Project Runway All-Stars Challenge Gets It Right–Only One Sour Note

8 Apr
Project Runway All-Star Joshua Ryan winning the challenge on Episode 10, 11 Feb. 2013. Photo from lifetime.com/projectrunway.

Project Runway All-Star Joshua Ryan winning the challenge on Episode 10, 11 Feb. 2013. Photo from lifetime.com/projectrunway.

Wasn’t it refreshing to see a challenge on Project Runway All Stars featuring female veterans? The disabled were represented as well–something I’d been hoping for on the show for a long time– and designer Joshua Ryan’s elegantly understated, classic-but-modern V-necked dress created for a prosthetic-wearing colonel won this challenge. Joshua even designed an outfit for her service dog!

Hitting a Sour Note

The only sour note issued from one of the judges as the panel examined the designers’ garments on the runway. After praising the style of Joshua Ryan’s just-above knee-length, bordered black dress and noting how happy and confident the Colonel appeared while wearing it, this judge inquired:

“Did you mean to show the prosthetic leg?”

Oops.

Perhaps the judge was making sure Joshua Ryan hadn’t run out of fabric, as designers sometimes do on the show, and tacked on the border of the dress as an afterthought. That was my first, and most charitable, interpretation. The integrity of the garment, however, negated that theory. To his credit, Joshua Ryan admitted that he had, indeed, intended to reveal his model’s prosthetic. Was he going to lose points for doing so, I wondered?

Disabilities and Aesthetics

Perhaps I am too sensitive, but the judge’s simple question bothered me.  Within it I perceived an assumption that a prosthetic–hence, a disability–needs to be disguised by clothing if that clothing is to be regarded as high quality fashion. Expressed another way, disabled people don’t look good unless they hide their disabilities.

Balderdash.

Disabilities are not the same as figure flaws. We might cringe at a non-disabled, plus-size demoiselle sporting a halter top (and muffin top) over tight low-rise jeans or a skinny-mini encased in garb that makes her appear skeletal and moribund. We gasp and giggle at the sartorial choices of People from Wal-Mart (although I haven’t seen anything like them in my local store). But these ladies have choices in what they reveal or hide; disabled women often don’t. Dressing to “go with the flow” with our conditions takes creativity, and that is exactly what Joshua Ryan demonstrated.

Fashion: Taking Up the Slack?

It is challenging to find fashions that address our needs; this is why Elle, Stephanie Thomas, Spashionista, and I are in the blogosphere, and why Ann Oliver  is designing. Joshua Ryan has shown us that mainstream designers have the talent to create for us. I never doubted it. Watching Project Runway and seeing designers compose great-looking garments out of candy wrappers, food,  and other unconventional materials convinced me long ago that the US has many in the fashion world with the ability to dress the disabled stylishly and affordably. Whether they will choose to work with this specialized niche is another question. Despite the judge’s comment, Project Runway All-Stars is to be commended for including a challenge featuring female veterans, and  for selecting Joshua Ryan’s dress as the winning design. May this episode be a sign of future progress!

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You Thought the Overt Skank Look Was Passe? Not Quite

20 Feb
thong, wefly2, undergarments, fashion statement, disabled shopping,disabled clothing

Photo from Peopleofwalmart.com.

“That’s not a pretty picture,” a nurse whispered to me as I waited for a patient outside a restroom in the ER. As a patient companion (“sitter,”) I see aspects of human nature I never expected to see. This night, it would include fashion as well. Turning my head, I saw a young woman leaving the hospital on crutches. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But wait! My eye caught something else: sweatpants, sagging in back, revealing a thong and most of her derriere.

Nothing Personal

You’ll notice I have included a photo of  a related fashion faux-pas, but not the specific offender. A photo of her would have violated patient confidentiality, as the thong-wearer was still inside the hospital; also, as I said in my first post, wefly2 does not go in for personal attacks. I saw nothing wrong with the woman’s figure, and I am happy her injury was treated and she was able to go home. It was her taste level that provoked me.
The Message: Warning: Graphic Comment

I don’t usually get down and dirty in this blog, but this time I will. Most of us are aware that our clothing, or lack of it, sends messages to those around us. A thong and a mostly-bare butt not only says “I’m super available,” but “I’ll do it in the convenience-store parking lot, and I don’t mind being sloppy seconds!”

Sorry about that. My understated, suggest-rather-than-flaunt aesthetic was offended.  By the way, the nurse and I were not the only ones who noticed, or rolled our eyes.

Everything in its Place

Am I becoming an undergarment censor? Of course not. A friend of mine wears thongs, but, as she says, “You’ll never see them; they are underwear.” It is entirely possible the patient didn’t have the presence of mind to think about her clothing choices in the throes of  her pain.  I will cut her some slack in that event. She may also not have realized that her sweatpants would sag as she adjusted her arms to use the crutches.

On the other hand, if one is not rushing to the ER, there are other, more tasteful ways to show off a nice rear, such as cupping it in well-fitting pants.  If you want the overstated skank look, I will not hold you back; I believe in freedom of speech, no matter how tasteless. But please, be aware of the message you are sending to your audience.

PS–My laptop caught a nasty virus, but I am finally back online (thanks, Jeremy!)

Post-Holiday Blahs? Clothes Can Lift Your Spirits

19 Jan
art, clothing and mood, wefly2, Calvin Charles, Ladies' Home Journal, disabled women, disabled shopping

From exhibit at the Calvin Charles Gallery, Scottsdale.

Maybe the excitement of the holidays has left you feeling a bit hollow, like the fellow in the photo (no disrespect to the artist). Perhaps the weather is draining you, leaving you with a winter virus or aggravating your disability. I hope not. But if you need a simple pick-me-up that won’t drain your wallet or require one more social engagement, you need look no further than your closet, according to writer Sarah Hepola in a recent issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. A self-confessed yoga-pant aficionado, Hepola discovered that slipping on a nice dress and pair of shoes, just because she felt like it, made her feel special and perked up her whole day in a way that schlepping around in yoga pants and an old tee shirt did not.

The Mood-Fashion Connection

No doubt, we live in an ever more casual culture. Hepola brings up Casual Fridays in the workplace to illustrate this point.  But just because we can dress casually, she says, doesn’t always mean we should. In fact, a friend of mine, Kevin, openly rebelled against Casual Fridays. He wore three-piece suits and various tasteful combinations of sport coats, ties, trousers, and pocket watches to work. He was among the few contractors to obtain a full-time position with his company, and his dapper appearance was not lost on the ladies, either!  In a social setting, the lobster effect can occur, with peers thinking their friends should dress the ultra-casual way they do: sometimes my retired friends put on shorts and tee shirts for happy hour, and ask me why I am “so dressed up” when I don trouser jeans with a nice top and makeup. My usual answer is “Why not?” but I like Hepola’s friend’s answer better: “I’m dressed up for me!”

While my outfit of trouser jeans and top hardly qualifies as “dressed up,” it appears that way to some. The point is that wearing snappy clothes that flatter you flips an internal switch somewhere. Your attitude, your confidence, climb. Whether it’s a dress at work or well-fitting jeans at home, the clothing makes you feel good about yourself. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Confined to the House? Cozy Up in Your Faves

Feeling under the weather? Unfortunately, it is common this time of year. No reason you shouldn’t be as warm and comfortable as possible. If you are strong enough to bathe or have a caregiver help you do so, washing up and slipping into your favorite nightgown, pajamas, or lounge wear before going to bed is a definite mood enhancer. Soft, clean-smelling fabric against your skin may not reduce your fever or eliminate your aches and pains, but it can help you relax and rest more easily. Comfy pajamas, your favorite hot beverage, a good book, TV show, or friend, and you’re set. Right now, how your pj’s make you feel definitely trumps how they make you look. You can think about that later.

Feeling Just Right

You don’t have to follow the crowd in your clothing choices to dress appropriately or feel great about what you wear, although the occasion often shapes our outfits, and most of us don’t want to be ridiculed. At the beginning of the year, when I attended a fundraiser for HALO, a local no-kill animal shelter, I intended to wear the purple cowl-necked dress the Spashionista chose for me (see earlier post) with black tights. Well, I had both a wardrobe and disability malfunction: the tights (my only pair) had a hole in them, and my calves were swollen, a side effect I can’t predict. At the last minute, I threw on trouser jeans, my CABI jacket (see Christmas post) and a brown cami. My ensemble fit right in with the rest of the attendees’, and my swollen calves were out of sight!

Whether the post-holiday portion of the new year finds you tired of shopping, nursing a cold, or raring to explore new lands and stores, keep the clothing-mood connection in mind. You may not have to spend a dime to lift your spirits!

2013: Will I Avoid My Worst Fashion Faux Pas?

1 Jan
pajamas, dogs, wefly2, sleepwear, casual wear, disabled clothing

A representative pair of cotton-blend pajamas, worn to bed, around the house, and on dog walks.

Well…probably not. Yet, of all the habits a blogger on fashion, albeit a partially disabled one, should eliminate in the New Year, this one tops the list. We all know about diet resolutions (chant it with me now: Baconnaise does not exist. I will not buy it or dip potato chips into it) and exercise vows (30 minutes a day, every day!) But my faux pas? Hang on; this is a bad one.

The Confession

I walk my dog in my pajamas. In broad daylight, in a large American city.

The Rationalizations

It might not matter if I were a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but I was far from that even in my youth. Why would I do this? I work at night, but Tucker has to go out during the day, when I sleep. I am too lazy to get dressed, although I do pause to put on a bra before leashing him up as well as a sweater or jacket in cold weather. I should also point out that my pajamas are opaque and provide full coverage. Sometimes, I don a tee-shirt and  pajama bottoms. My ensemble (if you can call it that) may not be flattering, but it exposes nothing beyond ankles and elbows.

Additionally, Tucker is a Basset Hound. Have you ever heard a Basset bark or howl when he wants something? The woofs and aroos may be endearing in a rural setting, but I don’t want to disturb my neighbors. If he needs out, I want to get him there with minimal noise and fuss. My appearance is simply not a priority at these times.

Basset Hounds, Arizona Basset Hound Rescue

Tucker. With a face like that, I scramble to get him what he wants–pajamas or not!

The Switch to Slovenly

Knowing Tucker had to go out, I used to stay in my work clothes from the night before and doze on the couch, but that wreaked havoc with my neck (Ah, the days when I had a house with a doggy door!) Besides, there is something comforting and cathartic about taking off clothes from the office and stepping into cozy jammies for sleep. Fortunately, my complex is enclosed, set back from the street and blessed with large courtyards, so strangers never see me in this disheveled state. My neighbors, a wonderfully tolerant bunch, are cordial whether I am dressed for an evening out or a pajama-clad dog outing. The late landlord (RIP) behaved the same way. I guess the only thing that would change this unstylish habit is a change in work schedule!

You Do What, and Write What?

If you look at all the sleek, beautifully photographed personal-style blogs out there, you may find it hard to believe anyone writing about any aspect of fashion–even a plus-sized 50-something with neuropathy–would stoop to the sartorial depths that I do, let alone confess to it. (You’ll notice I have not posted a photo of myself in pajamas. I respect my audience, and their stomachs, too much for that).  But I like to admit I am human, confess my foibles, and laugh at them, even if I don’t change or eliminate them. This will not change with the New Year!

Sis, My Fashion Friend: Christmas All Year Long

25 Dec
CABI, Christmas, wefly2, jackets

CABI jacket from Sis. Add a cami or sweater plus trouser jeans, and it tops a go-to outfit for many occasions.

Few of us are lucky enough to benefit from a friend’s shopping habit (I don’t mean addiction). But my beautiful sister, Carol F., brings me bags of clothes several times a year, with brands ranging from Merona to Fresh Produce to Michael Kors. Anything that doesn’t work is donated or taken to our favorite consignment store, Poor Little Rich Girl. Even though Sis is taller than I and trendy in her tastes while I tend to be classic, many of her garments are terrific for me, and I believe she reads my mind. For example, I was thinking I needed a nice jacket, and voila! she came up with the great CABI pictured above. Uncanny!

We like to think the donated and consigned clothes are one small way to keep on giving to our community, something our mom, our first fashion teacher, taught us. Although we are generally involved in different non-profits, clothing is the bond we share.  I love you, Sis; thanks for your generosity, to me and to others.

May all of you have a Merry Christmas!

Finally, Rain in the Desert! TravelSmith Can Help You Weather the Storm

16 Dec
rain coat, TravelSmith, disabled fashion, disabled women, wefly2, disabled shopping, online shopping

My short trench rain coat from TravelSmith.

Rain in Phoenix is a novelty. Seriously. I have seen people run to the windows of their homes and offices when water pours from the sky, as it did yesterday. Some folks are unprepared and don’t even bother to turn on their windshield wipers, let alone purchase rain gear. Me? I carried an umbrella to dinner Friday night, as it had rained earlier in the day, but of course it didn’t in the evening. Last night, however, I was grateful for my TravelSmith short trench raincoat.

Water-Repellant, Handy, and Chic

I finished walking the dog in steady rain and was dry thanks to my coat‘s water-repellent qualities. Polyester with nylon lining, the tan trench-style coat lies somewhere between long jacket and car-coat length. It covers a blazer but does not look odd with any length of skirt. When you sit down while wearing it, it doesn’t pull anywhere–a plus for wheelchair and scooter users, although you may want a longer garment to keep your legs dry, like TravelSmith’s Navy Waterproof Trench Coat.  My TravelSmith coat also features a self-belt, silver-toned buttons, two outside pockets that button and two hidden pockets inside.   TravelSmith always thinks of safety options for travelers; this is their forte.

Current Offerings for Rain or Cool Weather

The most recent travelsmith.com offerings include a white “Nautical Crinkled” version of my coat for $99, the price I paid. This beauty still has the four pockets, self-belt, a crisp appearance and is supposed to shed wrinkles when packed for travel. Prefer another color? TravelSmith also offers a Navy Trench Jacket with similar, but not identical, styling for $149, and the Waterproof Trench Coat in several colors for $129-$179.

rain coats,rain jackets, trench jackets, travelsmith.com, disabled shopping, online shopping

The most recent version of TravelSmith’s trench rain jacket, available at travelsmith.com. Photo from travelsmith.com.

A Note About Fit

My short trench was a little snug in the hips when I first purchased it–I was not able to button the bottom button–but fit perfectly once I dropped a few pounds. I am not pear-shaped, but the tummy got in the way, I think! Sizes run as high as XL (18-20). If you think you might have the same problem I did and can’t order a size up, you might consider the full-length trench coat or some of the shorter jackets travelsmith.com has. Be sure to check the clearance section, too!

Ah, Climate

I love it when it rains here. I used to feel silly having a raincoat in my closet, but not anymore. We Phoenicians may not need hardcore winter wear like our friends in colder climates–we laugh when we see sweaters in department stores in September, and it is still 100 degrees here–but it always pays to be prepared for the rain. The clouds and dampness are a welcome change, and chic coats from TravelSmith can help us enjoy it!

For Residents of Newtown, CT

15 Dec
angels, art, images

Image courtesy of angelfire.com.

To all of those in Newtown, CT, who have lost a child, relative, neighbor, or friend in the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

My sincere condolences for your losses. You are facing one of the toughest holiday seasons ever, and my heart goes out to you. Please know that the world is with you, sending love and praying for the healing to begin.

Your angels may not have been on Earth very long, but they will be with you always, and no one can harm them anymore. May God be with you.