What if your body spent less time and energy trying to get comfortable and more time being present and enjoying life?
Brooke Frontiera, Occupational Therapist and co-founder of Cincinnati-based WonderWell Workshops LLC, says comfort is created by being content with the present moment and this includes both internal and external elements. "Our bodies are built to take in the world around us and when something is not pleasurable or comfortable to us, we will naturally start to adjust things in order to be more at peace. In occupational therapy, we call this sensory processing,” she explains. “Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we may not even realize how much we are adjusting in the current situation in order to be more comfortable.”
Frontiera says texture, fit and even the weight of a fabric have a strong connection with specific mental, emotional and physical responses and overall health. “Comfort of fabrics and products plays a huge role in how someone responds to things,” she adds. “Soft fabrics allow a person to feel soothed and relaxed; snug or heavy fabrics providing deep pressure, which can elicit a calming sensation; fabric/products with lots of texture can provide an increase of attention or alertness to a person.”
UpWest fashion designer Kelsey Vitullo says knowledge about these responses inspire her every design. “We only use the softest of fabrics like sherpa, brushed knits, premium cotton and my favorite, our Fireside Fleece, on every piece of clothing and even many of our home goods, like pillows, throws and our weighted blanket,” Vitullo explains. “Functionality is the root for my designs, but that means more than adding pockets and backpack straps. I think about how I want it to function emotionally, too, comforting your mind, body and spirit. Even our graphic tees are of positive affirmations.”
Frontiera says “functional” is an occupational therapist’s favorite word, especially when it comes to wardrobe choices. “When clothes are functional, we will be prepared for the expected and also able to adapt to the unexpected a lot easier,” she explains. “Our activities of daily living are done with greater ease and pleasure. We are able to focus our attention on the things that matter.”
Vitullo says some of the functionality she’s added include a backpack and crossbody straps on outerwear for hands-free carrying when not being worn as a coat. Lots of hidden pockets for necessities in many of our pieces, too, like a credit card pocket in The Legging, exterior and interior pockets on outerwear, and deep pockets in the Wide Leg Lounge Pant. Vitullo says another functional design includes the feature on The Legging that takes it from a cropped pant for your favorite yoga class to a long pant that covers the foot, like a built-in sock, perfect for cuddling on the couch.
According to Frontiera, comfort plays an important role in mental health. “Being content in the present moment, or comfortable, is the baseline for all other important things like executive functioning, comprehension/learning, completing a task successfully, connecting with other individuals and building social bonds, relaxing and decreasing stress, feeling confident to try new things and being able to practice self-acceptance,” she says.
Frontiera’s professional recommendations for shopping and selecting comfort with this in mind: Know what your specific and unique sensory preferences are and be aware that what works for one person may not work for the next, she says. “A good way to learn one’s sensory preferences is to get curious about what calms or relaxes you and also when feeling irritated or anxious, look toward the five senses at what things might be causing that,” she explains. “Our bodies are constantly talking to us throughout the day and it is our job to be mindful and listen in order to find the most comfort.”
Vitullo says she designed each piece to add as much comfort - and avoid as much distraction - as possible. “Instead of something you can’t wait to change out of at the end of the day, we have funnel necks that give extra room in the collar and a restriction-free Escape Jogger that you can dress up or down,” Vitullo adds, “Or sherpa-lined pullovers, jackets and robes, so you can feel like you’re wearing a soft, encouraging hug, any time of day. That’s UpWest comfort.”