Rheumatoid arthritis can make wrestling with buttons, clasps and zippers frustrating and difficult. Your aching hands and stiff fingers might not always want to cooperate – especially when you’re in a hurry or want to look your best for a special event.
“Having arthritis doesn’t mean you need to forgo fashion or stick to easy-to-put on sweat pants and t-shirts,” says fashion guru and co-host of TLC’s reality show “What Not to Wear” Clinton Kelly, 41. He should know, too, since Kelly has close friends and family members including a grandmother, with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet.
But Kelly says your closet doesn’t have to be your enemy. “There are many fashionable, comfortable clothing options. And you should have them in your closet so you can prepare for days when you might not feel well but can still look great,” he says.
Here’s how Kelly says you can look – and feel – fashionable from top-to-toe days when arthritis leaves you feeling achy or stiff.
Kelly says many “fussy fabrics” like silk, linen and linen can be difficult to work when your fingers are sore or your wrists are stiff. “Those fabrics need a lot of care and maintenance.” That’s why he suggests garments made of microfiber jersey, a soft, synthetic and durable fabric that’s stretchy, breathable and worry-free. “You can pack it or roll it into a ball and put it into a bag and it’ll still have shape without wrinkles,” says Kelly. Most department and clothing stores carry an array of garments made of microfiber jersey. “It really is a woman’s best fashion friend,” says Kelly.
And since microfiber jerseys hold color and shape very nicely, clothes made of the fabric are easy on your wallet, too. “They will continue to look great and have a long life,” says Kelly.
A faux-wrap dress made of microfiber jersey looks like it’s a wrap-around but doesn’t require tying is a great option for work, dinner out, or church. “You can pull it over your head to skip zippers, buttons, tying sashes or buckling belts. Because they’re a bit “stretchy”, you can also step into many other styles of microfiber dresses to get dressed in a snap.”
For special occasions like weddings and cocktail parties, Kelly suggests a “little black dress” made of microfiber jersey. “You can dress it up with jewelry, scarves, etc.,” Kelly says.
Microfiber jersey is great in a top, too. One that slips over your head – instead of having buttons – speeds up getting dressed while being kind to your joints. “It’s very important to look for clothes that go over your head or that you can step into and pull on. They’re very versatile and easy to work with on days you’re not feeling your best,” Kelly says.
“Look for trousers with a side or back elastic panel instead of a zipper. They can be pulled on like sweatpants so they’re comfortable and easy.” These slacks, which are available in many fabrics, often have a top button, but Kelly says elastic panel lets you keep them buttoned on the hanger in your closet to slip them on and off.
In fall and winter, Kelly suggests opting for tights versus hose or “nylons”. “They’re easier to put on and can often be much more comfortable. They’re also not as fragile as hose so you can grab on the end and pull instead of wrangling with inching hose up your leg,” Kelly says. Any other time, he says skip hose. “Unless your job requires you to wear them, there’s no reason to wrestle with putting them on.”
Finish off your look with a slip-on shoe, which Kelly says is comfortable and look great with any outfit. Not having ties or buckles makes them easy to get on and off – often without bending down. “When you’re shoe-shopping, remember just because a shoe looks uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it is,” he says. So don’t rule out a shoe based its looks, try it on. “You just might be surprised at how it feels.” That goes for heels, too. “High heels don’t have to be painful. Try several pair on to find one that feels great,” says Kelly.
Spice up your wrist with bracelets that have elastic in them instead of needing a toggle to put them on. Kelly says they don’t look like there’s elastic in them, but you can slip your hand right in them to have bold jewelry on the wrist.
Look for long necklaces that you can slip over your head. “They’re easy to put on and get off,” says Kelly. Create the trendy look of a multi-strand necklace by using a longer one and doubling or tripling it. “With colorful strands around your neck, you can forgo fighting with putting earrings on,” he adds.
Kelly says having clothes that look good on you, can help you triumph over your RA. “When you look good, you’ll naturally feel good.” That good feeling will help you stick to your health care regimen and scheduled therapies.