Shortly 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?