Clothes make the woman

Apart from the obvious challenges of wearing a prosthesis, I’ve discovered a few around my clothes. I gave away anything that was too tight to fit over the bionic leg, which included short skirts, skin-fitting pants and dresses. There are a couple of beautiful long dresses I would love to keep – hip-hugging Chinese ‘cheongsams’ – but they won’t even pull up or down over the leg, so they’ll have to go too.

Gradually I’m assembling a wardrobe of mainly long skirts in different colours, with a variety of tops to match. I’ve kept my favourite track suits as they are my preferred garb for relaxing around the house, but I have to allow extra time for getting dressed, since the pants require the elaborate process of putting them first on the good leg, putting on the shoe, threading the prosthesis through the other leg, then attaching its harness to me before pulling the pants up around my waist. Undressing involves reversing the process.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find long skirts that are the right colour, size, length and shape. I’m 5 ft 3 ins, so I usually get petite sizes 4 or 6. Most are the pencil-thin style or else flared below the hip, which doesn’t work for me, and few are short enough for me not to  trip over the hem, or worse, get the fabric caught in the brakes of the rollator. As for the colour, it’s usually Henry Ford’s choice – black!

After checking stores throughout the Internet, as well as in the neighbourhood, I have ended up designing and making my own crochet skirts. This serves the dual purpose of keeping my hands busy while I listen to music or watch TV, and supplementing the wardrobe. One of the first things I did after the amputation was to crochet a couple of ‘caps’ for Beluga, my stump, to keep her head warm when I take off the leg: an open-weave cotton one for spring / summer and  a woollen one for fall / winter. She’s the best-dressed stump in the West!

For footwear, in winter I wear a pair of flat black ankle boots with rubber soles and velcro fastening. They are really warm, comfortable and easy to put on and take off. I had to forgo my other boots because the left one wouldn’t go over the fixed ankle on the prosthesis. In spring and summer I alternate between sandals with velcro straps and lace-up walking shoes, both flat. We discovered the hard way that any shoe with even a small heel requires an adjustment to the titanium knee, or else I tip over when I stand up, never mind walk! Since that adjustment involves going back to the supplier of the prosthesis, best to keep to flats.

Any handbags of the clutch type have gone the way of the tight clothes. Now I only use the shoulder bag type that I can sling round my neck and shoulder, across the chest, leaving both hands free to grip the rollator. It’s not the height of fashion, but then I never did care much for the ‘in’ styles, and even less now. Besides, my mother always recommended having a few good clothes in classic lines, so that they never go out of fashion. Wise woman!

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