Learning How to Dress for My Invisible and Chronic Illness

I agree with many women that a great dress with pockets is the holy grail. It begs, however, a larger question: Why can’t more women’s clothes be comfortable and functional as well as cute, pretty, sexy, or whatever we would like? Why can’t there be more comfortable or accommodating clothes for people with chronic or invisible illnesses?

I love wearing dresses, but I have to think about how they will sit on me all day long. I ask myself “Is there a belt or tie that will rest against and put pressure on my upper back or my mid back?”

When I got my first full time, post college, office job, I learned that the nice work clothes I got with my graduation gift certificate from Macy’s were hurting my lower back. I had trouble sitting at a desk all day. My back ached and the pants at my natural waist were putting extra pressure on my lower back.

I eventually replaced these clothes with pants and skirts that were a size or two too big so they’d sit on my hips. I dropped them off at the dry cleaner to be hemmed. I then had a wardrobe that I could live with still fit the business casual dress code at work. It was a moderately expensive learning experience. And it was also a one of my first DIY fashion experiences. But not the last.

By now I have an idea of the various styles of clothing that will aggravate my back, but I can still get it wrong and end up with a cute dress that aches to wear. It’s awful figuring that out and not be able to return the clothes. It’s still a trial and error process.

I’m heartened by the move toward more comfy clothes in all parts of life, the athleisure trend, classy yoga pants, and baggier clothes in general. Even athleisure for the office! Even if accidentally, it’s a more inclusive trend. There are so many of us living with chronic and invisible illnesses that makes wearing traditional fitted and snug clothes impossible or challenging to wear. We need more clothes like these.

I’m also really excited by the recent news that major designers are beginning to work on lines of clothing for people with differently shaped bodies and needs—for example, clothes with snaps instead of buttons if you have trouble with fine motor skills. I’m so glad that creative people in fashion are working on how to help people with chronic illnesses and pain find clothing that supports their bodies and fits their style. I hope more designers follow suit!

It’s something the plus size clothing business has been working on recently as well—realizing that what fits a thin, illness-free, youthful model won’t fit most women, literally or metaphorically. Here’s to clothing that makes us feel good and gives us the freedom to do what we need!

Style and fashion can literally be life-changing or life-affirming. As part of my turn to decluttering and minimalism, I’ve tried to get rid of all the clothes that literally makes me feel bad, hurts, and constrains me.

In limiting my wardrobe to a smaller number of clothes and to types of clothes that fit well I’m making it easier for me to do everything that’s really important to me. I can’t think of a better result from the decluttering trend or what trends in fashion, living, and working can offer!

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