March 29, 2012

Vintage clothing for chronically ill and special needs individuals

Before jumping into the heart of today's post, I want to take a moment and preface this topic somewhat by briefly sharing some of my personal experiences on this subject with all of you.

A decade ago, mere weeks after my 18th birthday, I became extremely ill very rapidly with a series of severe, often debilitating chronic medical conditions. As the years went on, other additional medical issues appeared, too, bringing the current total to over a dozen different chronic conditions.

As one might expect, this altered the course of my life drastically, yet I've always been a "glass half full kind of gal" and have striven to consistently retain as much of who I was before becoming sick, while at the same time accepting life as it gets thrown at me, and trying to make the best of every situation.

In 2004 I founded (and continue to run) a leading patient-to-patient website called IC Advice, which is dedicated to helping those who share one of my conditions (interstitial cystitis), for which I've written many medical articles, recipes, and other types of useful literature.

A few years ago (before my own health declined further and I had to step back from this particular role) I also ran a chronic illness support group, speaking to and peer counselling hundreds of people whose lives had also been affected by ongoing health problems.

Though there are bright moments and promises of hope when dealing with the subject of chronic illness, the cold, hard truth is that it often not the most cheerful of subjects, and there is nothing Pollyanna about coping, struggling, and living day in and day out with the permanent shadow of health issues tagging along with you through every breath and step you take.

Whether online or in person, one thing that I have always enjoyed however is helping others find ways - even seemingly tiny, simple ways - in which to bring any possible degree of ease, help, and control back into one or more areas of their lives.

For many (though certainly not all, it truly varies depending on what medical issues a person is contending with) with chronic health problems, what we choose to wear can have a notable impact on how our bodies feel and where our pain levels are at.

While it is understandably beyond the scope of one blog post to discuss and address all of the possible considerations that need to be made when it comes to the topic of clothing that works well for people with medical/special needs, I have tried to cover general topics within this article which I hope will apply to a broad range of individuals and their own unique circumstances.

Though the age old saying "it hurts to be beautiful" can indeed ring true sometimes, for those who are already in constant pain and/or have limited mobility, vision problems, impaired motor skills, or any other issue that affects their ability to toss on whatever they want to wear in the morning without giving it a second though, getting dressed (and then wearing clothing for a part, or all of, the day) can already be a vexing and/or painful situation.

Some of the most common points that arise when trying to find clothing that accommodates medical and special needs are as follows:

-Ease of wear: How easy or difficult is it to put on, and take off, a garment. Will assistance be needed or can one dress themselves on their own?

-Garment weight: For those with many different conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to neuralgia, something as seemingly simple as the weight of an item of clothing (and/or whole outfit) can be more than enough to elevate their levels of discomfort.

-Garment strictness: How tight or loose is an item of clothing? In some cases, excess fabric can be a negative (such as if you're using certain types of mobility devices), yet in others tight clothing (much as with garment weight) can aggravate certain health problems (for many with gastrointestinal problems - and believe me when I say I speak from experience here - tight waistbands, for example, can be extremely uncomfortable and can even increase our symptoms sometimes).

-Fabric/materials used: It is not uncommon for those with medical/special needs to have highly sensitive skin and/or to be more acutely aware of the textures and temperatures against their skin. Generally speaking, natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton, wool (if not allergic/sensitive), silk, and bamboo are the first types of fabrics you my want to reach for, followed by soft (to-the-touch) manmade materials and natural/manmade blends (such as poly-cotton).

-Fastenings: Whether buttons, snaps, hooks, zippers, ties, shoe laces, or buckles, fastenings can really pose a problem for those with certain medical issues. Garments (and shoes) that can easily be slipped, comfortably wrap tied, or fastened with velcro can be much easier to get on and off.

-Alterations: Almost all of us, if we want out clothing to fit as best as possibly can, will have one or more garments altered over the course of our lifetime. This is not only normal, but highly recommended, if you want to look your most presentable. However some medical conditions and situations require altering/tailoring that goes beyond merely hemming a skirt or moving the buttons on a blazer.

Everything from the use of a wheelchair to an ostomy pouching system, a tracheotomy to the loss of one or more limbs can significantly impact a person's ability to comfortably wear an item of clothing right off the rack. When buying clothing that will require alteration, try to find pieces with enough fabric allowance to permit for the tailoring required.

-Is seated/laying down dressing required: Much as with ease of wear, ease of putting on and taking off a garment can be impacted by the position in which a person needs to be in order to get dressed. Though stockings might be easy for some people to put on while sitting down, imagine trying to do up a row of buttons running down the back of a dress while you were sitting or laying down. Not the simplest of tasks, let me assure you!

Items of clothing that can easily be slipped or fastened on (without pinching, tugging, or excessively rubbing the skin) while in various positions are often the best way to go if you know that you standing to dress is not going to be possible.

-Sizing: When we think of the term "clothing size" we often think about the tiny number printed on a garment's tag, however sizing goes beyond merely a number and can extend to the amount of fabric that a garment contains and how well it covers an individual.

Someone who's on their feet most of the day might think nothing of wearing a cropped sweater that just barely touches their waistband, however if you're going to be sitting, laying down, and/or transferred between positions throughout the day, you'll likely want a garment that covers your skin and ensures your dignity is maintained at all times.

In such cases, clothing that is slightly longer (think hip length blouses/shirts instead of waist length ones and pants/skirts/dresses with longer hems may be the way to go.

-Laundering required: As someone with super sensitive skin, I can tell you that I almost never buy garments (be they vintage or modern) that require dry cleaning (the chemicals used by many drycleaners do not agree with me). Whenever possible, I try to buy clothing that can be put in the washer and dryer (or, hung to dry after washing).

If hand washing if hard or impossible for whatever reason (i.e., arthritic hands/wrists), again, you may want to strive for a closet full of clothing that you can confidently clean in the washing machine.

-Price: While the cost of a garment is usually a deciding factor for all but those with the deepest pockets, it would be naive to skirt around the fact that people who contend with chronic health problems or have special medical needs sometimes live off of a reduced/lower incomes. Some struggle to make the barest of ends meet on a disability or pension income, while others may have had to take a cut in pay due to scaling back their hours at work (to try to accommodate their health) or to switch jobs/careers entirely.

As such, it's just good old-fashioned common sense to try and make your clothing dollars stretch as far as possible in most situations. This doesn't necessary mean buying the cheapest items of clothing by any means though, as it is often wiser to invest a little more (when possible) in a better quality garment that stands to last considerably longer, and give you more value in the long run for your money, than a cheaper version of the same piece.

-Minimizing frustration: No one wants to feel like they are unable to do a seemingly easy task. Feeling powerless in the face of your closet is a truly disheartening sensation and one that, ideally, none of us should ever have to face. The truth however is that medical problems/special needs can often greatly hinder our ability to wear certain cuts and styles of clothing any longer.

Instead of throwing in the towel however and resorting to a life of shapeless, style-less garments, first pinpoint where your difficulties with getting dressed lie and see if there are clothing options out there that will allow you to continue dressing in a way that makes you - and your health concerns - happy.

The points above apply to all clothing in general, whether it's vintage, reproduction, vintage inspired, vintage appropriate, or modern. As someone who's range of motion, pain levels, and mobility are affected by my health problems every day, I can tell you that is possible to have a predominately vintage wardrobe that accommodates my medical needs, yet which from the outside does not look different from most other (vintage clothing loving) people's closets.

While some days - the days you're much more likely to see photographs of me on - I'm able to get dressed on my own, style my hair, do my make-up and venture out into public, there are many, many more days for which such things are not possible.

Whether I'm having a rare "good day", availing of my wheelchair for an outing, am at home tucked up on the couch doing blog post research, or on bed rest, I've learned that there are garments that work really well for me in a variety of situations. They do so because they're stylish, comfortable, made of skin-friendly materials, and because I know they're easy to wash and wear time and time again.

There is an age old quandary of comfort vs style that persist throughout the fashion world. However, it is a something of a misconception to think that comfort and style are two entirely separate entities. Garments such as sweat pants and slouchy sweaters may spring to mind when you think of comfortable clothing, but they are absolutely, by no means, the only kinds of comfy clothing out there.

If you buy pieces that fit well from the get go (or that you have tailored to fit properly), which take the points above into consideration, and which you feel happy and confident when wearing, finding comfortable clothing is often possible.

With the points outlined above in mind, and drawing on my own personal experience and well as many discussions over the years with fellow chronic illness/special needs people on this topic, I'm delighted to share ten of my favourite vintage/vintage appropriate wardrobe staples with you.

Again, please bear in mind that each individual who needs to adapt how they dress based on their health/disabilities/special needs, will differ in what they're able to wear. These pieces are ones amongst which I think most people should be able to find a few options or at least use these garments as an inspirational jumping off point for others that will better suit their own circumstances.


~ Cardigan sweaters ~

{1950s cream wool buttonless cardigan with muted green floral embroidery; size large. Available for $30.00 CND from etsy seller Ma Ptite Chouette.}

Perhaps more than any other category of clothing in my whole wardrobe, my cardigan collection gets the most play. Being on the petite side (I'm 5'2"), longer/boxier cardigans can overwhelm my shape, so I tend to veer towards one that are relatively fitted, but not quite skin-tight (for the sake of comfort). Being allergic to wool, I like to opt for cotton cardis, as well as ones that are made from cotton blends and certain synthetic fabrics, such as rayon. Though I do button them up sometimes, more often I wear my cardigans open over a blouse, top, or dress.

Not only do they instantly add a layer of interest to an outfit, but they have the perk of being both timelessly lovely and perfect for keeping warm on cooler days and when the AC is blasting come summertime. I genuinely believe that there is a cardigan out there that can work for almost everyone on the planet, no matter what conditions you're accommodating.

~ Shirtwaist dresses ~


{1950s Key Windsor tan cotton shirtwaist dress; 38" bust/29.5" waist. Available for $45.00 from etsy seller JanesVintage.}

Another absolute closet workhorse for me is shirtwaist dresses. Such garments (so long as you buy them in your size) often offer generous amounts of fabric through the bust area, tapper at the waist (which is sometimes elasticized), and then flare out into a fuller skirt at the bottom.

As their name implies, many shirtwaist dresses (also know as "shirt dresses") do have one or more buttons running up the front,. However, depending on the garment, if buttons are a concern, you may be able to swap them out and/or sew up the button holes (thus turning the buttons into purely decorative elements), and run a line of velcro up the front to easily keep the dress closed (while making it much more comfortable to get on and off).

Shirtwaist dresses were very popular (especially as daywear) during the 1950s, though their history dates further back, with the name originally referring to (women's) blouses that were constructed like (men's) shirts. Shirtwaist dresses came back into vogue during the 1980s, with many styles produced then mimicking or taking style cues from their earlier mid-century predecessors.

Luckily for fans of this classic type of frock, shirtwaist dresses are generally easy to come by and are available in a broad range of colours and fabrics. To date etsy has yielded the biggest cache of vintage shirtwaist dresses for me, followed in second place by eBay.

~ Elastic waist/slip on skirts ~ 

{Aqua and white polka dot Fro-Yo Enjoyment elastic waist skirt, in sizes S-L. $54.99 from}

Lest you conjure up images of the bottom half of a painfully matronly skirt suit, let me redirect your thoughts to ones of stylish 1940s and 50s skirts in cuts as varied as pencil to poodle, high waisted to Dior worthy circle. Over the years, many skirts have been produced which had elastic waists or which could be slipped on and done up with just one fastener, (often) thanks to the material they were being made from having a degree of stretch to it.

Slip-on skirts often allow one to bypass contending with zippers, rows of buttons, or hook and eye fasteners and yet can (and do!) look every bit as lovely as those which stay put thanks to such items. They can be dressed up or down, as your heart desires, and are often marvelous options for work and slightly more formal wear.


~ Silk (or similar material) scarves ~

{1940s/50s pink and aqua rolled edge, floral print silk scarf; 28" square. Available for $22.50 from etsy seller Trunk Gypsies.}

Not only are they lightweight, gorgeously smooth on the skin, and available in a truly countless array of colours and patterns, but silk scarves can easily be one of the most versatile items in your wardrobe.

You can wear them around your neck, draped over your shoulders, as a belt (if they're long enough), tied to a purse handle as a stylish decoration, around your wrist as a bracelet, and put to use in lots of different ways on your head (from 1940s inspired Rosie style headscarves to looped around a youthful 50s inspired ponytail) - to name but a few ways.

~ Shrugs and bolero jackets ~

{Black 3/4 sleeve acrylic/rayon/spandex blend shrug cover-up, in sizs S/M, M/L, and L/XL. $32.00 from Red Dress Shoppe.}

Similar in some ways to a cardigan in the sense that they're often fitted, cropped lightweight toppers, shrugs and bolero jackets are pieces that I reach for time and time again. Many are free of buttons/zippers/fasteners, made from comfortable materials, and are instantly evocative of the mid-twentieth century. I have knit shrugs in various neutral hues (black, navy, grey, white) and am cultivating a budding bolero jacket collection, the star of which so far is a chipper tomato red number from the late 50s or very early 60s.

These wardrobe gems are perfect for adding a layer of warmth and style to many looks, and are often all it takes to elevate a day ensemble to a more night time appropriate outfit. If you're not too keen on showing your upper arms either, they (along with cardigans) are amongst the best ways to easily wear strapless/short sleeve dresses without feeling conscious about exposing your bare skin.

~ Overalls/dungarees ~

{Custom made 1940s style factory girl overalls; sizing to order. Available for $96.00 from etsy seller Time Machine Vintage.}

Even though I usually tend to sport skirts and dresses, there are times when life is best suited to wearing pants. If the occasion is a more causal natured one, I love reaching for a pair of reproduction overalls (dungarees).

Free of a tight waistband (usually) - which is especially nice if you're sitting or reclining for longer periods of time - this classic farmer's garment offers plenty of coverage, the ease and durability of denim (or another sturdy fabric such as twill), plus a timelessly fun style that serves us vintage loving gals so well.

~ Camisoles ~

{1950s/60s nylon and lace camisole with embroidery; approximate size 34/36 C bust. Available for $34.99 from etsy seller Jewels4Pandas.}

While I've never been one to wear them as a garment all on their own (aka, as a top unto themselves), I don camisoles more days than not as a layering piece, often with a hint of their lace or edging intentionally showing around my neckline.

Most camisoles are very comfortable, weigh next to nothing, provide added modesty/coverage, and are fairly easy to put on, so long as you're to raise your arms above your shoulders. Vintage camisoles from the 20-50s are relatively easy to find, however many modern day styles do a great job of being thoroughly vintage appropriate as well and can blend in seamlessly with your older garments.

~ Wraps/stoles ~


{Ivory mink faux fur stole wrap; size fits up to a large. Available from etsy seller Old Into New Couture.}

Whenever you're in the mood to channel your inner glamour girl - or go full on diva - a wrap or stole is one of the quickest and most effective ways to do just that. Generally free of sleeves and (often) fasteners, these long, continuous pieces of fabric/fur/faux fur look beautiful wrapped around your arms and torso as a means of helping to keep cold weather at bay and look pin-up girl stylish at the same time.

Vintage wraps and stoles (especially velvet and fur ones) are not too tricky to come by, though they can sometimes fetch a pretty penny. Thankfully plenty of modern sellers offer timeless stoles and wraps that any old school Hollywood starlet would have been delighted to wear.

If you're looking for wraps in classic colours and cuts, check formal and bridal wear shops in your area, as most carry such garments or can easily bring them in for you.

~ Crinolines/pettiskirts ~

{White net petticoat crinoline; one size fit all, 27" length. Available for £40.00 for UK seller 20th Century Foxy.}

At first you might not think that crinolines would have made it onto a list like this, yet I've found that they are in fact one of the easiest, most comfortable (if you find the material of your crinoline be a bit scratchy, try wearing a slip or pair of stockings underneath to create a layer between the crinoline and your skin), and quickest ways I know of to inject a huge hit of 1950s style into an outfit.

Most crinolines (be they vintage or modern) have elasticized waists that allow for easy of movement and also possible fluctuations in body weight, and are also relatively light (we're not talking old-fashioned hop skirts here, just airy yards of tulle and/or chiffon).

I tend to like crinolines with a moderate/medium amount of poof to them, and which fall in the 26" to 28" range (if you're taller or shorter than me however, you may want to look for ones that are in turn a little longer or shorter in length). Often times I'll partner one of my crinis with a fuller skirted shirtwaist dress and a cardigan for an instant 1950s look that is wonderfully versatile (and comfortable) all year long.

~ Slip-on Flats ~

{Vintage Schiaparelli pastel pink leather ballet flats; shoe size 5 1/2. Available from etsy seller Magical Bee.}

Whether you pair them with cigarette pants, breezy sundresses, circle skirts, or sailor shorts, there's no limit to ways you can have fun with classic ballet inspired flats. Not only are they stylish, but slip-on flats are one of the easiest shoes to wear when walking or standing for long periods of time.

While it can sometimes take a little work to find a pair of flats that fit you to a tee, when you do, they're s comfy as a glove. In fact, I adore one pair of my (cotton, flexible soled) flats so much that when I need to pack a bag for an overnight hospital stay, I take them with me instead of slippers.

Be they vintage (1950s versions abound thanks to the rise in popularity this style of shoe saw after stars like Audrey Hepburn started wearing them on screen) or modern, flats are easy to find in all manner of price points, colours, and styles. From classic black to alluring leopard print, flats remain one of the best and most accommodating footwear choices I've ever encountered.

Many years ago, as soon as I knew that my health had taken a nose dive for which (baring cures being found for various conditions) I would never be able to pull back up from again, I vowed that I would not let my love of vintage fashion take a back seat to my medical problems.

Through trial and error, alterations, and with plenty of determination, I've been able to find a myriad of fantastic garments, accessories, and shoes that work for my own set of health parameters. Was it always easy? No, not at all, but even the most uncomfortable garment that I experimented with was still fun in a sense, because it helped fuel my sartorial fires and made me glad that I was keeping my passion for wearing vintage clothing going strong.

Over time, like most of us yesteryear loving folks, I've sourced wardrobe items from second hand shops, thrift and consignments stores; department, big box, boutique and specialty shops, as well as many pieces from online sources (especially etsy).

When I've been uncertain as to if a garment or pair of shoes would work for me once I got home and actually tried it/them on (or when my order arrived in the mail), I've verified about the store/seller's return policy beforehand and only purchased when I was comfortable with said policy.

Not only does the internet allow one to shop from the comfort of home, aside from teaming with vintage/reproduction clothing sellers, it is also a superb place to find sites that specialize in providing adaptive/hospital patient/nursing home/post surgical/home care/disabled/special needs clothing and footwear.

Though the garments on such sites are typically modern in styling, amongst their offerings you can often find classic staples like tailored blouses, camisoles and undergarments, comfy yet elegant footwear, and perpetually appealing outerwear.

Another important clothing option that more than merits mentioning is that of sewing your own garments. This is an avenue which I've not really ventured down yet, however if circumstances permit, I would like to do so one day.

Not everyone is physically able to sew their own clothing, yet some individuals with chronic health/special needs are, and if you fall into that camp, then you may find that tailoring a garment to your measurements and requirements right off the bat makes putting together your wardrobe considerably easier and less stressful.

If you're not able to (or have no desire to) sew yourself, another option is to commission someone else with the appropriate sewing skills to make garments (such as one created from a vintage sewing pattern) for you. If you're extra lucky, you might even have a talented sewer in the family who's willing and able to create clothing for you for free or at cost. Don't be shy to ask if you think such is the case, you'll never know unless you do.

It is my profound hope that this article will be of help and inspiration to many others out there like myself who both love vintage clothing and who are facing ongoing health problems that impact the wardrobe choices you make.

I welcome your questions and thoughts on this topic, whether in the comment section of this post or privately by email, and would absolutely love to know about the vintage/repro/vintage appropriate garments that you've found work best for you and your own health considerations.

From one chronically ill vintage fashionista to all others out there, remember, you are not alone and that you can always find a way to be as stylish as your heart desires! 


  1. Hi there,
    I really enjoyed your post. I just wanted to write that I am in my mid 20's as well living with arthrits and the past few years I have gone through several joint replacements that make it pretty near impossible to wear what I want too. no tights, certains types of shoes etc. So I really enjoyed your point of view on finding a style that works for what you can actaully wear and not get hung up on what you want to wear. Thanks again:)

    1. Hi daphne I don't know if you have heard of the easy as stocking applicator. My mum has one to help her put on compression stockings, which she usually has difficulty doing because her back problems make it hard for her to reach. Its ment more for trouser length stockings though.

    2. Thank you very much for adding this terrific suggestion, Natalie.

      ♥ Jessica

  2. I enjoyed your post very much. I wish there were some designers who would read it! Even though I do not have a disability, I love elastic waist skirts! So easy to make and put a T-shirt over them and who knows? And those pink ballet flats are adorable!



  3. This is SUCH an amazing post! You are an inspiration. My little sister was diagnosed with Crohn's disease on her 18th birthday and has been struggling with her "bad belly" and dressing it ever since. As a young, gorgeous girl, all she wants to do is run around in hip hugging jeans and tight little tops but there are a lot of rough days when only yoga pants and sports bras will do. I know from talking to her that being able to feel pretty on the outside when you feel yuck on the inside really helps boost a girl up on those hard days. x

  4. This is an excellent article. Many people are also living with health issues that are not obvious at a moment's glance yet affect their lives in many ways. I so agree that just because one has health problems, you don't have to live in sweatpants and tee shirts.
    I have a great deal of trouble finding shoes. Most inexpensive modern shoes are made so poorly, with little support for my weak arches and often swollen ankles, and therefore, are quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, alot of flats that are made these days (at least at the stores I can afford!) have no padding or structure. There has also been a trend that heels keep getting higher and higher. On the rare occassion I wear a heel, a few hours of 2 in heel is more than enough for me! So I'm still looking for shoes that are stylish and that don't make my feel hurt.

  5. Hi ladies, thank you each so much for your comments. I'm replying to all those who have a blog linked to their profile over at your own lovely sites, as I really want to address any specific points you've made in your comments and chat about the topics you brought up.

    @ Chissy88, I can relate, dear gal. My feet are not without their issues, too - chief amongst which is absurdly high arches that can make fitting into a lot of styles quite tricky. Recently however, I absolutely needed to get some comfortable shoes for our flight (when we moved from Ontario to B.C.), and found two pairs at Payless Shoes that are designed specifically for women who are on their feet a lot (such as servers, flight attendants, nurses, etc), so they offer more support then most run-of-the-mill pairs (yet they didn't cost the moon, I believe both were a hair under $50.00 each here in Canada).

    Both are from the same line (called SafeTstep) and are classic matte black: one pair is flats, the other have a subtle, totally walkable heel), and I've been living in them night and day ever since I bought them. They're hands down the most comfortable shoes I've owned in years - and they don't overtly look like work shoes in the least (you can see the heels in some of the shots from my black and blue shoot, here:

    Thank you each again very much for your comments. From the bottom of my heart, I wish all of you and your loved ones positive health and the ability to always wear lots of beautiful, comfortable vintage clothes.

    ♥ Jessica

  6. Hi, I found your blog via Andi B. Goode's Friday round up. This is such an amazing post. It sounds silly, but I never thought about how much I let my IBS affect what I wear. But after reading this I definitely realized I have, just as I developed a lifestyle/habits around my condition, let it creep in an own a bit of my personal style as well. These are really great tips and a very thoughtful article. I will definitely be following in the future!

  7. Thank you Jessica for your inspiring post. I have had a Stoma for 20 years as a result of IBD. Due to a horrific accident I have had multiple spinal surgeries with Chronic Pain as a result. If that's not enough after a routine Bunion operation a few years ago I almost (not quite) lost my right leg due to severe infection. I cannot wear tight fitting clothing due to my Stoma. I have also had to go for a size bigger and wider in shoes due to my now deformed right foot. I do not want sympathy just understanding and it was so nice to read your post this morning.

  8. Jessica, this was a VERY enlightening read. Wonderful in fact. As a Registered Nurse, I can relate to everything you have mentioned, paying particular attention to one important detail. Comfort. The everyday healthy person would not think about comfort in the form of clothing for the chronically ill. Wow...You have thought this problem out thoroughly!!! Bravo!! I will forward this wonderful page to a few people I know, who would benefit from all of your advise. Thank you Jessica, you're a doll!!

  9. this is a fabulous post, thank you so much for writing it. you've gone to so much detail, it must have taken so much time and energy to write! i appreciate it especially in regards to vintage, but it's wonderfully informative even for modern clothing.

    i feel like i dress so boring compared to the way i used to, i just don't have the energy anymore. but i think i still dress like ME! just not quite as flamboyant as i used to be! comfort is higher priority most days.

    i wear cotton tights (leggings?) just about every day, which lets me wear skirts made of vintage fabric without it bothering me, and means that i'm comfortable no matter what - no waistbands digging in, etc. i've also given up entirely on finding bras in my size in canada that aren't synthetic, so i wear a different size and add an extender.

    also, for shoes, i LOVE my crocs. i know, i know, crocs. but honestly, no one ever realizes that they're crocs. when i point it out, they don't believe me. they're just comfy black flats! and now crocs makes insoles, which are so awesome for cute shoes with no support.

  10. This was truly inspirational Jessica! I loved every word and it rang true in my heart. I have to wear special shoes and sneakers with my braces and for vintage dressing trousers are my main option. It can be fustrating bc none is it is cheap-the more special the needs the more cost. But I am fighting hard to be the 40s gal that I know I am. Thank you for sharing yourself this way and sharing your truth. Sending you a great big hug!!!! xox Bunny

  11. Jessica, wonderful informative post! thanks for providing the link for me. I remember reading it before, but back then I was in the attitude of "I can't" :( and also was getting ready to have my shoulder replacement. Cardigans or Bolero's would make it possible for me to wear sleeveless dresses again and not bare all my scars, good idea! Love the camisole idea too and I can't wait to check out the etsy shop with the 1940's style overalls!
    When it comes to shoes, most flats are akin to walking barefoot which is very painful. I need a lot of cushion because of damage from Rheumatoid disease, then I have the bothersome high arches as well... I read your comment to Chrissy88 and was excited to hear about the safetstep shoes from payless!It would be great to find comfy shoes that don't cost me and arm and a leg, lol. I once said I could never wear heels again, until I found the right pair, so maybe it will be true for flats too! Well,it sounds like you have as many challenges with your health as I do. I am guessing you have fibro like me. Sorry if I'm being too forward, it is a very uncomfortable condition and takes a lot of manangement. Thanks again, this was very helpful.

    1. Thank you very much, I'm so glad to know that you've found this post helpful. The information here may not apply to the bulk of the vintage wearing community, but to those that it does, I truly hope it can prove helpful. Each one of us battling chronic health problems and/or disabilities, will have our own set of challenges and circumstances to dress for/around, but there's absolutely no reason we can't still wear vintage, if we want to.

      Yes, I do have fibro and myofascial pain syndrome. They're two of more than a dozen different severe chronic illnesses that I do battle with every day. Generally speaking, I don't talk about my health problems here on CV very often or in any kind of intimate detail, as that's not what I want the focus of this blog to be (it - my blog - is actually all about giving me an outlet in my life that's not focused on my health!), but there are times such as this post when doing so important because my experience may be able to help others in similar situations.

      Wishing you positive health & tons of fun wit your journey into wearing vintage. I'm always here if you need someone to talk about medical or vintage related topics.

      ♥ Jessica

  12. I did notice that you don't go into the illness's on the blog, sometimes we just want to forget, focus on something fun, and pretend we're not sick for a change, I so get that!! I have those 2 fun syndromes too. I'm thrilled to finally meet someone that actually knows that myofascial pain syndrome and fibro are two separate problems which can go together but not always! I started out with just the MPS albeit diagnosed by myself since the doc's here didn't know the difference between that and fibro. I live in a small town and it was a long time ago, before these illnesses were ever talked about much in mainstream medicine.
    So I'll not go into the illnesses here anymore, I respect that, but appreciate you sharing with me what you have, thank you, :) :) and take care

    1. Hello my dear, thank you for commenting again on this post. I'm sorry that you face both of these challenging conditions everyday as well. They really do have a profound and far reaching effect on one's life.

      I don't ever pretend that I'm not sick (to my mind, doing so would imply that I was ashamed of my health problems, something which I am not all), however I do like to keep the focus of this blog on other topics the vast majority of the time. I'm a very private person, generally speaking, and really do not like to complain or lament about the cards I've been dealt (instead I like to do whatever I can take care of myself, count my blessings, and look for a silver lining in even the worst situations), so there's little sense in talking about the specifics of my health here very often. This blog is about vintage first and foremost, even though the gal behind it has a rather hefty number of medical problems.

      Wishing the most positive health possible,
      ♥ Jessica

  13. Lovely piece of writing, full of stylish and wonderful suggestions!
    A cardigan over pajamas for surprise guests always feels better than a dressing gown, and better for sitting up in bed on cold days.
    Long, pleated vintage skirts look good and I find them comfortable and cool in hot weather (bonus hiding hairy legs!)
    My lifestyle (aka mostly at home and taking several naps during the day due to fibro and cfs) means I have a cupboard full of beautiful things that I hardly wear but I've been delving in to find ways to wear them.
    Silk scarves are great on bad hair days and look pretty glamorous with a pair of big sunglasses.
    My friend made me a gorgeous skort, as it fits perfectly, it is so comfortable and looks adorable so I wear it when expecting guests.

    A tip for more comfortable shoes: buy them a size larger and put a lambs wool innersole in, works especially well in ballet flats that can sometimes be a little flimsy and thin-soled.

    Sending you lots of good wishes!

    1. Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing some of your great tried and true tips with us. It's interesting that you mentioned flats, because I actually find personally, that more often than not, I find heels (assuming they're comfortable to begin) with easier and less painful for me to walk in a lot of the times than flats. That said, when one finds a great pair of flats that are comfortable, they can be like an extension of your own feet and the perfect go-to shoe for almost any setting.

      Thank you again, my dear. Wishing you positive health and much happiness!

      ♥ Jessica

  14. Hi,
    I really enjoyed this article. I just recently I wrote a 2-part post on the subject of dressing for a chronic illness. I mentioned this article because I found it to be very interesting.
    This is the link if you want to check it out:
    Thanks for the good words.

  15. Hi Jessica,
    I only recently discovered ypur blog and just stumbled across this artical. I may be a bit late on the bandwagon, but I found this article very helpful and moving. I have had M.E for eleven years and have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalia, so I can empathise with what you have to go through every day. I have always found that making the effort (and sometimes it is a huge effort) to wear pretty clothea and a bit of makeup when possible is hugely important to help me to keep positive. My thinking tends to be if I feel well enough to do things, I will be ready!
    Knowing that you have so much tlo contend with makes me appreciate your blog all the more. You are achieving something good with evey post you do, and you should feel very proud of that. Keep going. I will be thinking of you and wishing you all the best.

    1. Hi Jenny dear, thank you very much for your understanding comment. I'm deeply sorry to know that FMS is now amongst one of the medical conditions that you battle as well. It (not unlike ME in some ways) really a condition of a hundred (or more!) symptoms and one that unto itself can be incredibly challenging to deal with at the best of times. Add in other conditions (I have more than a dozen myself) and the mix only becomes more of an uncertain, difficult matter to contend with. It sounds like you share my upbeat view on life and making the best of things despite major medical issues and I admire that about you immensely.

      Keep fighting the good fight yourself, too, and please always know that I am here if you ever need someone to talk to about anything (health related or otherwise).

      Gentle hugs & unending understanding,
      ♥ Jessica

  16. I love this post! I have Fibromyalgia and while most of the time I'm flare free, soft and light clothing are important when I am flare as my skin becomes so sensitive and everything is painful.

    Thank you for also sharing your story. I believe people need to hear these stories to help them understand not every illness is visible.

  17. I can't believe I've just read this. What a refreshing and inspiring post. Though I may not suffer from as many illness or ailments as others but I really appreciate what it feels like to live each day uncomfortably!!
    I just hope that all who have a daily struggle, find a way to help themselves get through it :) x x
    I was born with dislocated hips and, even though they were placed back, I've always had issues with them : from random displacements, numbing, joint locks & trapped sciatica but I now have more back pain due to it! I know (to a point) how frustrating it can be being in pain all day long. I find it difficult to find appropriate shoes for me. Shoes that are too flat cause pain and don't even get me started on the insane height of the heels worn nowadays!

    1. Hi Victoria, thank you very much for your caring comment. I'm truly sorry that you've had to battle medical issues and chronic pain your whole life. It really is incredibly taxing to life in chronic pain every second of the day. That's been my life, too, for well over 13 years now and will be until I breathe my last. So many of us are in this challenging position and have the utmost of strength for finding the ability to live with it and still find reasons to smile, thrive and get the best that we can out of life.

      Please know that I'm always here if you need someone who can relate to talk to about anything.

      Gentle hugs and the utmost of understanding,
      ♥ Jessica

  18. I'm having a bad day,health wise,today.Found your blog and your writing on people with medical needs was,so obviously,written by someone who really understands it made me feel not alone and definitely understood. I have a long term deteriorating condition and if I'm bad I to can't get was lovely ,in the middle,of reading about vintage to find a post so understanding.thank you for making me feel not alone.

    1. Dear Mo, with all my heart, I'm sincerely sorry that you're going through an especially challenging time on the health front. Thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing a little bit about your medical struggles with me.

      Please know that I am always here if you need someone to talk to about anything in the world and that, as you said, you are never alone in the slightest.

      Gentle hugs & the utmost of understanding,
      ♥ Jessica