Dealing with Clothing Sensitivity

My daughter always has issues with new clothing, whether it’s soft or not, if it’s not a loose Summer dress that she’s already worn in, there’s going to be issues and even then it’s hit or miss.

If it’s new, remotely tight or snug, or if she’s just not feeling particularly cooperative, getting her dressed can be a bit of an ordeal.

I’ve always cut the tags out of my clothes since I was a boy, so I wonder if I’ve passed this on to her.

From what I can understand from her, it’s impossible to think about anything other than the feeling of the clothes or what they’re about to feel like. It becomes a source of extreme anxiety.

As we all know, every child is completely different, but here are a few methods that have worked for us.

Make sure her ‘buckets’ are full.

There’s no point in even trying anything remotely productive, like getting dressed unless she’s been fed, rested, and feels comforted. She gets ‘hangry’ like the rest of us, but trying to deal with her clothing anxiety combined with needing a snack is a full-stop before we even start.


While battling to keep the pants or socks on (often with some gentle hugging or restricting her taking them off), we can ask her some easy maths questions like “what’s 2+2?” or “How many colours of fur does Peaches (the cat) have?” It’s just enough to switch her brain from focusing on the clothes and onto something else. The second she’s out of our grasp though, have something fun or rewarding to keep the brain from switching back.

Feel the Cold

When we went camping this Summer, one morning she got chilly so went and found a cozy hat and her button-up sweater. She even asked me to do the buttons for her – ALL the way up! If I’d have tried to get her in that she would have flipped. But she was cold and that overcame the anxiety. In fact, I don’t even think it occurred to her that it might be an issue.

Last Winter when it snowed, the same thing happened. She lost it when it came time to put gloves on, so we went outside and quickly into a snowball fight (I let her throw snowballs at my bum), her hands were cold and she asked for gloves. There were a few times through the season where she flat-out refused and we had to come in, but she knew she couldn’t play without them, so the ‘want’ overcame the hurdle.

Reverse Psychology

This old chestnut can really work wonders! When we tried some super soft PK Beans, I let her unwrap the package and see what came in the mail. Of course when she saw it was clothes she wasn’t interested.

Then I showed her how soft it was and then left it near where she was playing and said “You don’t have to wear it right now, I’m just going to put it here.” and left it at that for a while.

I followed this up with “I’ve decided I don’t want you to wear those pants because they’re Super Pants and you’ll run so fast I won’t be able to catch you.”

“I want to wear them.” she replied.

“No way! I’ll never be able to get you. Especially if we go out on your scooter. You’d be too fast. Not gonna happen, sorry.”

Then she started to dress herself.

Quickly I got her in them, got her shirt on and then let her outrun me a few times while feigning protest. Then we grabbed her scooter and helmet and ran outside where she continued to beat me in along the sidewalk.

I’ve actually found the PK Beans products to answer a number of the hurdles around our daughter’s clothing sensitivity, including the soft hems and loose neck holes.

This is, and probably always will be an ongoing process with flair-ups and struggles just part of it. However, consistency is key. If getting dressed in pants and socks is part of every day, then make a rule where they know it’s happening.

Task-Reward Stacking

Just like saving your favourite Netflix show to watch while you’re on the treadmill, having the opportunity to do something you enjoy while taking the edge of something you don’t love can work a treat.

As part of a before-school routine, having an episode of her favourite show only accessible while she gets dressed can make the whole thing a lot easier. Maybe even something for her to look forward to (and that’s a BIG maybe).

Those are my tips and what I’ve found works about half the time. The rest of the time it’s mayhem, but we’re working on it!

Disclaimer: PK Beans sent us a few items for our daughter to try. We’re already long-term customers of the brand and love their sustainability efforts as well as their clothing. Words and photos are my own.

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  1. Ladena

    September 1, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    It’s great to hear she likes her new PK Beans outfit! I really like their clothing, especially that there are so many pieces to mix and match!

    1. jamesrcsmith

      September 2, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Yeah! I wish they did adult sizes too!

  2. Teresa Donnessey

    September 1, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    I can totally relate to this, my oldest struggles with that. PK Beans makes such great clothes, we recently ordered some clearance items. Great quality products

  3. Michael Kwan

    September 3, 2020 at 9:53 am

    It’s not something we’ve had to deal with (I think), but I know how super common it is. She still prefers dresses over pants and this might be part of it.

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