Answers from the Spectrum: Clothing and Shoes

nuage mots mains merci

Question for the Spectrum: Everyday life for those on the Spectrum can be tricky where clothes and shoes are concerned, the materials, how they feel against your skin, getting the right fit, the different sensations…

How are you dealing with this?

What experiences do you remember from your childhood and do the clothes still cause daily problems?

Or has is got better as you have grown up?

What ways/techniques have you developed to get around this issue?

Answers From the Spectrum:

‘My work uniform feels horrible against my skin. So I put a long sleeved cotton top underneath and wear different trousers. I also hate suede and velvet as well as not being able to play with felt as a child. Slightly related, but I also can’t walk in heels. My lack of co-ordination has never allowed for it without falling over. This makes it even harder to fit in with other girls my age as they go out in heels and I can’t.  As a child I could never get shoes to fit properly. I only wanted clarks bootleg shoes of a certain type. Then they stopped making them and I refused to wear any others. Luckily I get to wear black trainers to work.  I feel physically sick when I touch anything I don’t like. I get shivers up my back too.  My work place are very good with it. They even let me have my hair down sometimes because it hurts if it is up for too long or I’m feeling particularly sensitive on that day.’


‘I had more sensitivity as a child but still have issues finding underwear that doesn’t irritate and I can’t wear things near my neck, high necked clothing, scarves and necklaces are all out. I can’t wear or sit on woolen things, the fibers poke me like tiny needles. Socks can still be irritating.  My daughter wasn’t diagnosed until she was 13 because I didn’t know about the spectrum at the time but oh the issues that we had every single morning about her socks!   Our family now all wear the same type of socks and the problem is not an issue (she still has bad sock days though).’


‘As far as I am aware I never had issues with any clothing as a child. It never affected me, there were certain materials I didn’t particularly like the feel of but it never used to cause me to have a meltdown.’


‘My grandmother still tells stories about when I was small – I would take off all my clothes and run around saying “naked baby!” She thinks this is hysterical.  What I really remember is that I’ve always been picky about my clothes – my family tried to give me clothes as gifts when I was a kid, but I usually wouldn’t wear them. Even with clothes that I pick out for myself, sometimes they’ll seem fine in the store but end up rarely leaving my closet.. On the other hand, if something is comfortable, I’ll wear it all the time – to the point of wearing my favorite sweaters day after day.  One thing that’s really changed over the past couple of years is that I almost never wear man-made fibres anymore. There are a couple of exceptions, but most of my clothes are cotton, and I have several cashmere sweaters that I inherited, as well as sweaters I’ve knitted for myself out of various animal fibres.  Another thing that I’m weird about is sleeves – I’m always cold, but most of my go-to shirts are tight, short-sleeved T-shirts. I’m okay with long-sleeved shirts and sweaters sometimes, as long as the sleeves are loose enough to push up.’


‘I believe I had more issues with this when I was a child than I have now at age 24. The thing is that I never got a diagnosis as a child (My parents did not believe that autism/mental illness was real ) so when I was a child I did not get any help and my parents thought I was a hysterical child.  I remember with clothes I could not wear anything too tight. Or with bottons (I did not like the feeling of bottons). Or anything too close to my neck. Wearing a scarf I was like no go and I remember we had battles about this when it came to clothes. I wanted to wear something soft always. Socks I *hated* them. I still do today.

When I think of this with clothes I believe it has something to do with ‘how it feels’ otherwise it makes me feel uncomfortable. My grandmother was somewhat understand about my need to wear soft clothes but we had battles about the socks. I always remember the happy feeling of walking barefeet. I also remember something else that is slighty offf-topic, but I also believe has something to do with ‘the feeling of it’ and fabric. When I was a child and today I still need to have the ‘right kind of pillow’. The fabric has to be right, and it has to be flat otherwise it is so uncomfortable for me and I cannot fall asleep. I remmber once my grandmother bought you know the thing you put around the pillow for me and it was stracty and itcthy for me, but soft for her. So I will admit – sometimes if I travel somewhere I take my own pillow with me

So how do I deal with it today? Well I am a woman who so I do care about what I look like and I have a thing for feeling like a princess. When I buy clothes I touch it and see if I like the fabric if I do I try it on. I avoid the things like botton I can’t stand. I admit I only wear socks if I feel too cold. However i can still not wear anything like hats or scarfs . it is just a no go.  And bras too. My rule is i don’t wear to force myself to wear anything that makes me uncomfortable .’


‘Clothes are a huge problem. I don’t like ‘girly’ styles. I hate soft, drapey fabrics. I hate things that crinkle and swish. I hate dresses, skirts, heeled shoes. I hate fitted, clothes, ‘bodicon,’ or body conscious (close fitting, as the Japanese say)  clothes. I like loose, non constricting clothes and mostly rough cotton (woven or knit) and some wool. This was a huge battle with mom, especially, as a child, more I believe because she didn’t want me reflecting bad on her and her parenting than she really cared that I dressed ‘gender appropriate.’ She also always told me that my choice in clothes would hinder my adult life, which to some extent it has. I don’t do ‘business attire,’ certainly not gender appropriate business attire. I also prefer modest clothing and wouldn’t dream of flashing cleavage. In a business environment where we’re all urged to dress for success and where leadership and gravitas have a certain uniform, I’m probably not taken as seriously as my work product merits because I simply don’t look the part. This is disappointing, but it is what it is and I’m not especially motivated to change. I wear clean clothes in good repair, not always ironed, I admit. I never wear a dress or a skirt. At work mostly I wear men’s khaki pants and a mix of men’s button down shirts, women’s blouses, and unisex turtlenecks. I hate showing too much skin and often wear layers to correct, for example, open, wide necklines that show too much shoulder or cleavage. At home I wear baggy cotton sweats or cargo shorts with t-shirts, maybe a sweat shirt if it’s cold. I hate logo-wear, so much of my wardrobe is plain, dark solid colours. I also like ‘Bohemian,’ so have lots of arty-farty clothes, too. I have a huge collection of Birkenstock clogs and sandals. I’m not blind to style or fashion, but I have my own, idiosyncratic sense of what works for me in terms of aesthetics and comfort. Don’t even get me started on women’s underwear – not even going there! Cotton boxers and slip-on cotton sports bras.’


‘I’m also not fond of overly feminine clothes. I worry I’ll attract the wrong sort of attention to me. I think I’d probably do myself an injury if I tried to balance in high heels.’


‘I still cut the tags out of my clothes, and I can’t stand clothes that make noise.’


‘I need to wear my trousers tucked into my socks and my top tucked into my trousers. It feels unbearable if there are ‘loose connections’ like that in my clothes – it chafes, it lets in the cold and it looks awful. I can’t wear bras because they can’t be tucked in to other clothes, which can be a problem because the lack of support hurts me, but I recently discovered padded camisole vests which work well. I need to buy long-legged high waisted trousers so my clothes tuck into them. I mostly stick to jeans with shirts or t-shirts, sometimes long skirts over leggings if I can put up with the lack of pockets, with long socks. Finding suits that fit properly is a nightmare. I also don’t like any kind of solution that involves hiding the fact that my clothes are tucked into each other or finding clothes that don’t need to be tucked in, because I feel like I’m giving in to the pressure of people around me. I have had problems with family members, people at school and at work trying to make me change or hide the way I dress, they make me feel like I am repulsive and shameful.

I also can’t have tags in my clothing, which can be a problem as I don’t have the co-ordination to remove them without making a hole in my clothes. In general I can’t stand shopping for clothes. I find it very difficult to estimate whether clothes will fit me or if they’ll be comfortable. They’re just objects flattened out on hangers or on statues of people who don’t look like me, I can’t visualise how it relates to me wearing them in everyday life. People sometimes laugh at me when I make a mistake, so I find it hard to ask for help. I also can’t return things to shops because I lose all my receipts.’


I vaguely remember refusing to wear a certain sweater as a child, because the fabric made me itch. So cloths were not such a big issue. I still cut tags from shirts though, as they irrititate the back of my neck. But maybe everyone has that issue?’


‘clothes weren’t a massive issue for me. I remember having arguments with my mum because she used to insist I wore nightwear to bed, but I didn’t like wearing clothes in bed, and would only settle for silky smooth nighties that felt cold on me when I put them on. Obviously being older, I can decide whether I wear pjs to bed for myself! I also used to cut out the labels.  When I shop for clothes these days, it doesn’t bother me too much, and if I like the style I can often tolerate the fabric to some extent, but this is rare. I choose fabric and comfort over style.’


‘I remember very well tactile issues as a youth. I could only tolerate cotton against my skin and could not stand loose fitting clothes. If, during the summer, I had to wear a loose fitting garment, such as a button up shirt, or a suit, I always wore cotton undergarments to shield my skin. Being a bit warm was better than having to deal with the sensations of non-cotton. This does continue to this day actually although with age my reactions are a bit more mature.  BTW… during my brothers wedding a few years ago, I actually wore jeans and a cotton shirt underneath the tux… nobody noticed at all.’


‘I apparently can’t answer these questions without writing an essay, so bear with me!  As I don’t remember if I had clothing issues as a child I asked my sisters and my mom, who all said “YES! You had issues” and my sister recalled that I used to go around the house trying to pull my dress off over my head. I thought I got worse as I got older but perhaps it’s the same; I just remember now better than I remember back then. I know that my mom made a lot of my clothes (no tags in those!) and bought a lot of them second-hand, which meant they’d been washed to softness already, so that may have helped.  I don’t like stuff around my neck like turtlenecks or collared shirts, but I can wear a scarf as long as it’s fuzzy. I love fuzzy clothes/scarves/socks but they have to be fuzzy in all directions, not like velvet which only runs one way. It’s relatively hard to find fuzzy clothes that are fuzzy in all directions so mostly I go with smooth clothes. No nubby or bumpy fabrics (no corduroy, wool, jeans, etc) and nothing that catches in my skin, like felt (I forgot how much I hate felt until someone mentioned it in a comment and the mere thought made me shudder). I love clothing that has just a hint of spandex in it (like 1%) so that it flexes and moves with me rather than sliding across my skin.

All clothing must be washed before trying to wear it, as new clothes have a stiffness to them (even the soft clothes) that I can’t stand the feel of and have a tendency to have skin reactions to (rashes mostly).

Luckily for my clothing issues, several years ago I started getting really cold all the time, so I wear layers now in comfort even in summer and the layer next to my skin is a washable silk long underwear with a non-elastic waistband. It wouldn’t stay up without the other clothes, but I can wear elastic waistbands as long as they aren’t next to my skin. Some silk is nubby and nasty feeling, but this is really soft as long as you put it in the dryer and don’t let it air-dry.

Bras were also a major problem as most manufacturers seem to think we all want lace or netting in the side panels … ventilation, I suppose, but that rough scratchy feeling is unbearable. It also gives me a rash, so … I finally found some that had wide shoulder straps and were smooth all over. Unfortunately I need more and they stopped making that brand so I have to go clothes shopping and I don’t want to.

I don’t actually care how I look as long as my clothes are neat and clean. So if I match, it’s mostly because I wear the same color pants every day (black) and make sure everything I own goes with them. The person who mentioned that their clothes have to be tucked in–I do that to, only not quite as severe; but the outside shirt _must_ be tucked into the pants. Someone tried to convince me that you look slimmer if you don’t have your shirt tucked in but it just looks untidy to me, so I tuck everything in. And I don’t like the loose cloth at my waist/hips (depending how long the shirt is).

Shoes are always “walking” shoes–athletic shoes. I have a pair of boots for if it’s dreadfully wet, but rarely wear them and always bring my other shoes to change into. I finally found a pair of shoes I really like for work and I bought five pairs so I don’t have to go shoe shopping for years. They keep discontinuing the styles I like–I should be able to get the same style and the same shoe ten years later, I think! I have some shoes that have knit uppers that were designed for people who were barefoot most of their childhood (that was me) because that does something different to the shapes of your feet, and they are comfortable but not supportive so I can’t wear them all day at work. I have high arches too, like Iris, and I gave up on finding shoes that fit; I found an insert that makes the shoe fit and make sure I only buy shoes I can pull the original insert out of.

Socks–I can’t stand the seam at the toe of socks. Someone told me about gold-toe socks (it’s a brand, but they actually have gold colored toes on the white socks) which have a softer seam and those I can wear. All other socks have to be turned inside out to wear them (like the fuzzy socks I wear in the house).

Tags–these are weird for me because sometimes I have major issues with them (like I have to stop and go to the bathroom to turn the tag to the other side; since I wear layers I can do this with the layer closest to my skin and it doesn’t look strange) and sometimes I don’t even notice the tags are there. This is for the exact same shirt! On rare occasions I’ll be wearing something on the outer layer that I can feel the tag on, and then, well, I just flip it out, and to the coworkers who tell me “your tag’s sticking out” I just say, “Yeah, I know, it’s driving me crazy today.” (They’re used to me.) And some manufacturers have started printing the information directly on the shirt (coldwater creek does this) or putting the tag in the side seam down toward your waist where your underwear would keep it from your skin.

So mostly I get around my clothing sensation issues by being picky about what I wear and not caring if I look fashionable or not. I have a tendency to buy every color in that style if I find something I like (I have five dresses all the same style, just different colors). I hate clothes shopping because my “touch system” gets overloaded and I can’t tell if I actually don’t like the feel of that particular fabric or if I’m just overwhelmed, so I wear clothes until they wear out and do a lot of online shopping from places I know have clothing I like. (shirt woot’s shirts have a lovely soft fabric, for instance.) I really didn’t realize how much I structure my life around making sure I have clothes that I can wear until thinking about how I would answer this question. It’s just the way things are for me.’


‘When I was a child I couldn’t handle the feel of the underwear seams. One day my mother said “try them inside out”. Been doing it ever since. Same with undershirts.’


‘problem as a child, not so bad in the late teens to late 20s, then sensitivity increased slowly back to where it is now in my 50s (which i think is about where it was as a child.  Cotton for preference. silk is okay sometimes. no synthetics touching my skin because they make my skin itchy and prickly. i take out tags for most things before i can wear them. i check seams before wearing things (preferably before buying) because sometimes soft cotton is serged with prickly poly thread.

Can’t stand pressure around my neck; turtlenecks are evil!  Bras were always an issue because a) they itched and b) they hurt my shoulders and ribs. now that I’m homebound, i no longer even try to wear them.  Underwear: 100% cotton only, elastic must be covered or soft with no lacy.  shoes have been an issue since childhood; i still remember my grandmother taking me for shoes when i was 4 or 5 and the salesman insisting he’d brought “the right size” so they DID fit –while i cried because they hurt. my beloved grandmother let him have a piece ofher mnd, and we left with shoes that did NOT hurt. my feet are narrow at the ankle and very wide at the toes, and any pressure on the toes leaves me shaking and in tears. my sole footwear these days are emu books (a brand name of australian ugg type boots).’


I have to make sure I dont feel suffocated, so no turtlenecks – a huuuuge opening for neck please! and I dont like sleaves that touch my wrists either – so no sleaves unless they are very long and wide. I never wear socks and prefer to go barefoot, only wearing sandals when I go outside – even in winter and brah – those things are torture!!!  as a kid I wore huge stockings always cause I suffered from cold feet’


‘Omgoodness clothes are a mare!!! Shoes, socks,  13 years old and just wearing certain types of socks!’

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