Ever look in your closet and think, “what am I going to wear”? Well it happens to me daily. The changes in my body since my diagnosis have made fashion the enemy. Six spinal fractures, and a complete loss of my figure and old height have made shopping a dreaded chore.
Was I a clothes horse before? No, not really. I was more about comfort than style, but I knew that if an occasion presented itself for me to get dressed up in a dress, a business suit or just going out on a date with my husband, I never feared that I could pull it off. Some things were on the do not wear list – like capri pants, (hippy girls shouldn’t wear these), but most anything else was ok.
Oh how things have changed…
Last year I had the opportunity to go to a fancy function at a high end restaurant. I was thrilled to be able to go – it’s hefty price tag well out of my reach, but a friend who was being honored put out the fee so I could go. When the invitation was presented to me I was thrilled, and grateful… but then I started to think the most cliched question any woman throughout time had asked herself —- “WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR??”
I scoured my closet, nothing. I knew I couldn’t borrow anything either. Before my diagnosis I was taller than most of my friends and that, coupled with my athletic shape made the possibility of borrowing anything from anyone unlikely, now after my diagnosis, my loss of height, the crooked shape of my spine made borrowing anything impossible.
I went to a store with another friend who was also going and she found her dress immediately. I tried on 20+ dresses and nothing fit. Not the loose dresses, not the more snug ones, not the retro-styles, nor the current styles. Not one worked, not even close. It was very demoralizing. I was so upset. I actually sat down in the dressing room and felt like crying. Maybe I did, a little.
But I don’t let things get me down for long, I put on my positive thought hat and said “Ok, no dress. Lets try a skirt and blouse, or dressy slacks and a blouse, I’ll figure something out.”
But my friend wasn’t about to give up yet. She made me go to another store. I didn’t want to go. I really didn’t. Another session of not finding anything was going to bring me down again. I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I had made my skirt and blouse decision and I was happy to do that. She argued that I wouldn’t be dressy enough, I thought I could find something appropriate.
She said “one last place and then I’ll let you be.” So off we went.
She pulled another 30 dresses off the racks and brought them to me in the dressing room and again nothing worked. I was getting down. It shouldn’t be this hard should it? An hour later we were still there and I was wishing I could just leave already. But then she brought in one more dress. She said, “this is the one. I can feel it.” I wasn’t so sure, but ok I’ll try it. Like a child I asked if I could leave if it actually wasn’t the one… She said I could. Now that was good news.
I tried it on. It was dark blue, with some glittery thread in the skirt, the top part was blousy so it didn’t show off my back and my shortened torso. But it was the wrong size, she ran back out and found the right size. It fit. It looked good. I couldn’t believe it. The tears this time were happy ones.
The day of the function I dressed in my new dress, I wore heels, I put on my wig, and my make-up was just right. I went and had a wonderful time. I felt I looked like a million bucks, my confidence was through the roof. I would’ve worn a skirt and blouse and been fine but this dress and the fact that it fit was important. For my self esteem of course but also for keeping my positive attitude intact.
Big thanks to my friend JoAnne who wouldn’t give up. Big thanks also to the “powers that be” for putting this dress out there so we could find it. I hope the next time I need an outfit all the planets line up and I’m able to find another. But just in case I’m going to make sure I have JoAnne with me to search.
by Norma Pitzer-Kelly