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Jul 21, 2010

Summer Style vs. Summer Comfort

I'll skip the morning niceties today and cut to the chase: in my heart of hearts I long to dress like this -- a Twenties dandy aboard the Ile de France en route to, I don't know, Capri or something.  I'd settle for Genoa.

Friends, barring a large inheritance from a mysterious millionaire mogul, I will never dress that way, let's just accept this once and for all.  I call pull off a vintage style cabana set, which is not to be minimized, and I have even been compared to gone-but-not-forgotten film star Troy Donahue (no cracks).  But I'm just not up for real style at the cost of comfort.

I live in an international fashion capital and I certainly wouldn't get beer cans thrown at me out of a speeding low rider if I dressed like Oscar Wilde instead of Oscar Madison.  I am simply too lazy to dress up.

When it comes to clothes, I'm no better than the rest of you.  Maybe even worse.

On Monday, still in a post-vacation haze and strictly on autopilot, I beelined it to the nearest fabric dive on 35th St. and picked up this:

This cotton stripe is as soft as flannel and just screams Bain de Soleil to me.  I splurged, too: $2/yd for only 44" instead of 60.  

I wanted to make something wonderful...a shirt, pants, even a caftan: summery but sophisticated.  Readers, I basically just made pajama bottoms.

No fly, an elastic waistband: clothes for a six-year-old boy.  But oh, so comfortable!

I also bought this gauzy off-white cotton and maybe I'll make some sort of flowy shirt with it.  Maybe even something with buttons and collar.

When it's this hot, and this summer has been torrid so far, even a drawstring sounds too binding, forget about an interfaced waistband.

I'm honestly one step from a sarong.

Readers throughout the world, do you ever fear that you've placed comfort too high on your priority list and let style go out the window?  Do you ever wake up and think, I just can't be bothered, no way, no how and who's walking the dogs this morning?

You've probably guessed by now that I do not go to an office every day though I still have my various meetings and commitments highly suggestive of adulthood.  I didn't steal all those vintage sewing machines and I have two chihuahuas to support, after all.

In closing, I pose this question:

Do you live in a glamorous capital city and struggle with the seemingly mutually exclusive dictates of comfort vs. style?   How do you handle it?  Also, do you have an extra bedroom available for the month of August and can I borrow your car?

I want to hear from you!


  1. Yes Pierre, I am in the same fashion boat, I value my personal comfort in all situations, over style.

    What do you mean an extra bedroom available for August?!? What's going on? Do we need to start a "Save Pierre" fund? Are you moving to Canada? Is that why you asked how many readers are in the northern hemisphere?

  2. I work at night and spend most of my day in my bathrobe. So very, very unglamorous. Everyone and their brother has seen me like this. I just can't be bothered with getting dressed "twice". So unless I have to go out, bathrobe, or sundress in the summer, is what I wear. And as I have aged, tight restricting clothing sends me batty.

  3. I have never valued style over comfort. My students have written things on my evaluations questioning my ability to dress myself. I do try to wear clean pants at least once a week.

    I have a lovely summer porch and a couch more comfortable than my bed! The doggies are welcome and they'd have a big yard to run in. And you can use the cars any time.

  4. I live in in the Washington DC area, everyone here dresses so casually in the summer that when I wear a wrap skirt and a colored tee people say, "are you going somewhere for lunch?" If you have new sneakers here, THAT's dressing up.

  5. Living in the Welsh Valleys, I have the opposite problem. Here, they've taken the concept of comfort clothing and run with it. Students go to the supermarket in pyjamas and full make-up. The go-to outfit of choice is the tracksuit bottoms with large tee that seems to be universally adored no matter where you live. With full make-up and big hair (I'm talking about the women here of course but the men aren't really any better) and a heap of jewellry. Chav isn't just a name but a lifestyle choice here in Wales.

    I want to wear vintage clothes, I want to wear (still to be sewn) suits and a choice of heels from all the shoes I can afford. I want stylish, damn it! Comfort's overrated and I want to look elegant and self confident. Unfortunately, everyone just assumes you're going to a wedding if you do that so more often than not I just wear jeans.

  6. No extra bedrooms here and I'm carless. And I live in the country, but within driving distance of Hotlanta. There was a time in my life, many, many years ago, that I actually cared about style. Comfort is my mainstay. I love baggy jeans, baggy t-shirts, pajama pants, long dresses, and bare feet!

  7. Most of the time I too value comfort over style, especially in the height of winter (as I am currently experiencing) or summer. I work as a dance teacher, so again it is comfort first there too. My students are mighty amazed by how I scrub up when not in sweat pants and a singlet top!

    We always have a spare bedroom and sometimes a spare car... But I'm in Australia so that could throw a spanner in the works!!

  8. Unemployed, and sweltering through the deadly NYC heat myself...

    I would love to have the budget to dress to the nines all the time, to look like I'm just breezing through, in my heels and pearls, with nary a bead of sweat on my brow.

    In reality though, I think people would look at me like I'm a nut job if I got all decked out to run to the grocery store (my neighborhood is full of immigrants and old people. I'm sure if I lived in say, the UWS or UES it would be different)

    Plus, why on earth would I take the time? Shower, hair, dress and makeup would take me longer than it does to go to the store and come home.

    So, instead, it's cargo skirts and wife beaters for me, make up less and hair pulled back in a ponytail.

    (However, when I DO have social or career engagements, I make it a point to dress appropriately and impeccably, no matter how hot it is.

  9. After 35 years on the East Coast I live in Albuquerque, where everyday dress ranges from Chaco sandals to Quinceanera dresses. I try to find a balance between comfort and polish.

  10. Can I vote both? Sure, there's plenty of stylish clothing that isn't cool and comfy, but lots of others that are. Seersucker suit? the shirt I made my husband the other week?

    The real question, of course, is, given the heat, do you have the energy to make anything but pyjama bottoms? :)

    PS Men in sarongs are so hot. Just sayin'

  11. Great to hear I'm not alone and thanks for the invites!

    What, may I ask, is a "spanner?"

  12. I live in a medium sized bourgeois New England town where summer is hot and muggy even if you have A/C. I'd probably get funny looks, although the library ladies like my outfits. So, I don't really sew summer clothes because I tend to mostly wear t-shirts and shorts that I get at Savers for $3 a pop. I spend all summer sewing autumn clothes instead so then I can enjoy autumn without feeling stressed about not having sewn enough. I just started a teal Heidi-style suspender skirt with matching bolero from the 40s that also has a blouse to go with it (if I can figure out the instructions).

  13. I'm wearing ugg boots right now for god's sake. I hate myself.
    I resisted them for 15 years, then suddenly gave up the fight in April this year when it started getting chilly.
    I was going to say 'at least I've never worn them out of the house' but that's a lie. I've worn them in the car for the early morning commute to work. Damnit.

  14. I live in a rather liberal fashion area...the Pacific Northwest is all about comfort and rains alot here for Heaven's sake! I think my style has gone more towards comfort more as I, um, age (did I really say that?) No longer can I rock 4 inch heels with a mini-skirt...feels good is the new prerequisite!

  15. Well, your posts have infected me with a desire for vintage patterns, but I notice that I'm looking for a certain sort of pattern and that I do value comfort. Also, ease of construction, if possible.

    Day to day, if you are retired, you don't have the need for an extensive dress up wardrobe. And if it is hot, you don't want too much clothing or heavy jewelry. I don't live in a style capital, so I don't look weird, except in comparison to the affluent ladies dripping with jewelry, expensive hair and fake tans. They are a style I don't want! I wouldn't mind driving one of their cars though!

  16. Um Peter ... maybe there is a boat named the Ile de France, but usually it refers to the island that Paris sits on. Ile means island in French, so it would be an odd name for a boat. ;-)

    Sorry, I got that far & my mind went blooey.


  17. Style over comfort, always. Never without heels, and I never ever leave the flat without make-up. Being allowed to see me without make-up is a privilege I only grant to immediate family and very close friends, people in whom I trust enough not to run away on the mere sight of plain old me.
    I get asked very often if I have special plans for the day or get compliments on how I look. Both is rarely the case. I just feel better and more confident when I know I look nice.

  18. I do have an extra bedroom, but I don't think you'd appreciate the temperature here either.
    It depends what you mean by 'style' in this balancing act. I think if I'm wearing loose linen pants, ironed, and a nice-color top, with say silver Birkenstocks like today, I've done quite enough to keep the world viewable. I don't think I need a girdle to add to the general effect, it's quite enough that I'm not wearing grungy shorts and a tube top with plastic flip-flops. I smell good too. Basically, these days anyone who thinks more than 10 seconds about what they're wearing in the morning is doing better than 90% of the population, never mind sewing the damn outfits, so I'm not in the mood to flog myself.
    That said, what I look like is much better when I'm neither bright red nor sweating, nor swearing, from wearing weather-inappropriate clothing. Survival is essential, and making some concessions to weather is part of it. Minor adjustments to fabric content and color can go a long way toward comfort in this case, so why not do them? Would I really be more stylish in black polarfleece??

  19. Spare cars and a bedroom, but this is Florida where it's hot and humid almost all year, so I don't think it's where you're looking for escape come August. And because it's h&h so many days, I'm always for comfort first, style second - if you can call jeans, capris, skirts and tees "style."

    Random bits: My grandfather was born in Genoa. And I'm off to sew a bubble wrap suit. Ciao!

  20. I'm in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR), and styles here range from suits to baggies. By day, I'm polished, poised and prepared in stylish clothes that reflect the person I am.

    As soon as get home, however, on come the supercomfy tie waist linen pants, my Birkenstocks and a loose-fitting tunic top. I'd NEVER wear that to the market, tho. Who knows when I'm going to meet the fella of my dreams? I'd rather put out a good first impression!

    Oh, and you're always welcome at my house. My sewing room packs down in a jiffy! Bring Michael and the dogs! We'd have FUN! (and it's a balmy 62º here today. Neener-neener.)

  21. I went for style when I was young, but now in my 50s, I go for comfort. The good thing about sewing is that with good fit and good fabrics, you can mix the two.

  22. I live and travel full time in an RV and my husbands work has us staying on carnival lots or in RV parks. Neither is known for their fashion sense. So like some other commenters I fight the tide of dumpyness. I value comfort over stylishness but there really is a line that shouldn't be crossed. And I teeter on that line everyday.

  23. Ahhhh, the Ile de France! I'm guessing you see yourself on her during her heyday and not her sad end when she was used in the Robert Stack/Dorothy Malone shipwreck drama.

  24. Peter, a spanner is a wrench. 'Put (or throw) a spanner in the works' refers to the calamitous effects of throwing a spanner into the gears and pistons of an engine.

  25. I believe in the importance of comfort, truly I do. But when it comes to my own style, I’m willing to put up with some discomfort. As loony as it may sound, I believe it keeps me more alert and aware of my body. I slouch in sweatshirts, have dreadful posture in flats, stare at the floor when I wear baggy jeans. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

    That said, I think each individual should make choices concerning comfort. It ties directly to stylistic priorities, which are wholly individual.

    Oh, and when it’s 95 degrees and humid, I toss all my rules out the window and put on shorts and a tank and comfy sandals.

    Finally, the PJ pants are fab. Love those stripes.

  26. Peter -
    I am a twenty-something-liberal-arts-degrees-holding-guy-in-a-bad-economy and I live in an unfashionable city in Wisconsin. Yes, Wisconsin. And I long to dress like this, too. It seems as though we have the same restrictions. So I decided to sew them myself, but in reality focus on a simple wardrobe with impeccable fit (I guess that means style). It works until I find that millionaire mogul. And you're always welcome here, but it's just as hot and there's few fabric stores.

  27. I also have a spare bedroom, and you can use my car. However, if your quest is for COMFORT, you're NOT going to like Houston in August. Maybe February...

  28. I have a guest room for you and we'll take the dogs too. Actually your invite is conditional on bringing the dogs. We have three already so they would fit right in. It is hot here as well, but without the humidity, and we live in driving distance of many wineries which offer free tastings. And the dress code here is t-shirts, shorts, and flip flops. Pack accordingly.

  29. I am not old enough to put comfort before fashion. The only reason I might is in shoes. And that's only because reoccuring injuries to my left foot causes me to loose sensation to said foot and it's ankle if I wear too high of a heel for too long. Falling down is not a good look. though I have stood performing in concert with my foot, ankle and leg completely numb. But I looked good. Other than that I will suffer as long as I look great.

  30. Right now, I'm all about the comfort. But if I do have to go out for those various adult-ish sort of meetings and appointments, I do try to dress appropriately. Atlanta has a pretty eclectic style, but the in the areas I frequent, a tennis outfit seems to be what you wear, which is something I avoid at all costs. Kicked out of a tennis group once, and I'm scarred for life.

    Anyway, I have a spare room, and sometimes cars though that a sore subject right now, but we've got the heat and humidity going for us here, too.

  31. I live in a loathsome east coast suburb, and in this heat I wear plaid men's boxers and a cunningly coordinated oversized t-shirt -- indoors only.

    In 95-degree weather I solve the outdoors fashion problem by not going out.

    But I love the 20s nautical blazer look on men AND women. For slumming, of course, a middy's the thing.

  32. I try for both. My summer attire is normally a cotton skirt with either a top I've made or a T-shirt I bought off the end-of-the-season clearance rack the year before. Yet, people still think I'm overdressed and, like some of the others have said, I get asked if I'm going somewhere special.

    I'm drawn to late 1960's styles lately for their style and comfort. I'm a 1940's type in the Fall and Winter.

  33. Coincidentally I was thinking about this just the other day! My boyfriend oft remarks that I change clothing too often as I am hasty to gtfo of my work clothes and into something more comfortable or utilitarian after work. Besides, I don't want to get stuff on my clothes and need to wash them any more than I have to! Lately, however, I've been ramping up my sewing frequency (and working on my skills) and have settled on quite a few dresses. I have found that - especially in the heat - some these are way more comfortable than the pajama bottoms and uber stretchy target tanks that I usually sport at home. I like to think that I've started to hit on a way to maintain some semblance of style while not sacrificing comfort. Of course, I dream big but so far it's working. Granted, I don't do the masses of restrictive foundation garments that 40s women sometimes did when I'm laying about the house and granted some of the dresses are technically 'house dresses' and may have been the cultural equivalent of 'pajama pants and target tank tops' in their day but I think they're easily less casual looking in today's world.

  34. I went through a long phase where I chose mere covering up over style due to the presence of small children who routinely sabotaged said covering with all manner of sticky, unwelcome things. It was the right way to go, trust me. Now everyone goes to school, everyone knows how to swim, nice manners and discussion are routine at the table . . . style can safely return. Style can still be casual . . . such as chic stripey linen pajama bottoms for relaxing at home or wearing a large-brimmed yellow straw hat, a vintage mexican wedding dress, and flower-embellished sandals to the local pool (make an entrance -- kind of like a cabana set!). After surrendering it for such a long time, I'm quite enjoying being back "in style".

  35. I forgot to mention that we have an empty bottom bunk . . . and if you make it to Capri, we're a short hydrofoil ride away. Genoa . . . you are going to have to take a train.

  36. Do, please, take that one step towards the sarong, it would look smashing on you.

    But isn't the world unfair? While I manage to look reasonably elegant in a sleeveless dress made of slightly stretchy cotton (vintage pattern) and still feel comfortable in sweltering temperatures, the style gods decree that the male figure can only be elegant in long trousers, a shirt, and a jacket of some kind.

    Not being a style god, I think this is rubbish. I think Maroccan men can look very elegant in their ankle length shirts and ooh and ahh, men in sarongs. Granted, it is not every figure that can carry them off, but those who do look very put together, I think.

    And I think, that there are only a few occasions in life that merit the kind of stylishness that is incompatible with at least some comfort. Coronations, marriages etc.

  37. Why sacrifice comfort? There are stylish clothes that can be super comfortable at the same time, no?
    I live in a capital city, not as glamorous as NYC though. If you wish to visit eastern Europe ur more than welcome Peter.

  38. First of all, you sew. You can dress like a 20's dandy if you want to, without needing the patronage of a millionaire. I live in a resort seaside town in the subtropics. No one dresses up here and most often people are barefoot. August is the most wonderful time of year in Byron Bay and I have not only a spare room, but a guest cabin ten minutes from a mostly empty stretch of coast. In fact, my property is at the end of a valley with no neighbours for miles, so if you think it's too hot you don't even need clothes. Having said all that, I still dress up each day and usually sacrifice comfort for style.

  39. oh carol if peter doesn't take you up on your offer I most certainly will!

  40. Trudy, calm down, I was going to invite you anyway.

  41. I ALWAYS value comfort over style. I have to feel comfortable. One day of wearing an uncomfortable outfit and I won't wear it again. I get a little spendy on my choice of fabrics for this very reason, because natural fibers breath easier and feel so much better against my skin than the synthetic ones. Fit is a huge thing for me too. Skirt "buying" is nearly out of the question as I always have to alter them to not dig into my waist with those rotten binding waistline stays which don't hurt if done properly.

    I do live in a capital city, though I highly doubt that Utah is on your list of states you would like to visit. It seems one of those states that people in the government get "deported" to for bad behavior. And you would have to take the couch and we only have one vehicle, but average public transit...enticing, I know.

  42. Peter, forgive the 'aussie-talk'... and yep what Hashi said about the spanner/wrench.

    Ah, men in skirts in general I think look quite lovely - kilts anyone? I remember seeing pictures from when my family went to Fiji (before I was born) and the Fijian men were always in sarongs. I actually have a vintage fijian sarong that my mum bought when she was over there - I just love it in summer.

  43. I think Crimson Gardenia needs an intervention.

    Although I am casual, do try to look appropriate and presentable. I don't want to be a feature on someone's blog as a bad example any time soon.

  44. I honestly feel more stylish in the summer because I wear skirts (linen a-line) and dresses (knee-length, cotton knit). Can not wear uncomfortable shoes, though, and accessorizing is way far down my to do list, so the look is still very casual.

    I'm living in Vienna and feel like everyone I see is dressed in couture; I sometimes wonder what they think of me! (we do have spare room, but you'd have to be happy with public transit and we have no air conditioning!)

  45. Wow am I seriously in the minority here.

    Not style over comfort but never comfort over style.

    I have a strong aversion to looking homeless, crazy, impoverished, like I don't give a crap, uneducated/don't know any better, to self involved to dress nicely, like a bum, etc.

    So I always attempt at very least, "presentable" when I go out in public no matter what I am doing or where I am going. Hand-in-hand with that is "appropriate" for the event/destination.

    Have I turned all conservative and stuff cos I am old and used to dress pretty gaga when I was younger?

  46. Try adding a kicky scarf.

    I find that dresses up pajama bottoms quite well. Or anything else for that matter.

    Today I wore a beret without irony.

    (Okay, who am I kidding...all berets are ironic.)


  47. Hm... I do not even own sweat pants or oversized t-shirts and the one pair of sports clothes I have is for sporting activities only, on the other hand, I rarely wear make-up and am lazy about doing fancy things with my (long) hair. So: comfort over style in the make-up/beauty deparment, style over comfort in dress. Although I have to say, over here casually dressed women tend to be in (tight) jeans all the time, some even now, in this unusually hot summer, and I am just way more comfortable in my full skirted retro dresses. For winter, I sometimes indulge my inner sewing geek by making precisely tailored jackets, which usually are just a bit too dressy and too warm for my everyday life. Although, if I get thinner fabric next time...

  48. I'm in LA, trick.

    I'm a cosmetology school student (scrubs), an artist (ripped, paint stained jeans and matching t-shirts), and part-time book keeper in the off-office hours (clean t-shirt, clean jeans, flip flops).

    I only get dressed up for openings and hair shows. Even then, it's strictly Buffalo Exchange or Urban Outfitters-ish, skinny jeans, tanks, sandals, hats (maybe), funky jewelery. To be honest, I can't really be bothered with "high" fashion. Recycled, Upcycled and hand made!

    Add to all this that I'm a lesbo so I have to show-up for the sisterhood by sporting the occasional indie-hand-screenprinted t-shirt, vest, hat, leather cuff, or old school high tops.

    And it's 63* here right now....with very cool, Ocean breezes. I have a soft sofa and a chihuahua too. We'd have to share my car.

  49. *ahem* Even I, the gal who likes wearing dresses with cinched in waists and 5"+ heels, likes comfort every once in awhile. 'Specially since in Florida it's hot and humid most of the year! :p I have a secret (okay, not so secret--I just haven't photographed them since I made them years ago!) stash of loose-fitting dresses that I wear when it gets too darn hot. My favorite is a vintage nightgown with tie straps that I converted into a dress (e.g. shortened it. Easy peasy.). Pretty different silhouette from my regular look, but there are days I just don't give a darn about "fashion"! lol. I guess, style tends to win out most often for me, at least at this point in my life. But then again, I tend to fudge on different things like lazy hairstyle and little or no makeup some days. ;) lol.

    Like your pj pants--they look so comfy!!!!!

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  50. Cherri @ SP - I'd take that intervention!
    My only excuse is it's 9 deg C here right now (48F).
    I do have my hair pin-curled with an orchid clip though... does that help cancel out the footwear?

  51. Well Crimson Gardenia, I guess you get a pass, but only because I'm not there to see it. ;-)


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