at my natural waist – where my torso is at its smallest. High-waisted tights are designed to sit just below the bra-line. But it sounds like that’s not something you need a special fit for, Tab!

      Do your tights droop at the crotch point? I’ve never seen that before …

      • Katharine

        My tights OFTEN droop at the crotch point! However, that’s because I am right on the cusp, usually, of a M and L fit by the weird mountain-chart on the back of the package. I usually go with Large, since too-large tights are wearable, and too-small tights are torture. But — Large is often also Tall, so there’s extra leg length to be hauled up, and then the crotch droops down when I walk. (Hm. My extra-short rise might be at play here too.)

        Anyway. The droopy tight has been a bane of mine since childhood.

        • Tab

          I adore how different and special we all are! Tights have always been droopy at the crotch for me so I have to hike them up as much as possible or I waddle like a penguin awkwardly!

          • Eleanorjane

            Me too! But it does vary by brand. I quite often wear a snug fitting but not VPL producing pair of knickers over the tights (superman style) which keeps things in place.

  • Lisa Walter

    Sally…

    I have always loved the knit jersey button down shirts…but as has been stated in other posts…so hard to find!!! Why is it so hard for clothing makers to understand what really works for women!

  • Great suggestions! I’m not sure if it’s the time of year or what, but it seems like a few style bloggers have been writing recently about comfort vs. style (Diana of Smiles go with Everything and S. just wrote a piece on jeggings on our site). I’d reiterate what others have said that elastic belts and knit blazers are waaaaay comfortable. Also using scarves as belts works since they are very easily adjustable. I need to invest in some high waisted tights. After this winter I seriously cannot bare to put anything around my mid-section, and your reviews are all positive! Thanks for reporting on this!

  • anya

    I’m also shortwaisted and proportionately quite long-legged. Most of my tights. are super-low rise or under-bra. So I totally get you Tab

    • I’m built like Anya–shortwaisted and long-legged! My tights have always fit at just below boobs!

      • Lisa Walter

        Me three ladies…I’m built the same way….same problems with tights!

  • GingerR

    I go for the jersey button downs. They’re soft and layer well — plus I hate to iron! I’m always on the prowl for knit tops with collars, even if they’re sleeveless.

    JJill has some in their current catalog and I’ve had others from the Rafella brand.

  • good lord, WHY do I still not have jeggings? I’ve been wanting them for MONTHS (by months I mean years!), but then just wanna spend my money on skirts or dresses. that’s it… they are getting prioritized on my shopping list immediately.

    also jersey button ups would work SO well for me for work. they seem like they’d be so much less constricting, and I wouldn’t worry about boob exposure so much. also, on a grosser note, another bad thing about the traditional button ups? sweatstains! pretty sure my armpits prefer jersey too.

  • I have never tried jeggings, but I’m pretty tempted after reading this post! I have a beautiful pair of cowgirl boots that I almost never wear because athletic calves + straight leg jeans do not mix with the shape of a country boot. I think I may pick some up this afternoon, just saw a cute pair at the store for $5.00 (beats the price of denim, too!).

    As for the button up shirts, I love this suggestion (and the other linked post about these shirts). As a larger-chested woman, I have such a hard time finding shirts (of all kinds) that don’t pull, stretch and gap like crazy. When I do finally find one, usually for more formal work-related stuff, it is always the most boring, bag-like thing in my closet. For some reason, if the shirt is cut to fit my chest, it is guaranteed to be way too big in the waist. So I’m excited, because the knit is a really, really good idea. Thanks!

  • i’m a big fan of the jersey button-down too! i always feel like such a cheater when i wear them- like i look nice, but am enjoying the comfort of pajamas. i’m the same way with ponte pants- looks like business, feels like pjs. also, elastic belts with a pretty metallic buckle. that way it stretches along with your tummy throughout the day, but the buckle keeps it from looking messy (at least, i think it does!).

  • What I want to know is why no one makes low rise tights?? I have ONE pair of low rise nylons (made by Victoria’s Secret), and I love them to pieces but have never been able to find another pair.

    • Sal

      I remember seeing some at Target about two years ago, but haven’t since. They must not have caught on!

      • I got a pair of low-rise brown tights there just this spring. But right now they’ve already switched away from footed tights at our Targets, tights season is pretty much over.

  • Tab

    Sal, I think you have secretly helped me figure out how I’m gonna be stylish and comfy this fall when my tummy is huge! Everyone keeps telling me I don’t need to be stylish while prego but they don’t know me well! Now to find a shop that will have jeggings big and long enough. Also, I am seeing the words jersey and ponte a lot recently. All you ladies are my secret super heros and you didn’t even know you were helpful!

  • emi s.

    I always buy tights a size up from the smallest size I fit in. I’m borderline in both height/weight for most tights (between 1 and 2 or between A and B), and I ALWAYS buy 2 or B. I’ve never had a problem with them being too big/bagging, and they’re so much more comfortable.

  • A-C

    I need to find me some jersey button downs! I only have the stiff fabric kind and the fit just sucks.

  • ugh, YES to high waisted tights! …so much better all the way up than the squeeze, roll, loaf they create in the midsection. I used to hate wearing tights because of that but they are finally created equally 😉

  • ismay

    The rid-high tights I would run a thousand miles from. Personally I cant stand tights material anywhere on my torso. My favorite hosiery style is thigh-highs, by a mile, if only they would stay up, be long enough to almost all the way up, and be more widely available in opaque. For full tights, I prefer a LOW waistline that hits just over the hipbone.

    Belts of any kind other than the in-the-pants-loop kind are just uncomfortable, by nature. And scarves will scrunch down into a thin wad – so I dont see how belting with a soft scarf could ever work.

    I think I must have a more sensitive belly than most women…

  • Erin

    A shout out for Jones New York plus size buttondowns. I have three, in extremely crazy prints but the traditional buttondown fabric and style (one even has French cuffs), so they are great for work, with or without a suit jacket (though as I get more senior “with” seems to be more right). And I carry most of my extra weight on top – these babies fit great and no gapping. Jersey buttondowns are great in theory but not dressy enough for law firm life, even business casual, IMO. Maybe I’ll nab one for casual Fridays.

  • LQ

    I had one of those shirts for a while from Ann Taylor but I always felt apologetic in it. And I totally wear yoga pants out into the world (under tunics OK) so my standards are pretty elastic.

    For what it’s worth, currently I am wearing an honest to god proper woven button front shirt that is just as comfortable as a Lands End knit tee and looks approx 12,000 times better. It fits me like it was made for me. Because it was. At 36F, hourglass, the only way I could get it was to order it custom from a tailor. I went a little insane and now own half a dozen. I feel like Daisy, crying into a pile of Such Beautiful Shirts for sheer blissed out joy. No tugging or constant placket adjusting, no billowy waist, no bottom button undone fudge to accommodate the hip, no cami required, no shoulder strain if you dare move, the wrists are the size of my wrists and not the size of a water main. It works. It isn’t a cheap solution, but that Three Dots shirt upthread is freaking $92 and this shirt I have on now isn’t appreciably more expensive and will last longer. Albeit with bigger dry cleaning bills, because I don’t iron.

    (Tailor = Tom James, for those in NY metro. Preppy/staid/dowdy branding to the point the website will probably make you want to cry, seriously double your Prozac dose before you go looking, but boy howdy, you can get you your impossible to achieve wardrobe-staple button-front shirts.)

    • Erin

      Oh boy do we come in all shapes and sizes. I read “no bottom button undone fudge to accommodate the hip” and laughed, because the size I get mine to accommodate bust/shoulder land makes them all flappy about the hips. Yes, I need a tailor.

  • Ann V

    Blazers and button down shirts are comfortable if they fit correctly, but it might require a tailor to get a good fit. (Or you could be like me and make your own!)

    I cannot wear any kind of high waisted tights because they’re all control top. Am I the only person who feels extreme pain from anything remotely control top? I feel like I’m being attacked by a giant python all day. I tend to wear low rise leggings with a wide waistband for tights. It’s the only solution I’ve found so far.

    • Sal

      No, I stick to the Spanx version because they’re the best I’ve found, but I’d LOOOOOVE a non-control-top version.

  • Lauren

    Thanks to your blog I started wearing belts! I love this Wanza Obi belt by Lemlem, it goes with everything and is nice and soft. http://www.jcrew.com/womens_feature/ingoodcompany/lemlem/PRDOVR~33338/33338.jsp?srcCode=AFFI00001&siteId=J84DHJLQkR4-viHGVbNQlHFYfVc4S0CWIg

    Thanks for all you do!

  • These are some awesome tips! I just recently bought a button-down that has jersey along the sides and underarms and woven fabric for the rest. It’s the first time I’ve actually found a button-down to be comfortable.

    • AJM

      I have one of these, too, and I love the fit. I’m keeping my eye out for more.

  • Lydia

    These are some great ideas — I personally don’t wear button downs, but I may try some jersey ones again after reading this.

    For gaping buttons, I highly reccomend buying ‘bust adjusted’ clothes at bravissimo/pepperberry – the sizing changes at the bust — they have curvy, really curvey, and super curvey sizing, and they have button down shirts. The shoulder/ waist size is the same, just the bust area is altered. I don’t know where I would buy bras/ or some tops without this place
    http://www.bravissimo.com/pepperberry/

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  • This post is amazing.

    I too hate button-down shirts because of my gigantic boobs (which I love! It’s the shirts which are the problem, not my boobs). Instead, I wear trompe l’oeil tops, which are a shirt collar sewn onto a sweater, making it look like I’m layering. This is especially awesome in crazy Maltese summer heat (43 degrees celcius, yo!).

    On the other hand I actually adore jeans. I’m not crazy about smart trousers, which sucks because my workplace is business casual (ie. no jeans). What I did is buy two pairs of somewhat stretchy black jeans – one bootleg and one tapered. I wear the tapered ones under tunics & long cardigans and with boots and flats, and I wear the bootleg ones all the damn time. They’re a lot smarter than blue denim and they don’t really LOOK like jeans. Win!

    And as for belts: I’m pretty heavy around the belly area so thick belts make me look strange and give me all manner of weird lumps. I DO love skinny belts which I wear right under my chest to define my waist.

  • j

    Nice post. I have hypersensitivity to touch (autism) so finding fab clothes that I can actually wear is always a challenge.
    Jersey button-downs are definitely great but too rare!

  • I had no idea there was such thing as high-top tights. You have brightened my day.

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