Women In Clothes: Quotes on Life, Health and Fashion

Posted on January 27, 2015

I have many friends with varying chronic illnesses; CIDP, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, you name it. Most (if not all) of their illnesses are considered ‘invisible‘. Were you to run into any one of my friends, you would not know the battle they are waging on the inside. You would probably think they look well rested and healthy. These friends all have distinct styles. Distinct preferences for fabrics, tailoring and fit. To say that their style has evolved around their illness is to underestimate the power of our wardrobe. What touches me is how each and every one of my chronically ill friends has found ways to maintain their personhood while navigating their disability.

Our garments matter. That is the premise of ‘Women in Clothes’. This book touches on clothing in politics, life, religion, self, protection, passion and health. The authors interviewed hundreds of women and these are the quotes that most resonated with my experience of living with an idiopathic neuropathy.

Page 86 – Mary Mann

Today I called my mom and we talked about style. She told me that in hospice, where she works, “you notice sometimes people are happier when they’re wearing their favorite thing. Obviously, they can’t go anywhere. Nobody is going to see them. But still. It makes a difference.

Page 98 – Karima Cammell

So many psychological problems fell away when I started tailoring my clothes to my body instead of the other way around.

Page 133 – Genevieve Ferrier

I’m a doctor and I read somewhere that patients don’t want their doctor to look like a successful businesswoman. That liberated me from buying any more “dress for success” suits that women were told to wear in the eighties. But patients also don’t want you to look like a clueless frump. So I have a casual professional look that shows off my own style.

Page 134 – Ana Zir

My world is hospice patients and their families. First, I want to present professionalism, openness, warmth and cleanliness, but also a little style that sets me apart from the other nurses on the unit, whether that means matching clogs or the latest scrubs with the latest gizmos and gadgets in my pockets. I hope they remember me not just for what I do, but because I left a positive impression by the way I dressed. People do notice. Even the very sick ones.

Page 141 – Adrienne Butikofer

I needed to finally commit to an identity. So I thrifted and revamped my wardrobe and wore nothing but brown for two years. Brown seemed like the most uncool choice, the weakest color. I felt weak and helpless at the time. Then I had a therapist in university who spelled it out for me. He said that people normally associate depression with black, but that the truly depressed wear brown.

Page 155 – Sherwin Tjia

I’m scared a lot, so I more often wear clothes to protect me. I like having a lot of layers between me and the world.

Page 177 – Lauren Spencer King

My grandmother was a painter. She always had on so many colors, and the more jewelry the better. She had terrible arthritis and had this theory that wearing these huge intricate rings on every finger would distract people from the way her hands looked, but it just made them want to look closer.

Page 211 – Cath Le Couteur

Dressing up at night was a way to take action against the AIDS horror and stigma. One shouldn’t underestimate the power this kind of style activism had.

Side note: On the next page, Couteur gave me my favorite quote in the whole book:

Within ten feet, the first aggressive comment came; “Are you a boy or a girl?” I waited until I got really close, then I said “Yes,” and kept walking.

Page 263 – Stephanie Dinkmeyer

When I was going through exposure therapy for a panic disorder, I wore a piece of old jewelry from my great-great-aunt Winnie. She didn’t marry until her forties. She traveled to 126 countries. I needed her courage.

Page 271 – Camilla Gibb

I have a bad habit of shopping after therapy. I don’t know if this influences the choices I make, but I like that time to wander alone, idly scanning racks and shelves, meditating. The only problem with this is that I have recently started psychoanalysis, which means being on the couch a minimum of three times a week. That’s a lot of shopping.

Page 277 – Stella Bugbee

I spent a week in the hospital for abdominal surgery. Each morning despite terrible pain, the nurses would make me get up and walk so I didn’t get too weak. The hospital gowns depressed me, so I’d slowly pull a striped Breton dress over my head, brush my hair, and put on bright red flip flops and lip gloss. My friend had given me a giant Missoni robe, and I’d pull that on and make my way around the recovery unit. By taking the extra step of wearing clothes that made me feel “normal,” I felt like I wasn’t giving in to my illness. It was one of the few times I used clothing to calm myself.

Page 285 – Maegan Fidelino

The first outfit I remember clearly is the polka-dot dress I wore to the hospital when my sister was born.

Page 286 – Kimberly Jean Smith

While still a child, my sister underwent radical brain surgery. As a result she had lots of cognitive and physical disorders and died at age forty-two. But even at that age she looked like a small child. My mother often dressed her as one, choosing clothing that drew no attention to her, because my sister was bald due to her treatments, and thin, and sat in a wheelchair. For most people, she was already a strange sight. But I liked to buy her bright things, things to accentuate the color of her rosy cheeks or draw attention to her big brown eyes and long dark eyelashes—like red caps, and rose-printed jackets in fashionable cuts from trendy designers. It gave me great pleasure to see her wearing these things. I think she enjoyed them too, as much as she could, I suppose, as she seemed mostly to live beyond such trivial things.

Page 287 – Nichole Baiel

I passed on a ring to my sister that meant a lot to me, but I wanted her to have it because she was going through some pretty hard times, and it was my way to always be there with her.

Page 377 – Tavi Gevinson

Type “yellow-green” into Google, and the first three suggestions are “mucus,” “urine,” and “vaginal discharge.” With “dark green” you get “stool,” “diarrhea,” and “vegetables.” Emerald, however, is a universally perfect shade, and Tippi-Hendren-in-The-Birds mint is possibly the best color visible to human eyes. If green were a film character, the actor would be nominated for tackling such a multifaceted role.

Page 411 – Karima Cammell

I overheard one of my daughter’s preteen friends bemoan how she didn’t feel beautiful. I told her that beauty is not innate but is actually a magic charm, something that’s passed along to young girls from grown women. So I took her shopping for a magic spell that could help her feel beautiful.

Page 455 – Leora Morinis

I admire the unapologetic. I admire women who have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I mean, about our lumpy little bodies roaming around the planet, covered in bits of woven cloth.


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