Fashion is my armour

In an upcoming MS & Me blog for MS Ireland, I talk about what fashion means to me and my identity. You can read the full blog post here.

As any of us with a disability know, the fashion and retail industry are paved with issues, from a total lack of accessible clothing to not being able to enter and move around the shops with ease in the first place. So here are my tips to help you fall back in love with shopping.

  • Stretchy clothing and a bigger size: This makes clothing easier to put on and more comfortable, particularly if you suffer from pain or paresthesia or you use a wheelchair and you’re sick of clothes cutting off your blood supply when you’re sitting for long periods. I buy dresses and skirts in a slightly bigger size and I then use a loose belt to nip them in so that they look like they fit me perfectly but it stops them feeling too restrictive and flaring my pain up, this is especially true if you suffer from the MS hug. 
  • Speaking of avoiding the MS hug, if you’re a woman then I highly recommend non-wired bras. For daily wear they offer just as much support whatever your size. And why shouldn’t we be both stylish and comfortable? On that note, after a lot of searching I found the best stores with the biggest range of designs and sizes are M&S and Victoria Secrets. They both offer a fitting service and the staff in Victoria Secrets on seeing I was walking with a stick went as far as to offer to carry my basket and search the rails for my sizes. It was the first place in a long time where I’d enjoyed my shopping experience and felt catered for. 
  • Personal shoppers: These services are brilliant and they’re complimentary in some stores. It’ll save you a tonne of energy, with the flipside being that you can get expert advice on what suits you best. They will take into consideration your budget and any issues you have with clothing because of your disability.
“Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life.” – Bill Cunningham
My new Rollz Motion rollator has given me so much freedom back
  • The queuing dilemma: If you’re a wheelchair user, Penneys allows you to skip the queue. Just head to the end till designed for wheelchair users and someone will pop over to serve you. It means you’re not struggling with tight queuing and turning space and then worrying about blocking the way for others when you are at the till. 
  • Bring a friend: First off, shopping is always more enjoyable with a friend, but taking someone along with you will also save you energy as they can search through the rails for you and hold on to clothes that you like. Even before I started using a wheelchair, my fatigue would get bad very quickly so my mum would find a seat for me and then she’d return 15 minutes later with loads of clothes for us both to try on. It meant I had enough energy to enjoy trying things on and for a sneaky cuppa after all our hard work.
  • Online shopping: This is of course very useful but sometimes guessing the fit and feel of materials can be stressful. I find ordering from sites with free and easy returns much easier so that I can buy a couple of sizes in one go. Asos will even send a delivery van straight to your house to collect the returns if you live in the Dublin area.

What has helped you to release your inner fashion diva? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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