Many autistics are sensitive to changes in temperature. That can be a problem in colder seasons and climates, when you’re constantly moving between the warm indoors and the freezing outdoors, alternatively sweating and shivering. I’ve found a wool felt jacket to be the most comfortable outerwear for such times. Felt is made by pressing fibres together, not by weaving. As a result, warm air is trapped between the fibres, while moisture (such as perspiration or rain) evaporates easily through them. Felt is also a relatively light material, which helps with comfort too.
Something many autistics hear is that we dress ‘different’, because vague unspoken rules are not our forte, and fashion is filled with vague unspoken rules. If only there was a book that showed you how to dress on a normal daily basis. It turns out there is, at least for men (I’m sure there are plenty for ladies, but being male, I’m not really competent to recommend one. Any suggestions welcome!). It’s the Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Everyday Dressing, a richly illustrated manual on how not to stick out like a sore thumb, clothes-wise. Here’s a video review by Real Men Real Style, another great source for practical advice on everyday wear:
If you’d like other options, here’s a list of 14 Most Popular Books on Men’s Style, Grooming, & Etiquette by Jacob J. Morris, another useful source of advice.
Sensitivity to seams, tags, tight elastic bands and rough fabrics is a problem for many autistics, and some enterprises have stepped forward to make clothes that minimize such irritations. Unfortunately, most of these brands cater only to children, but hopefully more will see the commercial value of creating comfortable clothes for everyone. Who really wants to rub against seams and tags anyway? For now, here’s a list of 8 online stores that supply sensory-friendly clothing (including some for adults). BTW, a little tip on footwear from Eileen Parker, designer of the Cozy Calm Weighted Blanket:
Do get skater (skateboarding) shoes. I have a pair of black VANS and a pair of brown and pink Etnies, and both are über comfortable. Also, since with my sensory processing disorder, I wear the skater shoes because they are flat and stable on the bottom with good support on the inside so I don’t lose my balance as often.
Because autistics often find ‘unspoken rules’ mystifying, cryptic dress codes like ‘smart casual’ are fraught with pitfalls. One item of clothing that’s guaranteed to smarten up any casual ensemble is the mock turtleneck, a favorite of Apple founder Steve Jobs. The mock turtleneck is basically a sweatshirt with a slightly raised neck (unlike the full turtleneck where the neck is raised high enough that it needs to be folded down). It generally needs no ironing, an added bonus if you’re an ironophobe!
Cockpit USA makes both replica and genuine military clothing, and their replica WWII American tanker jacket is a timeless classic. 100% cotton with a warm wool blanket lining, and genuine brass hardware. Originally designed for tank crew, the jacket was popular with airmen and paratroops who liked its simple practicality and comfort. [via the Cockpit USA blog]
Torenzo Monopoli from New Zealand, a 7-year-old schoolboy with autism, won the avant garde award in the school section at the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards this year. He also won the Nelson Nouveau Design Awards’ under-10 category last year. Needless to say, Torenzo has already been spotted by a designer, Annah Stretton. Source: Nelson Mail.
Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter and stepson both have autism. The fashion designer recently appeared in a public service advertisement (below), to emphasise the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. This is what he said about it (from the Daily Mail):
The government is not involved in it. People aren’t donating enough money. There’s not enough research …
There’s no cure. It needs help, so we’ve become involved.
Deep pressure (something like a hug) can relieve the stress of sensory overload for many autistics, by releasing calming hormones in the brain. The Squease Vest is a handy inflatable garment that can be worn comfortably and inflated when necessary, to provide just the right amount of pressure to the torso when required.