Clothestrophobia

clothesShortly after college I moved West from the Chicago suburbs to Arizona – not because of the infamous wind chill, not because I was finally fed up with defrosting my car door with a hair dryer – but because I have clothestrophobia.

Clothestrophobia is the fear of being smothered to death by your own clothes. It’s the feeling that every stitch of clothing touching you is encasing you in an inescapable spider web of poisonous thread. Remember that scene in Sex and the City when Carrie frantically rips off the wedding dress because it’s suffocating her? It’s kind of like that without the deep-rooted personal issues. Or to be slightly less dramatic, it’s the discomfort of wearing layers.

Ever since I was a mere babe I’d crawl like the wind from my pants-wielding mother until she gave up the fight and put me in a non-confining dress. The fewer cuffs, hems, waist bands, straps and yards of fabric touching me the better.

I thought I was the only weirdo with this condition, but it recently came to my attention that a few of my friends are also inflicted with who-wears-a-scarf-in-the-summer disorder so I’m feeling more comfortable bringing my suffering to light.

Here are some symptoms to look out for in case you, or someone you know, may be suffering from clothestrophobia:

Fidgeting: Look for random adjusting, shifting, tugging, untucking and retucking, smoothing and other forms of fiddling.

Fabric-conservation: Clothestrophobics will wear as few items of clothing as possible with as little fabric as appropriate for the occasion whilst remaining fashion conscious (we will not resort to mumus).

Sock aversion: Anyone wearing sandals in January is likely trying to avoid the frustrating slip, chafe or seam of a sock – the world’s most unnecessary garment. Utter the word “pantyhose” in their presence at your own risk.

The no-coat look: The most obvious symptom is the inappropriate lack of jacket. Look for the tell-tale coat-slung-over-chair or the even more stealth coat-over-arm tactic.

Room temperature denial: To coax out a closeted clothestrophobic, casually ask, “is it cold in here?” Then watch the goose bumps rise on their bare arms as they confidently say “no” between subtly-chattering teeth.

Beach confidence: No need for an “outfit” to get from home to the beach. Clothestrophobics will simply wear their swimsuits and bare feet and leave the fashionable cover up and floppy hat to you normal people.

Fall blahs: Come October when the rest of the world is happily slipping their scarves over their jackets over their cardigans over their button-downs over their camis, clothestrophobics will start staying inside more often to avoid tugging their sleeves down to match their other sleeves which need to be rolled to be in line with their other sleeves.

Untucked beds: Perfectly flat sheets and flawlessly unfolded blankets with loose edges please.

Skimpy Halloween costumes: And all this time you judged.

In the last ten years of living in Arizona and California my condition has improved. My toes are free to roam, I can wear dresses all year round, and no one seems to blink an eye when I carry my coat in February.

So which are you – the layer-lover or the clothestrophobic?

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About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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27 Responses to Clothestrophobia

  1. I would wear a t-shirt with shorts or jeans and flip flops or no shoes always, if I could. But, I like hooded sweatshirts all of a sudden in the winter and I’m pro hat. I guess that means I’m not afflicted?

  2. Man…I think I have the opposite of this. I like well-fitting clothes because they look better, but if I could…I would just wear a cardigan with a sweatshirt and some sweatpants over spandex all the time. Except when I’m sleeping. Then I like to wear almost nothing. Wonder what that means. Glad you were able to find a way around your clothestrophobia!

  3. Janie Doh says:

    I am totally a layer-lover. I hate the cold, so I will bundle on as many clothes as I need to feel warm inside the house and out. Although, I can’t sleep with pants or socks on, that is impossible for me. So, I have nighttime clothestrophobia.

  4. Clothestrophobic for sure! I don’t worry so much with my feet – socks are totally fine, but from my hips up I get really sensitive. I’ve learned to wear thicker long sleeves so I don’t have to put a jacket over them. And I found a jacket with looser arms, so it fits over most of my shirts. And scarves… *shudder* I cut my hair into a pixie partially for this reason, so my hair wouldn’t touch the scarf and maybe then I’d be okay, but it still doesn’t help. I love the hair though! I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never be a scarf person. Give me a big pair of earrings any day.

  5. tifferzzz says:

    Good thing you moved to Arizona! Most of the time I look at people here and say “Is that coat really necessary?…”
    My sister will not wear necklaces, rings, bracelets, etc. because she says they are choking her or cutting off her circulation… Maybe there is a jewelry version of this condition…?
    I love my layers though. And my jewelry. :)

    • You know, the jewelry hasn’t ever occurred to me but I don’t wear much of that either! I do like a good pair of fun earrings but those “statement” necklaces may as well just be a scarf – although they look lovely on others :)

  6. I am stoked to hear I am not alone – even down to the untucked bedding that my bf complains about. I have contemplated becoming a nudist for these reasons! (partially kidding) I don’t like layering whatsoever, and never… I mean NEVER enjoy wearing scarves or turtle necks. comfort and cleavage are my motto when it comes to shopping, and this generally means light, open clothing choices. Thanks for making me feel less alone.

  7. trineloeften says:

    Layer- Lover, but I wonder if there is any diagnose for wearing too much layers? I can seriously want too look like a giant ball of clothes.

  8. reavski says:

    You’d have a field day in my body. Most of these days I don the paradox of skin-tight thermal underwear and slightly oversized (and thus spacious) military surplus ACUs. Figure that out!

  9. I have a friend whose very young son has clothes issues, preferring pajamas or a soft sweat shirt.
    He was recently diagnosed with “sensitive skin” that was irritated by certain clothes. He prefers softness.

  10. I feel I suffer from Clothestraphobia on a daily basis. I love dressing up and getting all dolled up to go out, layers and all. But by the time the clock hits about 2:00 PM, clothing is no longer a thing. My outfit slowly broken down as each layer is stripped off one at a time and shoved in my bag until I find myself at home in only my panties and whatever comfy sweater was immediately at hand when I walked through the door.

  11. Winding road says:

    Oh and I am definitely clothestraphobic! I live in FL where it is only cold for about 2 wks in the “winter” but during those 2 weeks I love getting home from being wherever so that I can shed my layers even if it is only maybe 2. And when we go “out”, I love getting home to get out of some cute skinny jeans I wore with fun necklaces and other irritating accessories. Basically, anything other than jammies is uncomfortable in my book. haha Great post!

  12. I don’t believe this – - my two year old son would scream if I put him in anything with long sleeves, arch his back if there were snaps anywhere near his neck, and pull my hair if I even tried to zip him into footie jammies. And here all this time, the Dr. told me he had Sensory Integration Disorder. I am sooooo calling him back tomorrow and telling him he did some serious misdiagnosing and it’s actually Clothestraphobia. I mean really, what do I need his medical degree for when I have you? Love your writing, love your blog – - so glad to have found you!

  13. I have clothestrophobia.

  14. i cant wear long sleeves, unless its just a hoodie, and even then they have to be able to unzip or ill feel too war

  15. I’m glad to have a word for my weird clothes habits. I wish I lived in a climate where I could wear dresses and no sleeves all year long. I wear soccer sandals all winter in Buffalo, a very elaborate layering system for shirts, and certain pants for certain weather conditions to avoid seams touching my legs. I used to throw tantrums when my mother would ask me to wear my corduroy pants to school. It gets a little crazy about now when it’s been winter for so long! Ready for some sun, but glad to know others have some eccentric clothes issues as well. :-)

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