MS is a funny old thing. Not funny-haha, but funny-odd. When I was diagnosed, a hundred years ago, I still worried about what I look like. Now, not so much. When I was 17, I used to wear really pretty dresses, honestly I did. I’ve never been one for pancaking my face in makeup, but I would wear eyeshadow and a bit of mascara, lipstick, just a bit, and I hope I looked okay. I wore high-heeled strappy shoes, open toe, I even wore them on country walks, (Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, remember those horrible red platform shoes?!) Even after my diagnosis in 1981, I could stand, walk and I looked okay.
Now, clothes have lost their appeal for me. I still like to shop, but I can’t imagine myself wearing them anymore. I pick up a nice top, it looks good on the hanger, but in my mind, I’m thinking, “This isn’t smock-y enough to cover my ever-increasing belly.” I spot an attractive shirt/blouse, and immediately think, “Someone will have to button that up for me,” and worse, “Andy will have to unbutton it at night.” Patience isn’t his strong suit. I pick up a pair of colourful trousers and I’m thinking, “Are they stretchy enough?” And so it goes on. I’m sorry to say that my dress-sense these days is stretchy black trousers, a long sleeved t-shirt, because I feel the cold, and a large jumper to cover all lumps and bumps.
If I had any advice for a newly diagnosed warrior, it would be the same as I was told when I was new to this: watch what you eat, it’s easy to eat for comfort. Watch what you drink, drowning your sorrows isn’t good for MS or your liver. Keep moving. If you can’t move your legs, move your arms. If you can’t move either, wave your hands, at least people will think that you’re friendly. And smile. There’s always someone worse off. Back to the clothes.
I would love to design my own range of outfits which would fit all of us wheelchairs users. Anything except black. As colourful as possible, but designed to accommodate all our unusual shapes and sizes. My models would be chosen from the high street, not stick thin willowy size 6s. Shoes would not be provided by the NHS, rather by young aspiring Jimmy Choo apprentices. There is definitely an opportunity young designers to seize the chance to shine and fill a gap in a niche market.