Whether you have been in a wheelchair for all of your life or just some of it, you know that your clothing and accessory needs are different than most people. We have to think about various elements of function, but we don’t want to sacrifice style. If you’ve been feeling stuck lately, feel like you’re on the extreme end of only function or only style, and think you could use a few helpers to make your ride a good balance of fashionable and easy, try seeking out the following the next time you go shopping or putting together an outfit! (The same might help for all other frill-able and fab out there, not just the wheelin’ sort!)
Many of us are fighting for the most independence possible. Sometimes that means having a lot of stuff with us at once because we might not have another chance to go back to get what we need again. I have grown to disdain the traditional purse on a day to day basis as it gets in my way, putting strain on my shoulders. Thanks to the following, I have found fun ways around this predicament!
My two favourite bags right now are my Madpax “Later Gater” Backpack in “Sneak Pink” which I put on the back of my chair, and my bike bag by Po Campo which I clip on to the side of my chair. (I just ordered it in this lovely lilac colour.) Po Campo is a Chicago company who makes bags from vegan, weather-resistant fabric, many of which are bike-friendly. As you might know, many things that are bike friendly are wheelchair friendly! (Click-through both pictures to get to company pages.)
The Po Campo bag is wonderful because it allows me to be hands-free when I want, and I can carry it like a purse if I choose. It's small, so I can never fill it too much to bother my shoulder. At $40, it's a steal! Their other bags are a bit more expensive, but given their quality, I definitely would like to purchase one eventually. (I have a second of the small bag in orange, which is their "coral," as well, and I just found out they carry it in mint and brown colours!)
My Mad Pax backpack has lots of personality, and I cannot believe how many compliments it gets. It's also quite useful. The straps are well-padded with gel or foam, and there is a space for a laptop inside. If you have very small things you'd like to keep separate, there's a tiny outside zipper pocket. They come in a variety of sizes, colours, and finishes.
Protip: Be careful how heavy you fill your backpack, particularly if you don’t have anti-tips! Test your bag on your chair before you are in it. Plus, you don’t want to weigh yourself down so you can be the speed demon you know you are!
2. Freedom of Movement / How Long Can I Really Sit in This?
No matter how cute something is, if a garment is restricting you in some way, you will end up regretting it later, especially if body movement is a factor in your considerations. Test drive your outfit if it is new before you wear it for the day. If body movement is not a factor in how you get around, something like circulation is still important. Do be kind to your body.
Here are a few things you might consider while getting ready:
a. Is this thing squeezing me in any place?
I would rather something be a little loose than “just right” in fit for a long day of wear.
b. Is anything poking me?
c. Can I access everything I need to while wearing this?
d. If I need them to, can someone easily assist me with putting on/removing this garment?
Can I put on and remove this garment with ease if that is something I do by myself?
e. Can this get caught in my wheels or brakes?
A garment that can is dangerous to you and devastating to damage if it is dear.
Now you have to actually get dressed! You should wear the kind of things that make you happy and bring a song to your heart! They should do those things for your body as well. We might not have the same tastes, but here are some of my favourite brands and garments that I can sit in all day.
- Pants from ABL Denim
For anyone who knows me, you know I am -not- a jeans or a pants person in general except on a rare occasion that I could find something black or pastel, and definitely stretchy. Well, I wasn’t until I found ABL Denim because they look normal and they don’t make me miserable! They are made with the wheelchair user in mind: higher backs, conveniently located pockets and zippers for comfort and ease of dressing, and high quality denim.
I first met ABL Denim members, Stephanie and Annie, (who are both delightful!) at Abilities Expo San Jose. I was beyond impressed with what I saw, and I bought a pair immediately. The only ones in my size were made for children with sensory issues, so they are super soft on the inside, have no metal pieces, and have a gentle elastic waist band.
There is a faux zipper so that they still look like actual jeans, not the wonky looking printed on ones you see sometimes with jeggings. They are very kind to my body, and I am quite happy with them! If you can’t fit children’s sizing and still want a comfy pair of pants, not to fear! They have a chic pair of sweatpants with a bit of elastic at the ankles so you can even pull them up a bit for the illusion of a different length.
Exciting news for folks who can’t quite justify ABL’s price tag; they are expanding to WalMart with a special line! You can expect the same great construction with more affordable materials so that even more people can enjoy them. Right now, just a men’s jean is available, but hopefully more variety will come soon!
To get you started with your first purchase, (and any purchases to come,) you can use my discount code: frillability10 at the checkout for 10% off as I am now an official brand affiliate!
-Anything that Gives My Waist a Break
For my particular set of issues, I can’t have anything squeezing at my waist too tightly, which is why #2 is a concern very important to me. I like finding pieces that have gentle, wide elastic and/or fit at the waist or higher, that are loose, stretchy/have give, or that allow me to adjust it comfortably throughout the day.
One brand I love for daily loungewear is A-Bomb Apparel for their brightly coloured, one of a kind hoodies and patterned leggings. Ashley Battersby, the designer, is a world class athlete, is super sweet, and has killer style! Her line also offers a number of accessories and soon to come, t-shirts! While her products were not created to be adaptive, they are typically quite comfortable and gentle.
Years ago, I used to wear Lolita Fashion on an everyday basis, but now it is less often, and I usually just incorporate individual pieces rather than a whole coordinate due to comfort. These days, I do whatever I can do accommodate my body, usually wearing a light pettiskirt versus a full petticoat or none at all.
Maybe I’ll opt for a bolero or buttoned sweater instead of a blouse because of dangly ties or worry of getting sleeves dirty. Leg wear is the most difficult as it all ends up bothering me at some point, but I find thigh highs or long OTKs are the least bad. Wigs, I’ve stopped wearing for whole days because of the headaches I get from medication, but I will wear them for short outings or for pictures and then take them off.
This one goes out to my ladies. Let's be real for a sec. (Term coined thanks to autostraddle.com) I discovered the variety of underwear before I knew what it was because I started stealing my girlfriend's, (don't judge, with her permission,) and I never wanted to go back. It is seriously the most comfortable pair of underwear that will ever go on your booty.
It will cover your butt, it will never go up your butt, be too tight, show parts of your butt you did not intend at very inopportune moments, and you basically do not feel like you are wearing underwear. Your backside will also look fantastic, and it will thank you.
3. Deco Your Ride
One of your greatest accessories can be your ride (or other assistive device!) itself! You might already have your perfect chair, maybe it’s not ideal, but either way, you can make it cute! An awesome blogger that I follow on tumblr had lovely roses painted on her spoke guards by her cousin, and she does some other creative and adorable things with her assistive gear that you can check out in her videos below!
If you are in the market for a new chair, want something that completely reflects who you are, will do your body justice, and give you an amazing ride, let me direct you over to Colours. They have a variety of chairs for every type of user, and nearly every aspect of which you can control and customize to your best fit and liking. Some chairs can even change with you along your journey, like the Eclipse or the Spazz that offer various degrees adjustability. Even their most basic chair is promised amazing fit and fun colours.
The chair for which I am currently awaiting is called the Spazz-G, and it is the most affordable of their rigid options in terms of base price. I was able to get some useful add-ons like a more aggressive tire tread for rough surfaces and fun ones too like light-up, colour changing casters. It will, of course, be pink. I even have pretty custom fabric on the back cushion. (I’ll save the rest of the details for when it arrives!)
I was turned over to the Colours side (#teamColours!) over at Abilities Expo when I met the team, and they convinced me to try out a chair. This was not a difficult task, but it sure was hard going back to mine! Being in a better built chair with your correct measurements makes all of the difference, and wow, could I go fast! To order, you need to get properly fitted first and place an order through an authorized dealer. I can help you through the fit and general selection process, whichever brand you choose, in another entry if you are interested.
What I love most about Colours is that they aren't out just to sell to you. They are a lifestyle brand, and it shows in their presentation. At the expo, they were warm, welcoming, and wanted to get to know me. The thing we talked about the least was wheelchairs. That was what intrigued me. After spending some time together, you can see that the Colours Team is a family full of some truly talented and innovative individuals, and they are inspiring others.
In the past on my old blog, I made a quick list of super fun other assistive devices that were interesting and useful. Adding to it, I recently came across Switch Sticks, a brand of canes and walking sticks, available at their native website and conveniently, Walgreens. Why they are fun: They come in a variety of elegant and effervescent colours and styles, a refreshing change from the typical prints available at Walgreens which really aren't my style. You can even switch out certain pieces with each other!
Why they are useful: they are both collapsible and adjustable, making them available for a variety of heights and easy to transport. They even come with their own carry bag! If you buy from their direct website, you'll have more style variety, but you'll pay a bit more. Walgreens can offer you the better price, and offers them in store and online.
Many things become a balancing act when you’re living the wheel life, and fashion should not have to be. When you’re comfortable and you know you look how you’d like to feel, your light shines, and everybody sees it! Fashion is not something we ever have to lose because of disability, so let’s not give up on it. There are always ways to modify.
I hope these tips were of use to you and that you feel more empowered to wheel forth in the world in comfort and style! Do you have any you would like to contribute? Leave them in the comments! See you next time, and Make Good with Your Ability Today!
Sorel Estrada Volpe