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Keeping the Bandbox

November 9, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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I was brought up to dress well and be neat to as a pin. I wore uniforms to school and we changed to other clothes immediately after. My mother taught us to be well turned out even though we could not spend a lot of money on clothes. I always took time to take care of my clothes by giving them a careful press when needed. My appearance was always important to me.




After I became disabled I could no longer wear the pretty shoes that I loved. I soon stopped wearing dresses because it was too difficult to transfer in and out of a vehicle with any type of dignity. I had to wear sensible oxford shoes which were not nearly snazzy enough for a twenty something young lady. Slacks covered my brace and made it less noticeable. I was always silly enough to think that braces could be more fashionable. A brown leather brace cuff just was not very cute. But I learned to adapt and to wear what was necessary. I always tried to make my face and hair my focus.




The attractive and functional clothing I needed was sometimes difficult to find. I needed slacks with an elastic waist that could be easily pulled up. In the late 60s it was hard for me to find attractive washable clothing. Most fabrics then were permanent press and the early polyesters. Many times these washable fabrics were styled for older women and it was challenging to make them look younger for me. Since my mother thought I was too conservative she frequently bought me trendier clothes. Sometimes I asked her to return them because I did not feel comfortable with the styles she chose.




In the 70s jeans were everyday wear but their zippers disallowed them for me. It became harder to find functional clothing. Catalog shopping was disappointing because clothes look great in print but could look quite different when seen in person. So I needed to have my slacks made. I found a universal pattern that would work for dress or casual and had several pairs of slacks made each season. Then I would buy coordinating tops at department stores. I preferred pull on tops because I felt they made me look better. They were also better to wear when sitting in a wheelchair.




When I went back to work in my mid-80s, pull on pants were easier to find and I bought blazers and jackets to go with them. Over time I gained some weight and found that a long day resulted in swelling and blazers became constricting. I decided to go with knit tops and open armed cable knit vests. These made me feel professional and comfortable at the same time. In the early 90s I saw a catalog of adaptive clothing for wheelchair users and was shocked at the prices. Since I did not need the special higher waists, I did not buy them.




When I came to the nursing home, I did not have appropriate clothing. My slacks were washable but many of my tops had to be dried flat. I needed different clothing and had to experiment with sizes so that my clothes did not shrink in the laundry. When I had no way to shop, my sister bought my clothing. Since she bought more expensive clothing, I tended to leave them hanging in the closet. Activities did have a vendor come who sold a few items of clothing. I ended up buying polyester blend shirts and fleece tops. After a few years here my sister said she was tired of seeing me in sweatshirts. But they were the most sensible winter clothing for nursing home wear.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...