Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Fashion And The Wheelchair

Part of dressing up worked well yesterday; I felt good about the way I was dressed and enjoyed the time in nice clothes. Part of dressing up did not work well yesterday; I discovered that the swelling in my feet means none of my good shoes fit anymore. It was not a real surprise that my shoes didn't fit; I expected that even though I had hoped for something vaguely resembling success.

My expensive, fancy shoes that I bought a few weeks before my diagnosis have only been worn a couple of times. They are "fashionable", one pair an Italian design with long toed fronts and the other a classic brogue. Both were purchased to fit; neither does these days. The more durable Walmart shoes I wore almost every day to work are a larger, more generically sized shoe with bigger uppers. At least my right foot could get into the right shoe, albeit with substantial discomfort, so much so that I didn't even bother with my left foot.

After an series of attempts and adjustments, I had to admit that these shoes no longer fit my feet. The changed shape thanks to lack of walking and standing along with the swelling from edema mean my feet are too big for these shoes. So it was back into my trusty running shoes, the footwear that is now an integral part of my daily ensemble. Unfortunately the whole effect of nice clothes is somewhat diminished by running shoes.

Another lesson was brought home to me yesterday, once again. I have often wondered why people in wheelchairs tend to dress down so much, myself included. I was reminded yesterday that being in a wheelchair is a fundamentally dusty and dirty business. There's a lot of dirt out there. It covers the ground and everything else with a thin layer of dust, something we work hard to eradicate from our homes. Unfortunately outside there is no eradication; it's a dirty world out there.

Dust and dirt are a challenge in the wheelchair because you use your hands for mobility, touching the rims and wheels which in turn come in close contact with the ground beneath. When you walk, you lift your feet and move about, keeping your hands free, as well as most of your body, from the dirt and dust below. Only the wind brings it up about. In a wheelchair the very motion brings your hands into close contact with the grime of daily life, touching it with every push of the wheel.

I wear gloves to keep my hands clean. Unfortunately the dust and dirt collects on my gloves. When I rest my hands in my lap, tired from the constancy of pushing or taking a break while others push me around, that dust transfers from my hands to my lap, making my pants dirty in the process. No matter what I do, the area of my pants where my hands come to rest is always dirty. Some pants, in particular my darker coloured jeans, hide the dirt well. Others, like nice dress pants, show the dust and dirt in all its glory.

Dressing up while in a wheelchair means you get your nice clothes dirty all the sooner. So the best thing to wear is clothes that hide the dust and dirt, or a highly unfashionable lap pad or cover. Add to that the challenge of getting dressed sitting down, and suddenly dark sweatpants seem a highly desirable option. Fashion and wheelchairs just don't make a good pair.

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