Soft fabrics and autism

Discussion of fashion elements and looks that are traditionally considered somewhat "femme" but are presented in a masculine context. This is NOT about transvestism or crossdressing.
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Ralph
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Soft fabrics and autism

Post by Ralph »

So I ran across something interesting today when I was reading about support for people on the autism spectrum. A concept called "sensory friendly clothing". Here I am over 70 and I've never been diagnosed as such (autism was known in psychological circles but not something parents or teachers ever considered and nothing the family doctor ever diagnosed or treated) but a lot of the signs fit me, and in my few remaining years it doesn't really matter if it's an accurate diagnosis. It's enough that I understand why I'm different and how I can either capitalise on those differences when they are to my advantage or compensate for them if they cause me grief.

Anyway, one of many traits I share with people who actually have been diagnosed is a sensitivity to sensory input - especially loud noises, flashing lights, and rough textures. It is this last that brought me to learning about clothing designed for people with those symptoms, and started me wondering about the preferences that I have developed over the years.

I love skirts and dresses, but not just anything. You couldn't hand me a burlap sack with holes for head and arms and say "it's a dress, and you love dresses, so you should wear this." I specifically like the softer fabrics against my skin: Nylon, satin, velvet, rayon, and cotton only if it's the softest kind. Keep your denim as far away from me as possible, thank you. If I do have to wear the rougher textiles (such as the obligatory jeans in my land of rednecks) I wear soft layers between my skin and the fabric. But I still have to touch them with my hands, so there's that.

I prefer lots of room for my skin to breathe: Loose shirts (blouses), a-line skirts, a-line dresses with fabric that swishes around and caresses me as I sit and move about. I prefer dresses to skirts because there is a smooth, straight line from neck to ankle, and in the same way I prefer pullover or old-fashioned styles with a single fastening in the back so there are no fiddly bits in the front to catch on my hands.

Everything I listed there has a place in sensory-friendly clothing. Soft fabrics, loose and/or stretchy fabrics that aren't constricting, no tags to scratch against the skin, not so many fastenings to distract and break up the smooth line...

So here I am, in what will likely be my final two decades of life, finally starting to wonder if all this time my odd clothing preferences had less to do with gender expression than with the peculiar sensory needs of my undiagnosed autism? And I bring all this up here as a sort of informal poll, wondering how many of the participants here are also (diagnosed or not) somewhere on the autism spectrum? Did any of the physiclal needs I mentioned trip any triggers for you?
Ralph!
STEVIE
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by STEVIE »

Hi Ralph,
Thanks for sharing and you make an interesting point.
Could it be that if gender is considered as a spectrum, then autism is also a shared element within humanity.
I had never considered this for myself but you have set me thinking.
The title of your thread and the preferences you describe resonate with me too but denim is OK.
I'd also say that I have polarised preferences for certain food or food combinations.
No way on this earth can I eat black olives or any kind of chocolate/orange combi. The latter, I love as individual elements, go figure.
Finally, my skirts and dresses and almost fanatical desire to see and be seen in them. I also knew that very early in life and it has never disappeared.
Got to say that if I am, like you, I am at peace with myself so my intent is to enjoy my own twilight to the fullest extent possible.
Poll wise, I'd say a cautious yes!
Steve.
ScotL
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by ScotL »

Ralph wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 2:41 am So I ran across something interesting today when I was reading about support for people on the autism spectrum. A concept called "sensory friendly clothing". Here I am over 70 and I've never been diagnosed as such (autism was known in psychological circles but not something parents or teachers ever considered and nothing the family doctor ever diagnosed or treated) but a lot of the signs fit me, and in my few remaining years it doesn't really matter if it's an accurate diagnosis. It's enough that I understand why I'm different and how I can either capitalise on those differences when they are to my advantage or compensate for them if they cause me grief.

Anyway, one of many traits I share with people who actually have been diagnosed is a sensitivity to sensory input - especially loud noises, flashing lights, and rough textures. It is this last that brought me to learning about clothing designed for people with those symptoms, and started me wondering about the preferences that I have developed over the years.

I love skirts and dresses, but not just anything. You couldn't hand me a burlap sack with holes for head and arms and say "it's a dress, and you love dresses, so you should wear this." I specifically like the softer fabrics against my skin: Nylon, satin, velvet, rayon, and cotton only if it's the softest kind. Keep your denim as far away from me as possible, thank you. If I do have to wear the rougher textiles (such as the obligatory jeans in my land of rednecks) I wear soft layers between my skin and the fabric. But I still have to touch them with my hands, so there's that.

I prefer lots of room for my skin to breathe: Loose shirts (blouses), a-line skirts, a-line dresses with fabric that swishes around and caresses me as I sit and move about. I prefer dresses to skirts because there is a smooth, straight line from neck to ankle, and in the same way I prefer pullover or old-fashioned styles with a single fastening in the back so there are no fiddly bits in the front to catch on my hands.

Everything I listed there has a place in sensory-friendly clothing. Soft fabrics, loose and/or stretchy fabrics that aren't constricting, no tags to scratch against the skin, not so many fastenings to distract and break up the smooth line...

So here I am, in what will likely be my final two decades of life, finally starting to wonder if all this time my odd clothing preferences had less to do with gender expression than with the peculiar sensory needs of my undiagnosed autism? And I bring all this up here as a sort of informal poll, wondering how many of the participants here are also (diagnosed or not) somewhere on the autism spectrum? Did any of the physiclal needs I mentioned trip any triggers for you?
In essence you are stating you like to feel softer more comfortable fabrics and not uncomfortable, rough fabrics. I’m not sure that’s a profound statement. What makes it appear profound is there is an unwritten rule that mens clothing should not be soft. Because soft clothing is associated with soft men and that makes one lose a corner off their man card. If you could separate the part of the male brain that is controlled by the need to be considered manly, men would want to wear satin, nylon and silk too. Cause why wouldn’t you want to wear comfortable stuff?
Ralph
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by Ralph »

ScotL wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 1:45 amIn essence you are stating you like to feel softer more comfortable fabrics and not uncomfortable, rough fabrics. I’m not sure that’s a profound statement. What makes it appear profound is there is an unwritten rule that mens clothing should not be soft. Because soft clothing is associated with soft men and that makes one lose a corner off their man card. If you could separate the part of the male brain that is controlled by the need to be considered manly, men would want to wear satin, nylon and silk too. Cause why wouldn’t you want to wear comfortable stuff?
Quite so. I read an essay on the subject years ago. One of the points the author made was that if we lived in a world where everyone on the planet wore identical plain grey coveralls except the one for women had a single extra button on it, a transwoman would insist on that extra button just for the inner knowledge they were wearing something for women.

I can understand that, but it's not me. If clothing manufacturers produced silk dresses explicitly designed for and marketed for men, I would buy out their stock in a heartbeat.
Ralph!
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Fred in Skirts
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by Fred in Skirts »

ScotL wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 1:45 am In essence you are stating you like to feel softer more comfortable fabrics and not uncomfortable, rough fabrics. I’m not sure that’s a profound statement. What makes it appear profound is there is an unwritten rule that mens clothing should not be soft. Because soft clothing is associated with soft men and that makes one lose a corner off their man card. If you could separate the part of the male brain that is controlled by the need to be considered manly, men would want to wear satin, nylon and silk too. Cause why wouldn’t you want to wear comfortable stuff?
𝓘𝓷 𝓽𝓲𝓶𝓮𝓼 𝓹𝓪𝓼𝓽 𝓶𝓮𝓷 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓮 𝓷𝔂𝓵𝓸𝓷, 𝓼𝓲𝓵𝓴 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓼𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓷. 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝔂 𝓭𝓲𝓭 𝓼𝓸 𝔀𝓲𝓽𝓱 𝓸𝓾𝓽 𝓻𝓮𝓰𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓽𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝓲𝓻 𝓼𝓮𝔁. 𝓦𝓱𝓪𝓽 𝓱𝓪𝓹𝓹𝓮𝓷𝓮𝓭? 𝓢𝓸𝓶𝓮 𝔀𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮 𝓭𝓸𝔀𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓽𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓵𝓲𝓷𝓮 𝓼𝓾𝓬𝓱 𝓬𝓵𝓸𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝔀𝓪𝓼 𝓽𝓪𝓴𝓮𝓷 𝓫𝔂 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓯𝓮𝓶𝓪𝓵𝓮 𝓼𝓲𝓭𝓮 𝓸𝓯 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓼𝓹𝓮𝓬𝓲𝓮𝓼 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓮𝓷 𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓮 𝓽𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝔂 𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓴𝓮𝓭 𝓼𝓲𝓵𝓵𝔂 𝓲𝓷 𝓼𝓾𝓬𝓱 𝓬𝓵𝓸𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰. 𝓢𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝔂 𝓼𝓽𝓸𝓹𝓹𝓮𝓭 𝔀𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓷𝓲𝓬𝓮 𝓯𝓪𝓫𝓻𝓲𝓬𝓼. :D
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skirted84
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by skirted84 »

As a diagnosed Autistic it makes perfect sense, though clothing wise its less an issue on lower half at least in material of skirts or whatever else. If its cool enough to wear skirts with wool I'd be wearing tights anyway, aside from a trad kilt. I live in cotton tshirts, am very fussy about "smart" shirts fabric and construction and balk at wearing a tie unless absolutely necessary like funerals. My main sensory issue however is noise, it is asymmetrical in that respect.
ScotL
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by ScotL »

Ralph wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 4:28 pm
ScotL wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 1:45 amIn essence you are stating you like to feel softer more comfortable fabrics and not uncomfortable, rough fabrics. I’m not sure that’s a profound statement. What makes it appear profound is there is an unwritten rule that mens clothing should not be soft. Because soft clothing is associated with soft men and that makes one lose a corner off their man card. If you could separate the part of the male brain that is controlled by the need to be considered manly, men would want to wear satin, nylon and silk too. Cause why wouldn’t you want to wear comfortable stuff?
Quite so. I read an essay on the subject years ago. One of the points the author made was that if we lived in a world where everyone on the planet wore identical plain grey coveralls except the one for women had a single extra button on it, a transwoman would insist on that extra button just for the inner knowledge they were wearing something for women.

I can understand that, but it's not me. If clothing manufacturers produced silk dresses explicitly designed for and marketed for men, I would buy out their stock in a heartbeat.
There was an American show called Seinfeld where they brought this up. One of the characters dressed himself in velvet because he wanted to and liked the way it felt. Because why not. Which was in essence, his point. The pandemic did show a lot of people that clothing choices that were uncomfortable but worn because the proverbial “they” said so, was just silly. It’s happening slowly, but I see more and more mens clothing start to incorporate more comfortable fabrics.

In essence, we men are just to hard headed to allow ourselves to wear comfortable clothing. Note: before anyone harshes on me for making such a broad generalization, stop and realize this is just that, a gross over generalization to make a point but by no means that I believe all men are hardheaded.
KenCT
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by KenCT »

You can do a Web search on 'sensory integration disorder' or 'sensory processing disorder' and find quite a few results. I believe the term was coined by an Occupational Therapist; it is not officially recognized by physicians or psychologists. I, however, am a psychologist, and exhibit the features of SPD - sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds, aversion to certain touch sensations, and, oddly, a high pain threshold (this was told to me independently by two physical therapists who were treating me for sciatica; I wouldn't have any way to know this. Although I do find cuts and bruises on my body for which I can't remember any injury.) Although more common among persons with autism, and perhaps those with ADHD (I was diagnosed as an adult), SPD can occur independently. My own preference would be to avoid calling it a 'disorder' - Anomalous Sensory Processing. maybe.
My touch anomalies are idiosyncratic - crew socks are annoying, and I constantly tug on them; knee socks and tights are quite comfortable. As a kid, my mom had to cut the tags out of my t-shirts and undershirts; many now are tagless, thank goodness. My skirt wearing is definitely associated with the more benign touch sensations. I've just started buying women's t-shirts with bateau necks - most crew-necks are annoying, and men's t-shirts hardly come in any other style. The area near my Adam's apple is one of those hypersensitive touch places.
Once I started wearing skirts and women's shirts, I quickly came to like the greater choice of materials and colors.
Brad
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by Brad »

I've always liked the feel of nylon on my, or someone else's, legs.
Coder
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Re: Soft fabrics and autism

Post by Coder »

I don't think I'm autistic (and frankly, it's one of those diagnosis's that has lost some of it's original meaning, and tends to be overused nowadays), and the "sensory" nature of clothes isn't really my thing, though I do appreciate fleece and anything of that nature. I am more intrigued by visual fabrics - bouclé, exaggerated linen, anything with an open weave, thick sweaters, plaids, and asymmetrical cuts. Really, anything that has some "depth" to it.
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