By way of light relief and since the sales are on, here are my recommendations on clothing for the stylish woman or man who should find themselves needing extra care support. In other words, what works for the elder and also helps the carer.
Sorry, slippers are out
Most important of all is what you wear on your feet. However gorgeous, slippers are not a good idea for anyone vulnerable to falls, whether standing (aka weight bearing) or walking. Instead you need ‘slippers’ that are like shoes, that fit well, have good heel support and rigid non slip soles. In fact your ‘slippers’ have to be so shoe-like, you may as well do as Marj does and wear actual shoes inside. Shoes help Marj stand up far more confidently and securely than any kind of slipper.
After experimenting over the years, Marj finds Clarks’ Mary Jane styles smart, light and comfortable with black cotton socks. Just as importantly I find them easy to whip on and off too. No one wants to be be wrestling with feet.
For men, I would try a velcro/rip tape fastening ‘athleisure’ type shoe from Clarks’ again, or perhaps a more traditional pair, in the sale here at House of Fraser. In my experience ‘slip-on’ styles don’t tend to slip-on and off that easily for the carer. Hotter and Cosyfeet make shoes that may be suitable too, the most important thing is that they fit and support the whole foot and ankle well.
Tip from Peter, a reader – ‘We also have used Clark’s Hotter and Cosyfeet for shoes. As J wears an orthotic brace to support her weak leg she requires a different shoe size on each foot. Only available at their outlet in Street (not mail order) but Cosyfeet do odd sizes for a supplement of £10. I think Clarks’ will do that but much more expensive.’
Comfy knickers are important, but you may start to find that continence pants are more convenient (I’ll cover these in another post). As for bra’s (if you choose to wear one, don’t feel any pressure), we found it essential to get re-measured. Much as we may deny it, our size often changes over time and bras start digging in. M&S has a very good bra fitting service and produced some non underwired bras that were pretty and comfortable.
Marj wears a fresh cotton t shirt every day. She changes into it in the morning and keeps it on when sleeping at night. This stops her from feeling chilly while changing into her pyjamas.
As you’ll read, we use M&S for pretty much all of Marj’s clothing because it’s a literal ‘one stop shop’. This is due to easy home ordering & exchange and because I always seem to be ordering school uniform too. Other stores are available!
Then it’s usually a sweater of some sort. Sweaters needn’t be frumpy. This item is the most expressive of Marj’s style. They must be crew neck (roll necks are too fussy, v necks too revealing). If I should buy anything that makes her feel too ‘old lady-ish’ (or with stripes) she will reject it. Quite so. Marj loves sequins and sparkle.
Marj’s favourite colour is light blue so I always try to have at least one or two sweaters that colour, also coral, turquoise, red, navy and black looks fab on Marj. I believe stronger colours look best on us all as we age. The greige or pastels that many stores prescribe us in their ‘classic’ ranges tend to wash us out.
Viewing colours and styles on the iPad or ordering a couple of options allows Marj to choose. Marj used to love going shopping and we had fun with the shopmobility wheelchair. A shame Marj doesn’t fancy it anymore.
In terms of functionality I would advise top lengths of no longer than hip length otherwise fabric falls in the loo. I tend to go for wool/wool mix and cotton/cotton mix for warmth and breathability. Fleece fabrics are great for when it’s very cold, easy to wash and dry too.
A favourite blanket over the lap or a chunky cardigan or wrap is useful on top of a sweater on colder days.
We depend on the M&S Classic range for their ‘short’ inside leg option, comfortable, hard wearing trousers in a variety of colours.
I’ve learned that trousers with an elasticated waist are best for quick and easy pulling on and off, important when legs are unsteady.
Dresses and jackets
For special occasions nowadays. My advice would be size up for a dress and down for the accompanying jacket if in a wheelchair. That way you sit comfortably, yet the jacket looks more tailored / chic. Three quarter sleeves prevent fabric from swamping the wearer and shows off favourite jewellery or a manicure.
Marj wears pyjamas over her t shirt, cotton in summer and fleece in winter and always wears bed socks as her feet tend to get cold. We have microwaveable bed socks that give and retain heat if Marj ever gets very cold.
Looking good all day long
At meal times, Marj clips a tea towel around her neck to keep her clothes clean. It feels nicer than any sort of ‘bib’ and is more secure than a napkin.
Sign up to retailer websites or newsletters before you buy if you can, since they tend to send you a discount code if you don’t buy anything immediately or offer a discount to encourage you to sign up to emails. I also use the seasonal sales or 20% off offers to replenish worn or shrunken items and drop hints to relatives before Christmas and birthdays.
I know I’ve been rather more conventional than the opening photography may have suggested. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from working a stronger look. Here are some awesome female role models and some coaching from GQ for the men in your life.
A stronger look does invite (hopefully positive) comment and is a very good way of opening a conversation with someone in my experience, if that is what you’d like. A bonkers charity shop scarf could be a good place to start.
One good thing about ageing is that people expect a little eccentricity and one should be caring a little less about what other people think too. So however physically ‘able’ you are, elder or carer, express yourself* and dress to be YOU.