You Can Look Your Best
By Amy Saffell
Spina Bifida Association Adult Advisory Council
First things first: let’s understand that there is no normal body
Having Spina Bifida often means having a body that is supported by a wheelchair, walker, crutches or braces, lined with scars, asymmetrical, or shaped in a way that seems abnormal. None of that makes your body any less valuable or deserving of attention for more than medical needs alone. You are worth taking the time to look your best. In my opinion, a little extra TLC is probably even more beneficial when you’ve spent a lifetime specifically focusing on what your body needs to stay healthy.
What you wear is a reflection of you and makes you stand out to the people you meet. It’s not about wearing clothes that hide your disability. It’s about being a confident person, disability and all. Wearing the right clothes for your body conveys your confidence. It might be tempting to wear larger, baggy clothes to try to hide parts of your body that you don’t want to show. However, when I look at pictures of people with disabilities, I find that it’s those who show off more of their body and their disability by wearing clothes that enhance their form shine as persons rather than stand out because of their disability. Likely, they look confident because when you look better, you feel better.
Next: find your style (and someone who can make alterations!)
I’m not saying that you have to measure up to society’s standards of style to look your best. Style comes in many forms, and it’s fun to play around with it. It tells the story of who you want to be at that given moment. It’s not about dressing up all the time either; everyone has lazy days. The point really is to develop your own style to convey who you are. Not caring about what you’re wearing is as much of a statement about who you are as being dressed to the nines.
I’m also not saying that you have to spend a lot of money on clothes. Great clothes can be found anywhere. It’s about the attitude you have towards clothes. Ask yourself what you really want to wear, take the time to find an appropriate size, and don’t be discouraged if the first thing you try on doesn’t work.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that people with disabilities can’t wear certain clothes. The truth is that lots of peoples’ bodies, disability or not, don’t truly fit the clothes in stores right off the rack. Maybe you go to stores and feel discouraged that you don’t find clothes to fit you. That’s not a reflection of you; it’s a reflection of the flaws in the fashion industry.
That’s why it’s key to find a clothing alterations specialist. Maybe it’s an experienced professional, or, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be one of many people who’ve brushed up on their sewing skills to create masks and other personal protection equipment. It’s likely that if you ask your friends or post on social media that you are looking for someone who does alterations, you’ll find a person who could make alterations for a low or reasonable cost. Whether the alterations are to improve the fit of your clothes or to make some accessibility changes, a few minor changes and some creativity go a long way.
Finally, let’s shop for adaptive clothing!
A rise in people with disabilities who want to shop for better-fitting clothes has prompted more clothing companies to make clothing specifically-geared towards the needs of people with disabilities. Even stores like Target, Macy’s, and Kohl’s have taken notice and now sell adaptive clothing. Search “adaptive clothing” online, and you’ll come up with a variety of results in different shapes and with unique features conducive to those with disabilities.
One of the most helpful websites out there when it comes to adaptive clothing, including shoes, is Zappos Adaptive, https://www.zappos.com/e/adaptive. They sell clothes and shoes from a variety of brands, and their adaptive section includes more than 20 brands of adaptive clothing.
Image taken from https://www.zappos.com/e/adaptive
Other websites like IZ Adaptive (https://izadaptive.com/), Smart Adaptive Clothing (https://smartadaptiveclothing.com/), and Patti And Ricky (https://www.pattiandricky.com/) are also great resources for adaptive clothing. When you view their styles, you just might learn about some adaptive features that could be added to clothes already in your closet!
So, don’t be afraid to show your style. Be confident. Remember, you are worth the effort it takes to look your best!
Click below for a couple of articles about the impact of Target models who have a disability (one of them has Spina Bifida!) on young shoppers.