Arthritis changes your body shape, image and confidence – which can be hard when you’re a follower of fashion.
Last week, London Fashion Week got me thinking about how I dress – and I’ve been trying to work out what I look for most when I’m clothes shopping.
For me there are two main factors that should go into my clothing choice: how easy clothes are to put on and take off; and what they will look like on my weird arthritis body.
My dexterity is reasonably good, so I can usually manage with buttons and zips on the front of clothes. Those things on the back are an absolute nightmare. This doesn’t mean I don’t buy these clothes, I just know that if I ever lived alone I wouldn’t be able to wear about half my wardrobe.
Because I’m usually quite an irresponsible arthritic, it’s usually the way clothes look on me that becomes my primary shopping focus. When it comes to the shape of my body, the list of considerations is endless. I have an s-shaped spine, so I can’t wear things that are too tight because you can see the shape of my spine and my ribs sticking out at the front and back.
When I was about 13 I went to my rheumatologist a little concerned about the arch in my back (because my hips don’t straighten completely) and my “sticky-out rib” (because of my crazy spine). My rheumatologist asked if I was worried that my tummy stuck out: I wasn’t at the time, but have been ever since.
To demonstrate how bad things can get in this area: on a bad day, wearing an unfortunately clingy t-shirt and carrying a little more weight than I would usually like to, a woman asked me if I was pregnant. I’ve come a long way in accepting my mad body to admit that in such a public forum!
My bum sticks out because of the aforementioned hip issue. I mean, it’s a pretty big bum by anyone’s standards; I have junk in the trunk. This junk is exacerbated by my bad hips and bendy back. Sometimes if my hips are really bad and not moving from their chosen angle of 45 degrees, I can’t wear short skirts (a staple in my wardrobe) because they just can’t contain the booty.
There came a time in my life when I accepted that I was never going to be able to wear skyscraper heels and look good in a bodycon dress. I can’t remember quite when it was, but I certainly feel a lot better about myself now. I’ve found a way to embrace my inner kook and that by dressing a bit weirdly in general I can get away with not being able to follow every trend that I might like.
It can still be heartbreaking when you find a perfect dress, which is only going to be ruined by a pair of comfy shoes, but since being complimented on my choice of a mini skirt with some high tops when I was 13 (at the time, simply a means to not having sore legs), I’ve felt liberated enough to make this a staple of my wardrobe.
I recently bought some Dr Martens, which when paired with a floral dress is something you can pull off as a student, but not in the world of work. I dread those days to come, but for now I’m happy dressing all my curves – the ones my mamma gave me, and the ones arthritis gave me.
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(Any opinions expressed in Collette’s blog are not necessarily shared by Arthur’s Place. Nothing that you read in Collette’s blog constitutes medical advice.)