Dressing for LFW with Health Issues

In yesterday’s LFW post I briefly touched upon how tough partaking in the events and shows can be for someone with health issues like mine. It got me thinking about the collision of fashion and health, and how some of us our making decision about our style based or influence by our personal ailments.

Blogs and magazine are constantly informing/attempting to dictate what we should/could be wearing each season. Due to how this well steamed fashion system works, with magazines communicating the trends, and catwalks informing the buyers and designers for high streets stores, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s celebrity’s, bloggers, and the catwalks (with a bit of our own style notes of course) that are solely responsible for the looks we decide to showcase during our days at fashion week.

However, I’ve learned that there are more, and rather less glamorous things having an influence on what I wear, and yesterday’s outfit was a perfect example of that.

I was having a huge IBS flare up, and had a very un-fashion week paunch protruding to a noticeable extent. It’s not like it was soft and I could just try to squash it down, it was solid as if an alien being was living inside..trying to send the odd message to it’s planet via embarrassing gurgles and dropping noises. The form fitting, body con outfit I had planned in my head when having my usual bed based planning session before falling asleep was just not gonna work. 

So instead I turned to one of my faithful smock dresses. Intentionally oversized and sack-like in shape it would be perfect for masking the visible evidence of my IBS for the day, while still being an acceptable fashion choice. It’s more a cute choice than a sexy one, so I decided to add some oomph via some racy animal print boots and a hint of western style via a bandana scarf and black hat from Glamorous.

I’ve always sacrificed some style due to my dodgy feet and my inability to wear heels without feeling like I was going to break both ankles or have to deal with feeling like I had permenant cramp. There’s been plenty of times I fallen in lust with a pair of shoes but known there’s no point in making a purchases however strong the chemsitry is between us, because I wouldn’t be able to last more than a minute in them. There have also been numerous times where I’ve adandoned an outfit because I know that it’s one that requirse a lift from an impressive pair of heels, and that’s something I’m just not capable of.

My acne. and violent allergic reactions have also had a considerable effect on how I’ve dressed over the years. On numerous occasions they’ve been a great cause of stress when they’ve chosen to be particularly present and I’ve not have the luxury of being able to choose an alternative outfit that will hide these embarrassing and very un-trendy breakouts.

I’ve had numerous bouts of extremely noticeable allergic reactions that have covered my chest, neck, and back and brought me out in hives or cystic spots . On these days, you pretty much want to fester under your duvet all day and avoid all reflective surfaces, as well as all human eyes. Sods law, these unfortunate reactions often happen when you have to be out amongst the people, and not just any people, the most glamourous and ‘beautiful’. 

Due to it’s unpredictable nature and cruel timing, you won’t have time to formulate an equally fashion alternative that covers the offending areas. Instead you’ll have to don a lackluster outfit who ends up being more function over style, which definitely not the emphasis you want at fashion, particularly when you are a fashion blogger.

How I wear my hair is also often influenced, not just by fashion or what would work best with the ensemble, but how my skin is on that given day. As a paranoid acne sufferer I have always relied on my hair as a shield against gazing eyes. I feel like it almost works like a filter, and will sightly blur the bumps if constantly moving in front of my face. I guess it’s a form of distraction too. On the really bad skin days though I dip my head and allow the parted hair to meet at the front, as if the curtains have closed on the theatre show that is my face. It probably actually draws more attention to me as people will probably find it bizarre that a girl appears tto be desperately trying to make IT from the Addams Family big in the fashion game. It’s also making the issue at hand worse too, as hair rubbing on the face will only anger the skin more.

So for me it’s these three things that have the main hold over what I’ll be wearing at LFW. My IBS: if it’s a volitile day I will likely avoid tight clothing, particularly those waistbands that rest firmly on my stomach, and anything white….you don’t need me to explain that one! And it’s also about not wearing anything that makes my joints and limbs any more painful than they already are due to CFS, and finally, having a hairstyle than doesn’t make me feel vulnerable because it exposes my bumpy skin.

So when I was thinking about my health issues and their effects on my style, it got me pondering what other people may be considering when they choose their LFW outfits.

I have some friends who have scars due to accidents, operations and self harm. Some embrace them and actually actively choose to show them off as they see them as stories to share, tales from their personal history if you will. Some choose to expose them to make a statement and encourage others not to hide there own. And many of them see them as a form of decoration in the same way they do a tattoo.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of people that view these marks as a source of shame, or consider it to be a feature than diminishes their attractiveness…even though the thruth is that they only enhance their unique beauty. These people tend to seek out clothes that cover or disguises. They know the insecurity they will feel if they choose to wear an outfit, or adopt a trend, that exposes that issue that makes them feel vulnerable or less- than. God knows you already feel judged enough at fashion week, you can understand why many don’t want to showcase the part of them that they may like the least – the part they believe makes them an outcast in the ‘perfect’ world of fashion.

I was thinking about how diversifying the catwalk may help in some way – in a recent  In recent years we have definitely seen a few more designers casting models that challege the perception of typical fashion week beauty. In Milan this year designer Moto Guo sent his models down the runway showing extremely visible acne. There’s even specific modelling agencies for these ‘ugly’ models. Of course we are seeing more size ranges on the catwalk too, although no way near enough.

Models like Winnie Harlow prove that you can look different to the majority and that it can actually be a great a positive thing. Her stunning pattered skin which has formed due to a skin condition called Vitiligo has made her one of the most in demand models in 2016. My friend Grant, who suffers with the condition, is constantly talking about her (he has a bit of a crush), but it’s the effect she’s had on the acceptance and awareness of the skin condition that’s made the most impact on him. He’s incredibly proud to say that he has the same condition as the superstar models, and now wears his unique markings with honour.

I often say I’d like to see models who have these visible health issues or disabilities on the catwalk so we are reiterating to the world, but also the young who are gazing at the catwalk shots in an aspirational manner, the message that beauty comes in many different forms.

However, being fairly cynical and jaded, after years in the world of fashion and media, I do worry that some people will cast such models for personal gain, rather than purely trying to have a positive impact on the fashion industry moving forward and the perception of beauty the world-over. They’ll know that having these less predictable models would be great for media coverage and tabloid inches and I would hate for any to feel like they’ve been used as a gimmick.

It’s such a shame that thought should even factor in this day and age. This shouldn’t even be a thing to ponder in a blog post, it should be happening, and we shouldn’t even be thinking anything of it.

I’m hoping the rise of Winnie, will encourage other designers to think outside their usual or so hot right now’ box when casting, and we will see more diversity in terms, gender, race, disability, size….well, pretty much everything really.

Despite designers seeking out innovation, uniqueness, difference, ‘the new’, and making sure everyone knows how good they are at doing so, there’s a hell of a lot of repetition, influences from the past and trends that reliably show up everyother season or more – think Military, florals, gothic, nautical etc.

You designers (if you’re reading this), you have the power to really make your mark. You’re always harking on about being fashion forward, so let’s really see this forward thinking. Yes, okay, new technology when it comes to the fabric you use is all well and good, and I’m as happy as anyone to hear there’s clothing that can make you sweat less. Sure, I’m impressed with the details laser cutting can create. But come on….let’s do something bigger, and far more important.

Wear the trousers and make a statement with you catwalk casting and advertorials. Doff your hat to diversity and mix things up a bit.

Put yourself in someone else shoes and realise you have the power to make people feel more comfortable in their skin…and clothes.

Sorry for getting in to a rant…I just had something to get off my spotty chest.

What I Wore

Glamorous Hat (from ASOS)

Boohoo Denim Dress

Zara Boots

Primark Neck Scarf

I’d love to hear from you guys more in the comments, so please feel free to let me know your ideas on how the fashion world can progress?

1 Comment

  1. September 28, 2016 / 9:21 am

    Great post Sophie, it's nice to see an honest post from a fashion/media insider talking about how health issues can affect personal style. I have IBS and back issues, and have adapted my wardrobe over the years to fit in with my off days, without compromising on my personal style too much (anyone else go up an entire dress size with the bloating?!). Ideas of perfection and aesthetics are changing in the fashion industry – I've seen a huge shift in the last 10 years towards a much more fluid idea of beauty (more variety in body shape, bust size and skin tone on the British scene at the very least), and an eye towards a globalised aesthetic in fashion, although there is still a long way to go and it is still by no means an equal or fair playing field.

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