"Disabled" and "frumpy" are not synonyms

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Rachel has fibromyalgia and arthritis in her lower back. She has a hard time getting around, and recently got a scooter, to help her get through her busy day as a homeschooling mom of three. Rachel's style dilemma is this:

I'm ok(ish) looking frumpy. I'm ok(ish) looking disabled. I'm NOT OK looking both.

So what do I wear? And how do I do it super-cheap, as since I became chronically ill, we lost my (small, but significant) monthly income AND added over $100 monthly in medications alone.

Tops
First things first: Rachel should start with a bra fitting. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: a bra that fits properly can change your entire look. For Rachel, having proper support will also be a comfort issue. Let's just say that unless you have had a bra fitting in, oh, the past two years, you need to go have one. Yes, you. Do it. You will thank me.

Rachel should choose tops in colors she loves, because this will draw attention to her beautiful face. She should think also about interesting necklines; instead of a conventional turtleneck, for example, she can look for a cowel neck; in lieu of a crewneck tee she could choose a boatneck top.

Rachel can shop end-of-season sales for interesting tees and sweaters, particularly since most "end" of season sales happen mid-season. Even though she's on a budget, she should look for well-constructed pieces in fabrics that will last, rather than going with very cheap ones. We're all better off with a few things that fit well and look great than with a whole closet of things that are falling apart or are too tight or too big.

Rachel wants to look for jackets and coats that hit her at the hip when she is sitting down; anything longer and she will constantly be wrestling with it. A shorter jacket will hang better because Rachel won't be sitting on it; it will also be easier to put on and take off, and to store in the scooter's basket. She should look for a jacket with a strong collar, to draw attention up to her face; she should also think about a a neutral color, something that will go with every top she owns. Remember that neutral doesn't just mean black; Rachel might want to look for something in a cream or ivory, for example, or a beautiful charcoal gray. A tweed jacket is also a great option for everyday.

Bottoms
Because Rachel is often in pain, she wants to go with clothes that are comfortable and don't require a lot of effort. For everyday, Rachel needs some great black yoga pants, something soft and cozy. She should steer clear of the velour track suit, though, for what I hope are obvious reasons. Old Navy carries some very versatile yoga and lounge pants, in stretch cotton, that won't break the bank. Another plus: Old Navy offers $5.00 shipping on all orders, and returns can be made in store. Rachel should order the size she thinks she needs and one size up and one size down; she can try the pieces on at home, when she's feeling good, and return whatever doesn't fit. That's worth five dollars.

She can pair her yoga pants with a beautiful sweater and pair of comfortable flat athletic shoes; she will look pulled together and grown up without feeling fussy or uncomfortable. I wear my yoga pants with a cashmere sweater and a pair of Berne Mev mules more often than I like to let on.

For a dressier option, Rachel can look for pants in soft fabrics with a wider leg and a drawstring waist. For winter, she can look for a nice wool blend trouser; for summer, something in a linen blend. She should avoid anything that will wrinkle terribly, though, because she will be sitting down quite a bit.

Rachel should avoid long, flowy skirts; the potential for the skirt to get caught in the scooter is frightening to me. Instead, she should look for a great A-line skirt that falls just below the knee; when she tries it on, she wants to be sure that she sits down in it and checks where the hemline will hit her. She should go with a soft fabric, something that will drape nicely, not a stiff denim or cotton. The last thing Rachel wants to be doing is constantly pulling at her skirt, trying to keep herself covered.

Rachel should stick with darker colors on the bottom, to direct attention up to her beautiful face, and distract attention from her scooter. Choosing dark pieces for the bottom, in classic neutrals, also gives her wardrobe longevity; black or navy pants are always stylish.

Accessories
Because the focus will be on Rachel's top half, she should make accessories part of her everyday wardrobe. A beautiful necklace or a pretty pair of earrings can make even yoga pants and a tee feel special.

target tote

Rachel also asked about what kind of handbag to carry. She is looking for something that can carry "an epi-pen for my three year old, my wallet and meds, and still look cool in the front basket of a scooter." What she needs is a cute tote bag, something big enough to accommodate the necessities but not so huge that she can't carry it or store it easily in the scooter's basket. Old Navy has this tie dye tote for $19.50; Target has some terrific canvas totes for $9.99. The tote pictured is also available in white canvas with yellow or green handles.

Susan Wagner writes about fashion at Friday Style and about everything else at Friday Playdate. Feel free to ask her YOUR style questions: fridaystyle.susan AT gmail.com.

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