Fashion: The Enemy of Arthritis Patients? – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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Tonight is Fashion’s Night Out all over the country, and, will mark the start of the famed New York Fashion Week.

For some of us, though, “fashion” isn’t as easy as supermodels, celebrities, and even our friends and loved ones may make it seem.

Once a girl with a Carrie Bradshaw-sized shoe fetish; I can no longer teeter in scary-skinny, super-high heels for hours on end. I’ve also had days where I am flaring and I’ve had difficulty putting on certain shirts or dresses due to hard-to-reach zippers, or because of buttons that dislike stiff and swollen hands. I’ve had to go up a size here and there due to weight gain from steroids for my RA. I’ve had times where carrying my (super chic, super awesome!) Michael Kors bag was just impossible, and I had to switch to a smaller, lightweight, crossbody handbag that took strain off of my “hot-spot” shoulders. Even styling my hair, at times, is difficult with arthritis: and I’m sure that many of you can relate.

That being said, arthritis won’t get me down. Voted “Most Stylish” in high school, and being the head of a blog called Glitzburgh that puts a lot of its focus on beauty and fashion, I certainly can’t let my sense of style fall to the wayside “just because I have arthritis.”

I once strived to become a fashion designer myself. I took independent online studies from a college, whilst still in high school, on the subject of fashion design. I did yearlong art projects making jeans, drawing clothes, and the like. However, sewing was difficult for me because of having rheumatoid arthritis in my hands, and, life led me in a different direction, anyway.

That being said: I still love clothes, and I still love shoes. I still love handbags, dresses, and all things girlie.  When it comes to beauty and style, I refuse to let rheumatoid arthritis win! Fashion is a part of me, and me, a part of it.

Stylist and TV personalist Christine Schwab writes a helpful column in Arthritis Today Magazine, and also shares some secrets in her book, “Take Me Home from the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me.” Christine has arthritis, too, but hasn’t let it bring her down, fashion-wise or otherwise.

Here is a compilation of tips from all over the web (and from inside my not-always-perfectly-coiffed head!:) ) about how to still be a fashionista even if arthritis tries to make you a faux paus.

  • As I’d mentioned, consider a cross-body purse instead of a handbag that weighs heavily on one shoulder. Also, clear out your handbags often — we sometimes weigh them down with stuff we don’t even need!
  • If carrying a bookbag, backpack, or messenger bag, also be conscious of its size and weight. Keep it light, and, if possible, seek out an ergonomic version.
  • Aim to wear shirts that aren’t complicated. Limit buttons, snaps, and zippers. If you do have these items on your clothing, consider purchasing a zipper pull or other device to help you fasten up your clothing!
  • Choose comfortable fabrics and easy-to-wear items.
  • Consider looking into adaptive clothing for people with disabilities.
  • When carrying a bag, or briefcase, switch sides frequently to avoid placing the burden of the weight on one side of your body.
  • Think about your daily tasks. If your clothes affect your movements, consider outfits that fit your lifestyle, says the American Chiropractic Association.
  • Always listen to your body, first!
  • Ask for help – don’t be embarrassed.  Some days, you may have trouble lifting your arms to put on a shirt, or may not be able to reach around to unbutton your bra strap. If someone is available to help you, consider taking their assistance.
  • With shoes, consider flats or a very small, supportive heel, over high heels, stilettos, or shoes that are not sturdy or supportive. Comfort comes first. I have a trick, too: I carry flats in my purse. So, I may show up to an event looking chic and swanky in my fancy heels, but later in the night, I’ll swap out and put on ballet flats or something similar. Also, I limit wearing these often-uncomfortable dressy shoes to occasions where I will be sitting most of the time. Do not wear heels if you’re going to be walking or standing all day — they can cause a lot of damage to your feet!
  • Consider gel inserts, orthotics, or other insoles to put inside of your shoes for cushion or support.
  • Consider investing in a hairdryer stand so that you aren’t stuck holding up a hairdryer whilst your shoulders are aching.
  • Minimize your makeup – the natural, “no-makeup” look has been very “in” lately….so take advantage of it and let your beautiful self shine! Your hands and fingers will thank you. Sometimes, less primping = less pain.
  • Do not neglect yourself, though. Just because you are sick, doesn’t mean you must look the part! Dressing instead of lounging in pajamas or sweats all day is a small start. Throwing on some fierce lipstick and taking the time to wash your face or brush your hair can really make a difference not in your pain levels but in your attitude and your outlook for the day. No one likes to feel like a schlumpadinka all the time, sick or not! Image
  • Consider comfort in every clothing or accessory purchase that you make.
  • Buy a special hook to help you clasp and unclasp, fasten and unfasten your jewelry.
  • Unable to shower because of pain? Use some scented body wipes that soak up odor and oil. Also look into “dry shampoo” and “dry conditioner” if you are unable to wash your hair.
  • If arthritis meds have caused you to gain or lose weight, just remember to dress for your body type. Consider your size and shape when dressing. Do not try to squeeze into fashions that don’t fit. One of the biggest fashion faux paus that many people make is wearing improper sizes or wearing clothing that just doesn’t fit right.
  • Have clothing dry cleaned or hire a neighborhood kid (or family member) for cheap to wash your clothes if the folding/etc. is too hard on your hands.
  • Check out past blog posts I’ve written on shoes, body image, and hair care with arthritis! Also check out this piece on Arthriving.com about “Dressing for Success with Arthritis.”
  • Put a smile on your face. It’s life’s greatest accessories and one that will never go out of style :)

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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One thought on “Fashion: The Enemy of Arthritis Patients? – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. Thank you for this article! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I live with ME. It’s not the same chronic illness you have but still I found these suggestions helpful. I have written 2 posts on how to dress in an energy efficient way when dealing with a chronic illness and I mentioned this article because of how useful I found it. I thought you might be interested.
    http://lainalaughing.blogspot.com/2013/12/energy-economy-wardrobe-considerations.html
    I hope you’ll check it out.
    Sincerely,
    Laina

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