Finding clothes that fit with chronic illnesses

I went clothes shopping yesterday. Ugh. Chronic illness makes it so much harder to find clothes that look and feel good, and not only in the obvious ways.

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The obvious ways are simple: shopping itself leads to fatigue and pain. Shopping is hard! There’s the walking, the reaching for things, the taking clothes on and off. If I dare to try on shoes, I’m likely to trigger my foot pain, which is already worse than usual from all of the walking. It’s easy for something to irritate the skin. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about the shopping part of shopping. I’m talking about the finding clothes that actually look and feel good part of shopping.

Shirts are hard. Prednisone caused my boobs to grow too big for my frame. At 5’1″ and 126 pounds, I shouldn’t be a large 36DD, bordering on 36F. That’s just ridiculous. Even when I lost weight and was down to a more reasonable 116, my boobs were still a 34DD. The t-shirt I’m wearing as I write this looks pretty good, though the neckline pulls away from my body thanks to my big boobs. A lot of other tops just don’t fit. My boobs pull the fabric up and away. Or the style is meant for smaller women. But I’m 5’1″, so a larger size is often too long.

Coats are brutal. It is almost impossible to find a coat that is big enough for my boobs and not ridiculously long in the sleeves. If the sleeves fit, usually the shoulders are too tight and it’s hard to zip/button up.

Bras are tough because of my scoliosis. In addition to the curves themselves (3 of them, thanks Mother Nature) I also have a short torso. That makes bras shopping much harder. It makes it harder to buy shirts, too.

Shorts are easier, as long as I don’t get too self-conscious. Because it’s pretty obvious that the legs of the shorts aren’t even. There’s that scoliosis again. It caused one hip to turn and the other to pull up. It’s obvious on skirts and dresses, too, which makes me sad sometimes.

And then there are shoes. Oh, the shoes! Sneakers are no problem, but it’s summer, and I would love to wear sandals. I need sandals that:

  1. Take my orthodics.
  2. Don’t have a split toe area – my orthodics are full length and need to stay that way. They go past my toes.
  3. Have a wide enough opening in the toe area so that there’s no pressure on my toes even when they become very swollen, which they often do in the summer.
  4. Have an adjustable strap across the top of my foot, as close to the ankle as possible.
  5. Are made for a very narrow foot.

Believe it or not, I have found sandals that work! Unfortunately, they are $170, which is totally not in my budget. *sigh*

Yesterday I was shopping for two things: bras and pants. For the first time, shopping for pants had an additional challenge: accommodating my knee braces. You see, I only got these knee braces in May, so I haven’t had a problem. There were a couple of cooler days in the spring, so I wore leggings under the knee braces – and immediately learned that’s not a great option. It works well enough, but the braces don’t stay in place as well and I was constantly tugging at them.

Friends keep telling me to wear leggings and skirts all winter, but I don’t want to. Aside from the braces slipping, I don’t want to wear skirts when it’s cold and snowing! Yes, it’s possible to stay warm that way, but honestly, I’ll just be more comfortable in pants.

I got lucky. As a short person, wide-legged pants make me look even shorter. But finally, FINALLY the style changed to skinny jeans! For the first time, I look fabulous in jeans! They show off my butt – one of my nicer features – and don’t make me look shorter than I already am.

And I can’t wear them anymore. I hate this. Sure, I’ll pull out a pair for a date occasionally, and skip the knee braces. But on a day-to-day basis, I will need pants that fit over the braces.

I bought 2 pairs yesterday. One has wider legs and doesn’t look amazing, but it’s ok. The other has narrower legs in a stretchy material and looks better – if you ignore the bumps that are visible in the knee area. I don’t love either, and they cost more than I’d like. Maybe I’ll return them. I’m not sure yet.

I have accepted many limitations due to my health. And I understand that I will never be able to ski, hike, or go skydiving. No more riding a bike, spending an entire day out with friends, or having a full time job. But is it really so much to ask that I can wear “normal” clothes?!

Apparently it is.

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2 Responses to Finding clothes that fit with chronic illnesses

  1. Lorna Griffith says:

    Years ago you would have been ok because everyone had their clothes made for them. I wear mainly long dresses as I get pain with things touching my skin. When I go out in public I wear a bra which has a much larger chest size so it isn’t tight. I shop on ebay but choose only clothes from certain brands as I know they are made well and will fit. It sounds like you have a real tough time and are very limited in choice. Even our choice of clothes is taken away from us. I will quietly scream then get on with it. Hugs xx

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