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Hats: Add Sun Protection to Your Warm-Weather Fashion Statement

8 May
sunn protection, disabled shopping, summer hats, disabled accesssories, wefly2,hats

Straw hat, no brand available, regifted from a neighbor.

Self-portrait in straw hat.

Self-portrait in straw hat.

Living in the skin cancer capital of the US (Arizona), I am always concerned with avoiding harmful rays and staying relatively cool. While using sunblock is important, donning a hat that keeps the sun off both the face and back of the neck is also helpful. For disabled women who may be waiting for public transportation or otherwise spending time outdoors in sunny climates, wide-brimmed hats are useful as well as stylish in the heat. I recommend straw or cotton for breathability.

While my own recently acquired straw hat came from a former neighbor who never wore it and  no longer wanted it, I have noticed straw and canvas broad-brims displayed in unusual places, such as Walgreens and Sprouts. When I thought about this, I asked myself, why not? These stores do cater to our health. Other venues and catalogs, of course, carry them as well.

Baseball Caps Won’t Cut It

As popular as they are, baseball caps keep the sun off only the face, not the back of the neck. Landscapers and other outdoor workers may tuck a short towel under the backs of their caps to ward off the sunlight and absorb perspiration, but if you want a more stylish look, these hats just won’t cut it. I also saw a rapper on MTV sporting a baseball cap with a hoodie pulled over it, but I confess the look didn’t do much for me. Practically speaking, however, the hoodie-cap ensemble would keep the sun off. It depends on your aesthetic, and my age may be showing here.

But I Don’t Look Good in Hats

You probably aren’t used to wearing a hat and feel more self-conscious than you need to.  But despite America’s love of hatless freedom (except for the baseball cap), fashion history has had many periods in which everybody wore a chapeau of some kind, regardless of how they looked. You are going to remove your hat when you go inside for that lunch date, movie, or sporting event anyway. If it makes you feel better, look at my pic and have a giggle. I may look as if I have fallen off a 19th-century hay wagon, but I am melanoma-free. Chortle away!

Heeding the Wake-Up Call

Bicyclists and light-rail riders in Phoenix have been putting on hats during their trips, so the trend seems to be taking hold. Good job, ladies! For light-skinned people of Northern European extraction, like me, the Arizona sun can wreak havoc with our pale complexions. A hat is a necessity as well as a fashion statement. Olive-skinned people are not exempt from skin cancer, and even those of African descent carry a slight risk of contracting it. In addition, our bright sun poses another problem in late spring and summer, no matter how you travel: visibility!  The light is so piercing that at certain times of the day, you cannot see well, even with sunglasses. The extra shade of a hat brim helps here too, especially if you don’t have a hand to put up to shield your eyes. So if you are outside during the day for any reason, you really need protection. Plop on that hat and rub on some sunblock, or have your caregiver do it, even on a cloudy day. Your skin, eyes, and hair will thank you.

Expert Style Advice: My BODS Profile from the Spashionista

5 Dec
disabled fashion, Spashionista, wefly2, sweater, dress, jeans, low-heeled shoes, mary janes, Old Navy, Payless

The Spashionista’s recommendations for outfits for me. The occasion was a happy-hour meeting. I sent her specs on my figure and foot needs as well.

Fellow fashion blogger Alicia of spashionistareport has developed her own spot-on system of personal shopping for disabled women. She calls it BODS, for Budget, Occasion, Disability, and Shape (or figure type). Provide her with the necessary information, and she researches an outfit for you–including purse and footwear! With her subjects’ permission, she includes her findings in her Friday Fashion posts. On a recent Friday, she completed a BODS profile for me.  Above are the outfit options she came up with, for a happy-hour meeting to discuss disabled fashion. I requested she follow a budget of $100 or less.  Her analysis and commentary appear below:

The Spashionista’s Analysis

” I’ve given Laura two options here. Both share a very similar upper body shape and focus bold, solid color near her face….

Let’s start with option one. The cardinal purple medium weight cotton blend cowl neck sweater dress is from Old Navy. It has an empire waist, hits just above the knee, and is priced at $39.

Because she has to wear orthotics in her shoes they must have a rounded toe and an athletic shoe style heel. These Lower East Side Alex side bow Mary Janes from Payless have a slight heel that mimics athletic shoes,  a rounded toe, and hidden elastic in the strap. These shoes are very comfy – I know this because I own them – and they are a steal at $17.

Laura has expressed a preference for fanny packs but I thought I’d show her a different option. The small Mossimo Supply Co. quilted chain crossbody black bag is from Target; it’s also $17.

Finally, stylesforless.com has these black and silver stacked 6-piece bangles for $9.

Option two replaces the dress with a top and pants. The top is also from Old Navy, a fuchsia, medium weight jersey with a natural waist and cowl neckline that sells for $32. The pants are from Amazon.com. They are Lee’s Comfort Waist straight leg pant in an indigo rinse, essentially a crisp-looking, more comfortable version of jeans. They sell for $28.

If you add up the totals you’ll see that option one comes in at $82. Option two is slightly over-budget at $103, but Laura can skip the bracelets and bring the grand total down to $94.”

There you have it! Online personal shopping, tailored to figure, finance, occasion, and disability. How uplifting is that? Without going into details about my figure, I’ll just say that the Spashionista has nailed it. From the comments her readers make on Fashion Friday, she has an eye for this endeavor. Also, she is always looking for subjects who want BODS profiles. Check her out at spashionistareport.wordpress.com!

Straps vs. Handles: Getting Personal about Purses

4 Dec
Coach,clutch, purses, handbags, Coldwater Creek, Basset Rescue

Clockwise, from top: Coach, gift, 2011; clutch, 1970; Coldwater Creek, 2008; purse from Arizona Basset Hound Rescue Basset Ball, 2010.

Anyone who has seen the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, a tale of three American World War II veterans’ readjustment to civilian life, remembers Homer (Harold Russell). A Navy vet, Homer is a double amputee, skilled in the use of his prosthetic arms; he can open a bottle of beer, smoke a cigarette, and dabble on the piano. Most importantly, he eventually  learns that his fiancee, Wilma, loves him the same as she did before he was injured. It’s an uplifting story.

What we can’t ask Homer is the kind of handbag he would prefer if he were a woman in 2012 (not that men don’t carry them, of course, but this blog focuses on women. Sorry, guys). Would a woman with two prosthetic arms, or one, want to bother with a purse, or would she choose one in a style she liked and have a friend carry it for her? I cannot answer that question; I can only speak from my own perspective. Taste in handbags is highly individualistic anyway, whether the consumer is disabled or non-disabled. But thinking about your preferences can make life easier.

Stressing about Straps: Day bag Dilemmas

Even before I developed chronic back pain, shoulder bags and across-the-body bags were out to get me. As long as I stood still, a shoulder bag worked well; once I leaned over, for example, to look at something in a store, Whoosh! my bag careened forward like a wrecking ball. Then I would be locked in battle with it, pushing it back onto my hip as it kept falling forward, distracting me and coming close to smashing heaven knows what. I realize some shoulder bags have adjustable straps, but they still aren’t as easy to carry as other purses with handles or–best of both worlds, for many–handles plus detachable straps.

Across-the-body styles stay put but seem to hit my body in the wrong places.  Seriously, when you put the purse on, is the strap supposed to go above, directly across, or under your breast?   When the strap crosses my body above it, near my neck, I feel like I’m going to choke (the same reason I avoid wearing turtlenecks). Directly across the chest? Squish–no go. Below? I feel like a failed advertisement for Playtex: ” She’s crossing her heart…one side at a time.”  You thought the fanny pack was bad for symmetry? Cross-body purses may sit more securely and prevent the wrecking-ball effect, but the proximity of the strap to my neck, shoulder, and breast does not work for me on a day-to-day basis.  I’ve never found one that tucked comfortably against my side, either. For evening occasions, though, smaller shoulder- and cross-body bags suit me. It must be the size and added bulk I stuff into a day bag that irritate me. C’est la vie.

Hear, Hear: Handles and Clutches

From about sixth grade on, I thought shoulder bags were it for day wear if a girl wanted to avoid the granny look. Now I’m granny age, and in some respects it’s nice to be wrong! Although I’ve had the zippered clutch pictured above since my early teens, if I pack light enough for evening (always a challenge for me!), it still works. If I can’t streamline my stuff, the clutch works as a makeup case or as storage for other small items. The Coldwater Creek purse and Basset Rescue purse hold more items; the Coldwater Creek purse, in a neutral grey, is especially versatile. On my wish list? A black or metallic clutch. For day, there is my rounded, handled Coach (thanks, Sis!) What is there to say about this style that hasn’t already been said? Roomy, stylish, functional–it will remain a favorite.  All of the above are easy to carry and cause no discomfort unless I cram too much stuff in them–my fault.

What Works for You?

I will not prescribe, or proscribe, anything fashion-related; I will leave that to the pros. My friends at spashionistareport and luvwhatuwear.com give wonderful advice, and Stephanie Thomas of luvwhatuwear even describes a bra with a hidden compartment for gals who would like to enjoy outings without having to carry purses. Alicia the Spashionista has even found a small, light shoulder bag for evening that I’m considering! Deciding on a handbag is based on personal needs and preferences; may your favorite style meet your needs.

Say What? A Disabled Woman’s Defense of Fanny Packs

27 Nov

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Keely, after batting around two fanny packs. Some fashionistas would applaud her! Left, a flatter leather model; right, black nylon in a deeper, three-dimensional shape.

The fanny pack is reviled by many in the fashion world, including the excellent Tim Gunn. These critics say the pack interferes with the lines of an ensemble and ruins the wearer’s silhouette. I see their point: a woman walking erect, in pencil skirt or trousers and heels, might appear to cut her body in half or add girth, detracting from her efforts to look and feel her best. However, they are not writing about disabled women. “Silhouette”? Do I even have one?  I hobble with a cane sometimes, or, on good days, walk slowly and a bit “differently.” If my clothes, hair, and makeup look decent, I’m happy. I can’t imagine anyone thinking, “Yowza! That plus-sized, 50-something lady has a wicked-sexy limp! What a turn-on! Oops, I take that back.  She’s wearing a fanny pack, and it just wrecks her silhouette!”

Utility and Security on the Job

I first wore a fanny pack about 20 years ago, when I taught at an inner-city high school. My desk didn’t lock, and there was nowhere else on campus to secure a purse except for my car, which wasn’t too convenient. Where was I to stash my keys, if I wasn’t wearing an outfit with pockets? The fanny pack saved the day, allowing me to safely stow keys, extra whiteboard markers, cash, lipstick, anything I needed. Knowing where my belongings were, I could move freely about the classroom and focus on my job. Interestingly, the only negative comment I received about my fanny pack was from a good friend, long after I had stopped wearing it (my next classroom had a locking file cabinet). My students didn’t seem to notice, although, like most teenagers, they were quick to comment on their teachers’ fashions!

Out and About Hands-Free

Attending sporting events such as dog shows or arena football games also gave me the yen to be hands-free. Maybe I wanted to pet a dog with one hand while holding a Coke in the other, or stand up and cheer without tripping over my purse or worrying about theft. Although the fanny pack works in these contexts, these days I tend to carry more conventional handbags (more about these in an upcoming post). For one thing, my purse is likely to be large enough to hold a water or soda bottle; also, I know the other season ticket holders who sit near me at the Rattlers’ (arena football) games and am therefore unconcerned about the safety of my bag, which fits under my seat. Go Rattlers!

A Decoy Purse?

Let’s face it: Purse snatchers and pick-pockets exist, and the disabled are particularly vulnerable. We can’t run or fight back the way other people might. The fanny pack might be a helpful tool in this situation. A flatter one like the leather pack in the photo could carry your keys, cash and/or credit card–the valuables a thief is after. Wear the fanny pack so it is out of sight under a coat, long sweater or tunic. Then use a purse to carry your other items, such as hairbrush, lip gloss, and  tissues. If someone demands your purse, throw it to him, and move away, yelling. I hope this never happens to you, but who knows? The unfashionable fanny pack may help you save your valuables! As Tim Gunn says in his Fashion Bible, every item has a history and purpose. Perhaps all the fanny pack needs is a little respect and some tweaking in design!

Not Sure What That Outfit Needs? Slip on a Scarf

25 Nov

Few accessories add more panache to an outfit than a scarf. Available in a multitude of colors, patterns, and fabrics, scarves are lighter than jewelry and give the wearer a dapper, heads-up demeanor.  There’s no need to spring for an ultra-expensive Hermes square, either, unless you want to. Scarves fall into every price range, and DIYers can make their own.  The hang-up? Many women, myself included, aren’t sure how to tie scarves. We are afraid we will look like victims of “static cling” stuck to a forgotten item of laundry, or rowdy drunks who have just left a party sporting someone else’s tights around our necks (no, I’m not here to judge if you like that look, or that reputation!)  Fortunately for us,  blogger Wendy of wendyslookbook has a video to help us out. Whether you put on your own scarf or need someone to help you, Wendy has the options covered.

Don’t forget the tutorials if you want a refresher on your favorite looks. With a little practice, we should be able to don our favorite scarves with more confidence–and what is style without confidence? Thanks, Wendy!

To Top It Off: Some Caps Never Go Out of Style

20 Nov
ali_mcgraw_html
Actor/model Ali McGraw (Love Story, among others) in a crocheted cap with attached crocheted flower–or seashell, or abstract object. This style was popular in the early 1970s. Photo from lovemark.com.

 

The picturesque hats at Kate Middleton and Prince William‘s wedding caused quite a stir in the fashion world, as UK

millinery is apt to do. In Spain, as blogger Laura of As Time Goes…Buy informs us, the hat styles worn at the races have an extensive history. Here in the States, many of us go bare-headed, unless we need safety helmets for work. The main exception is the ever-popular baseball cap.

However, as chilly weather descends on many parts of the country, those plucky canvas toppers are not likely to protect our heads from icy winds or frostbite. Despite our liberty-loving ways–does the Constitution specify freedom from hats?–catalogs and department stores still carry winter head coverings, many of which are good-looking and easy for a disabled woman or her caregiver to put on.

A Classic Shape

My favorite by far is the knit cap. Clean, classic, and available in fabrics ranging from acrylic to angora,  the head-hugging cap flatters most face shapes and stays on your head when wind speed picks up. This style also covers the ears but can be rolled back like a cuff to suit the wearer’s comfort. Knit caps pull outfits together, too–I have seen them in Phoenix recently, although our temperatures are still in the 70s–and can be worn plain or accessorized for added verve.

From Simple Decoration to Political Expression

In the early 1970s, one fun, flirty trend entailed threading a ribbon through the holes of the front edge of a crocheted cap and tying it slightly to one side.  This look still appears modern and works on women of varying ages. Fashion jewelry, a flower,  even plastic berries have decorated knit caps.  Another trend from those late-hippie years involved attaching a political-statement pin to the cap, such as “Vote for _____” or “End ______ now!” No reason socially conscious disabled women can’t pin their favorite causes or candidates’ names on their caps before going out. Unsure about adding “stuff” to your cap?  Pick your favorite color, and wear it as you like!

Head-Hugging Popularity

From the cloche of the 1920s to ski caps worn in the Olympics, it is clear that close-fitting head wear is here to stay. For disabled women, the knit cap is one classic, go-to item that requires little thought and no alterations–a major benefit when it comes to shopping for clothing and accessories! Wear yours in good health and your own sense of style!

Rock Those Assistive Devices: Let Them Be Accessories, Too!

15 Nov
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Wheelchair and child decked out for Halloween. Photo from I Was Born This Amazing.

canes, clearcanes.com, disabled shopping, assistive devices, wefly2

My own cane from clearcanes.com.

Depending on our disabilities, some of us need help to get around. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept the standard-issue canes, walkers,

and wheelchairs we see in hospitals and medical-supply catalogs. Au contraire! Whether you want to let your freak flag fly or just want a cane in your favorite color, Googling an online merchant or putting your own imagination to work can turn your assistive device into an expressive as well as functional part of your wardrobe.

Buying a Cane and Turning Heads

“If I’m going to be gimpy, I’ll do it in style,” I told myself upon diagnosis. Finding clearcanes.com, I purchased the clear plasticene “twisted” model pictured above for about $65. I’ve had it for several years; the cane is durable, easy to grip and clean, and even draws compliments from strangers–an unexpected plus! Clearcanes.com offers other models in saturated colors and even carries a “pimp cane” for men! An online search will bring up other purveyors of specialty canes if you are looking for, say, a parrot-head handle.

Jazzing Up Your Current Cane, Walker, or Wheelchair

Feeling adventurous, but wishing to avoid a major investment? Why not decorate your own assistive device? It can be as easy as sticking on an emblem from your favorite sports team or college, tying on a scarf or bandanna, or applying some puff paint. Crafts stores are a big help with projects like this, as they carry everything from glue to sequins.

You may want to experiment but aren’t sure you want permanent embellishment, or worry that your assistive device will look as though it’s been through a fraternity hazing. Why not try a “sleeve” of stretchy fabric for your cane or the handles of your walker or wheelchair? You could even recycle long tee-shirt sleeves or cotton-spandex pant legs. Measure your device so the “working” part of the handle (as well as the tip of a cane) will be exposed. Cut the fabric based on your measurements; stitch a hem if you like, or have a friend or caregiver do it for you. Use embroidery, sequins, puff paint, beading or whatever you choose to decorate your fabric. You can even leave it plain if you prefer. Wait for puff paint or dye, if you use them, to dry. Then stitch the “sleeve” together. Cane sleeves may need double-sided tape or another adhesive at the top and bottom inside edges to hold the fabric onto the cane. Voila! You have a removable, one-of-a-kind fashion statement for your assistive device-cum-accessory!

There is something incredibly upbeat and gutsy about rocking a head-turning assistive device in a  world fraught with tension and complaints about–well, everything. The statement is, “Hey, world! I have a disability, but it doesn’t have me! No worries here!” That positive energy spreads. It’s amazing how one item of our wardrobes, even a utilitarian one, sends messages. As disabled people, we need to remain aware of that as we make our needs known to the fashion world.