Your Wardrobe & RA

Patient Expert

The holiday season is almost upon us and whether that means you'll brave the crowds on Black Friday to hunt the sales or have started percolating your own wish list of subtle hints for clueless loved ones, the scent of shopping is in the air. We look for a change in wardrobe or that special item we can't justify at a regular time (or price), but sometimes, rheumatoid arthritis can get in the way of wearing stylish shoes and putting on a tight top can make your shoulders scream.

Today's post will share tips on what to look for and suggestions for men and women both and I hope you'll join in with suggestions, ideas and store recommendations. You can ask for giftcards to the stores mentioned or print out the post and comments and leave it casually around the house where abovementioned clueless loved ones can find it.

The average woman owns 30 pairs of shoes and buys six new pairs every year (it's probably safe to assume most men's numbers are less). If your feet are achy, forcing you to make those six new pairs sneakers, tennis shoes and Crocs, it can get a little dull. Don't despair Stylish shoes can be comfortable, too. Easy Spirit sells women's shoes, sandals and boots in all sizes as well as widths, which allow your toes plenty of room while looking fashionable. You can find Easy Spirit stores all over the U.S. by using the store locator on their site or order your choice of shoe delivered to your home.

Walking on a Cloud is a Canadian store specializing in fashion and style for both men and women, offering from a wide variety of brands, like Ecco, Rockport, Dansko, etc. If you live in Canada, go to one of their stores, but they also have mail order and do ship to the U.S. You can also use their site as research to find out what brands and styles are available, then go hunting in your area - look up shoe stores specializing in wide sizes in the Yellow Pages. Lastly, the Barking Dog Shoes blog is run by a woman named Kirsten who has problem feet herself and writes honest reviews of women's shoes (check out this example). The blog also points you in the direction of deals.

Getting dressed can hurt. Tight tops that require lifting your arms into the air to pull them over your head, zippers up the back (well, any zippers, really), tiny buttons, tight jeans, pantyhose and tights, laces on shoes... It's not until you get RA that you notice an awful lot of clothing seems to be made by some sadistic designer who is no doubt cackling in their Parisian office, enjoying having made life much more difficult for the people trying to wear the latest trends. Checking the Internet for sites that sell arthritis friendly clothing tends to get you to places that serve older women with osteoarthritis (apparently men don't get arthritis??) and if your style doesn't veer towards lavender polyester slacks with matching floral top - come to think of it, I don't know any older women who dress like that - you'll have to look elsewhere.

Develop your own personal style, one that is timeless and frees you up to include the trends that work for you and your body and skip the rest - luckily, the 70s trends with the tight-fitting clothing is on its way out in favor of the bigger, looser over-the-pants shirts and sweaters of the 80s. Choose coats and jackets with big armholes, making it easier for your shoulders or find a dashing poncho or cape, closed with an antique-looking pin you found in a fleamarket. Choose pants over skirts - no pantyhose to wiggle into! - and remember that the elastic waistband is your friend. Paired with an oversized shirt that isn't tucked in and a funky vest, it becomes a stylish, bohemian look. If your style is more towards sleek and businesslike, sew on the buttons in your sleeve cuffs with elastic thread so you can put on the shirt without having to button the cuff. Choose front closures whenever you can (e.g., bras, skirts, dresses) and sweaters with v-necks.

For men, the elastic thread trick works just as well and if you can't avoid a tie, loosen the knot sufficiently to take it off over your head, saving you the work of tying it every morning. If you have trouble getting a grip on the tiny tab to close pants zippers, try putting a small ring (e.g., from a key ring) in the zipper - putting your finger in the ring makes it easier to pull the zipper up and down. For a more discrete solution, create a circle of strong thread the same color as your pants. When possible, choose Velcro over buttons and laces.

There are also numerous doodads to help you with dressing. Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist who can help you find dressing aids and other tools for the home that will make your life easier - for instance, a reacher that can help you pick things up from the floor so you don't have to bend, sock aids to pull up your socks and dressing sticks to pull up pants (for more examples of products that can help make life easier for you, check out Arthritis Supplies).

Holiday shopping can be exhausting, especially when you're living with chronic pain. Karen Lee Richards, one of our experts on the Chronic Pain site has written an excellent guide to surviving holiday shopping with your energy and sense of humor intact.

Do you have tips for your fellow members to finding clothes and shoes that are stylish, yet accommodate RA? Ideas for outfits? Put your inner fashionista to work in the comment box!

You can read more of Lene's writing on The Seated View.