Tag Archives: disabled fashion

To the Garment Industry: Less Polyester, More Cotton, Please

7 Jun
An Arizona cotton plant. Photo from tucsonsentinel.com.

An Arizona cotton plant. Photo from tucsonsentinel.com.

It never fails. Thumbing through a catalogue, I’ll get all excited: “What a stellar outfit! Those colors would be so flattering, and I could get a lot of use out of it!” Then I read the description: “Oh snap! It’s 100% polyester.”

Once again, the garment industry has saved me money. Although the wildly popular synthetic works well in blends, such as poly-rayon-spandex in career pants and poly-cotton interlock in t-shirts, I can’t stand full-strength polyester against my skin. Of course, there’s a backstory here.

Body Odor

My mother used to buy me lovely-looking polyester dresses and skirt outfits. I wore them faithfully. Unfortunately, she tended to call me aside, as she felt a mother should, and tell me I should change deodorants and laundry detergents because she noticed I, and my clothes, didn’t smell nice. I was flummoxed. Having my mom insinuate I stank to high heaven was deflating enough, but I was a clean person who took joy in my daily showers and wore clothing only once before washing it.  Was it my weight or diet? Was I doomed to turn into a garbage can when I tried to look good? Visions of Mom pursuing me with a can of Lysol at family gatherings entered my head.  I sent for Kleinert’s dress shields, which helped a little. I also noticed Mom didn’t comment on my b.o.when I wore cotton or other natural fabrics, but it took awhile to figure out why.

Putting It Together: Stacy and Clinton to the Rescue

Years later, I was watching an episode of What Not To Wear (one of my favorites).  Style experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly were conducting the customary sort-and-toss of their current client’s wardrobe. Holding up a pair of  dark polyester pants, one of them asked, “Where would you wear these?” “Out dancing,” the lady replied. “You must smell good by the end of the night,” Clinton laughed, explaining that polyester doesn’t breathe.

Bingo!

It wasn’t me; it was the fabric that had trapped my perspiration and not vented my skin, so to speak. I had been shying away from 100%v poly anyway by the time I saw this episode, but now I knew why. Although people perspire in different quantities, eliminating toxins through sweat is normal and bound to happen unless you have a medical condition. Working out? Sweat is desirable. Living in Phoenix, in 100+ degree heat, or New Orleans in 85 degree heat with 85% humidity? Sweat happens. Unless you are wearing one of the newer polyester or nylon garments that wick away moisture, poly keeps sweat next to your skin.  Being disabled and moving more slowly down the sidewalk simply gives one more opportunity to sweat in the summer.  What’s the solution? Mine is wearing cotton.

In Praise of Cotton

Crisp or soft, depending on the treatment, cotton is breathable and comfortable, lending itself to casual, in-between, and dressy outfits with ease. It comprises many fashion classics: jeans, tees, button-down shirts and blouses, shorts, cardigans, summer dresses. That isn’t even a comprehensive list.  Because I live in a warm climate, I focus on staying cool in the spring and summer and layering clothing in the winter, when days start out chilly but grow warmer. Sweat? Cotton both absorbs and vents it.  Admittedly, my love of cotton doesn’t stop with my outer wardrobe. I prefer cotton socks, underwear, pajamas, and sheets (no slinky satin for me). After working in a hospital and seeing their cotton blankets, I was thrilled to find  one in assorted colors in the Brylane Home print catalogue. I am a cotton fan all right. My body says “Don’t fence me in when you cover me,” and cotton fits the bill.

No Knocks To Other Naturals

Other natural fabrics have their benefits, of course. However, silk does not fit my budget.  Wool is fantastic, but  not often needed in Phoenix. Linen? Wrinkle city, although textile designers are blending it with other fabrics to lessen that tendency. Flax and hemp? Getting there, but still a bit expensive for me. More power to anyone designing breathable couture. Who says fabulous clothes have to make you sweat?

Some Clarification

My home state since 1972,  Arizona, grows cotton; however, I am not a spokesperson for the industry. It may sound that way, but  I don’t even know anyone in that business. In addition, I realize my mom spoke out of love. For her generation, cotton meant lots of ironing and effort; polyester and other no-iron synthetics were a godsend. I was a busy young teacher, and she simply wanted to share that godsend with me by helping me look good in pretty, low-maintenance outfits. My intent was not to criticize her, and I was often over-sensitive in those days anyway.

Polyester is popular, or the fashion world wouldn’t be using it. It has a silky hand and probably takes dyes easily to form any patterns designers wish on the fabric. Its no-iron smoothness and drape are appealing. A former colleague wore it often; she also carried a bottle of Febreze to ward off body odor. That worked for her. Me?  I find the stuff aversive. I’ll opt for cotton.

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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.

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!

Designer Ann Oliver to Engage Other Designers in New Project

10 Dec
xeni-collection-2-100x100

Pants outfit by Ann Oliver. Part of her Xeni Collection, xenicollection.com.

UK designer Ann Oliver, a pioneer in couture for disabled women, is engaging in a new kind of outreach: she plans to gather talented designers from Not Just a Label and have them design one piece for her Xeni Collection  each season. Doing so, Mrs. Oliver reasons, gives up-and-coming designers greater exposure to the market as well as expanded horizons composing garments for a particular niche.

“The time is right, now, when we have a unique opportunity, established with such guts and determination by sportsmen and women from across the globe. It is time to bring designing for [disabled women] into the mainstream. I have a dream that every designer at London Fashion Week would include one outfit in every collection for women facing our challenges,”  Mrs. Oliver comments in her blog.

Stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, Ann Oliver learned firsthand the challenges of battling with buttons, hooks, and other conventional fastenings. She also discovered that standard clothing options were not properly cut for seated wearers: the garments provided neither comfort nor coverage, let alone style. An architect, she enrolled in a London college to learn clothing design, and Xeni took root.

Inspiration

As disabled women, we are well aware of the difficulties our conditions impose on us, whether we are able to work or not. Ann Oliver is one of us, who changed careers in mid-life to work for us: as I commented in an October post, this is a daunting task. This holiday season, give yourself a treat and visit her site at xenicollection.com. It is inspiring to see what Mrs. Oliver does, and you’ll want to add an outfit or two to your wish list.  Spread the word!

Stephanie Thomas and Luvwhatuwear.com: Answers for Disabled Women

7 Dec

Media personality Stephanie Thomas has been advising disabled women on fashion for 20 years. Disabled herself, she has been a beauty pageant contestant as well as a dancer for the Chicago Bulls. Like many of us, she became frustrated with clothing choices that failed to address the needs of disabled consumers, and she decided to do something about it. Her site, luvwhatuwear.com, is replete with ideas for people with specific conditions as well as a “Make Some Noise” section featuring stories of disabled consumers who spoke out about their needs and got results. Her site also has forums categorized by disability. Stephanie’s APOSH philosophy of personal style encourages women to make smart fashion choices, with her help; the site has an “Ask Stephanie” button for those seeking advice.   But enough: I’ll let Stephanie introduce herself.

We have an articulate, intelligent advocate speaking for us in the fashion world–something we disabled women need if we are to be heard and have our needs met. As Stephanie said in her video, other niches, such as maternity and plus-size, have the ear of designers and retailers and have clothing options now. It’s our turn. We are fortunate to have Stephanie Thomas out there clearing a path for us. Do visit her site at luvwhatuwear.com and “make some noise!”

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.