Sometimes fashion comes before comfort. However, when we don a particular article, I think it should be a conscious decision whether we want to sacrifice our body's well-being or not. Once we know how clothing impacts our bodies, we can also choose to seek out and wear clothes that both make us feel good as well as allow us to move well.
Squishing Our Tubes
Have you ever removed your clothing only to find grooves and patterns in your skin? This especially happens under bra-straps, belts, underwear, and socks. Our choices of clothing are often based on how they make us look while we are wearing them, with little concern for what is going on underneath. However, the indentations on your body from tight clothing are more than skin deep.
What lies under your skin? A bunch of tubes! We have arteries, veins, lymph vessels, nerves, the digestive tract, urinary tract, reproductive organs, and more. Just like putting a kink in a hose will change the flow of water, pressure on the tubes in our body will affect the flow of fluids traveling through them. This can mean less circulation, higher blood pressure, more swelling, loss of sensation, and less efficient transport of nutrients and waste.
How tight is too tight? Anything pressing or squeezing your body will have some impact. Of course, pressing in on your body is fine when it is temporary. Negative impacts come from prolonged pressure, such as from something you put on in the morning and don't remove until the evening. Take a look at your wardrobe from the perspective of your innards and decide if you like what you see.
In addition to disturbing the flow of fluids, clothing can also put restrictions on the flow of air. Expansion of the lungs can be limited by anything that squeezes the ribcage or abdomen. Constrictive waistlines can result in less space for organs to be displaced as the diaphragm works, and tight bra straps can make it more difficult for the ribs to move up and out as you breathe in. Overtime, this means less oxygen available to your body and less mobility within the ribcage and abdomen.
If you want to help improve the flow of blood, lymph, oxygen, and nutrients in your body, try to reduce the amount that your clothing marks your skin, especially paying attention to the waistline, groin, and ribcage.
Propping Us Up
When we were born, we didn’t come with clothes. The instruction manual didn’t even say we needed them. Yet our culture has perceived a need to clothe ourselves not only to cover our nakedness but to provide external support, particularly to those floppy, dangly parts. While it may be beneficial during extreme sports, hoisting our breasts, bellies, and testicles is actually not necessary during most daily activities and has the result of weakening the intrinsic support systems they came with.
Our body is not just a bag with a bunch of organs jumbling around inside. Everything is held relatively in place by connective tissue. Bands of fascia enfold all our body parts like plastic wrap. Some parts of this web-like tissue are thicker and more rigid, others are more elastic. This built-in support system should be enough to hold our parts together as we go through our lives. For example, breasts are supported by the suspensory ligaments. The load that breasts exert due to gravity and any bouncing or swinging that happens as we move acts as a mechanical stimulus for the suspensory ligaments to maintain their tension. When this load is reduced by wearing a bra, the ligaments have no work to do, so they weaken over time. Just like wearing supportive shoes, this creates a dependency on the external support systems we wear because now our bodies’ tissues are too weak to do the jobs they were intended for.
If we want to help our connective tissues keep their integrity, we need to limit our use of supportive garments for special situations, such as sports, and find times to allow our body parts to hang free, such as not wearing a bra or belt when at home.
Pinning Us Down
Our bodies require a variety and abundance of movement in order to keep functioning well. There are many reasons that we often move less than we may intend or ought to, but an easily overlooked one is restrictive clothing.
Have you ever chosen not to bend over, not to squat or sit on the ground, or not to reach up overhead because your clothing kept you from being able to? Do you have to put on separate clothing to be able to move around (a.k.a. exercise or workout clothes)? This means you are voluntarily putting a limit on the range of motion available to your body parts. Your muscles are like factory-raised chickens limited to cramped quarters. If you want your body to function well, it needs to be free-range.
What we wear impacts how we move, and how we move impacts what we wear. If you wear clothing that doesn't let you kneel or squat on the floor, you are always going to seek out a chair to sit on. And if we can always expect to be provided with chairs wherever we go, we will never be required to wear clothing that allows for greater movement than that.