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Fibre fatality: Fabric that ‘kills’ some people. Part 1

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Fibre fatality: Fabric that ‘kills’ some people. Part 1

Fabric that scratches, seams that irritate, meltdowns that occur when clothes are added or removed from the closet.

Introducing new clothes, wearing clothes, throwing clothes away, can feel like a death from a thousand cuts for a sensory sensitive person.

It definitely kills any joy in shopping. And adds stress to getting dressed in the morning.

When trying to figure out why a few clothes are acceptable and many are not, it’s like gathering clues to solve a mystery.

In this three article series, we are going to sort through some clues and maybe discover a few solutions.

Let’s start at the very beginning (did anyone else hear Julie Andrews continue with “That’s a very good place to start.”?) by looking at the fibers that make up fabric that then becomes clothing.

There are three broad categories of fibre: natural, man-made and synthetic.

Natural fibres are cotton, silk, linen, hemp, wool and cashmere, and can be breathable, absorptive, temperature-regulating and have anti-microbial qualities.

Man-made/cellulosic fibres are made from plants such as wood or bamboo but the processes used to make them into fibre are intensive, using lots of chemicals. Examples from wood are rayon, acetate, and Tencel. Bamboo, once touted to be environmental friendly and easy on the skin, may have been more a marketing ploy than reality, especially for those who are chemically sensitive.

Synthetic fibres are made from petroleum. Examples are nylon, polyester, acrylic, elastane, and microfibers. It is an evolving, chemical-based fibre. Historically, synthetic fibres did not breathe, causing overheating or overcooling which can be uncomfortable, especially for those who have trouble with temperature regulation. This can also cause bacterial growth, resulting in skin disorders in some people.

As you can see, fibre is not a cut and dried issue. Even natural fibres can be loaded with chemicals, depending on where the fibre is from and how it has been created into a fabric. There can be numerous chemicals added during the plant growth and the production.

Synthetic fabrics, which used to be unbreathable, now can wick away moisture.

Finally, the quality of the fibre and the way it is woven into fabric can completely change the end fabric.Natural fabrics (think of some rough denims or burlap) can be hard on the skin. Synthetic fabrics (think of some silk-like micro-fibres or baby-blanket minkies) can be soft and pleasant to touch.

The following is a checklist of closet clues to increase the chance of future success.


Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.
~Anna Wintour

In his first public Q&A at Facebook's HQ last night, Zuckerberg revealed he wears the same clothes over and over again because he wants to limit the time he spends making "frivolous" decisions so he can concentrate on real work.
~Maria Tadeo in

Action Ideas 
1. Look through the most commonly worn clothes and see which fibres are most frequent. Wool and nylon are common irritating fibres.

2. While in the closet, feel all of the clothes and see if there is a common texture. Smooth or soft? Stretchy or woven/non-stretchy?

3. Check out the fit. Do favourite clothes hang loose or fit snug? Loose can be a way of dealing with the irritation of the clothing. Snug can provide pressure. Are only certain types of clothing required to be loose or snug. What type of closures are there: waistbands or elastic? Pockets or no pockets? Any other commonalities?

4. Specific styles. Are there lots of turtlenecks? Or does everything have to have a very open neckline (that’s me)? If moving air bothers a person, it might be long sleeves year round. This information can help determine which stores are best for you, which ones cater to your style.

5. Is there a dominant colour? When reading for this article, darker tones seemed to be the most frequently preferred tones for people with clothing sensitivities.

6. If pressure was commonly found in the clothing choices, a pressure vest can provide more intense pressure first thing in the morning or after returning home from a stressful day away.

 Have a comfortable week everyone!

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