Person in a wheelchair is in front of laptop choosing between clothes jeans

Shopping for Clothes with a Disability

One of the biggest challenges of living with SMA is buying new clothes, especially pants. For me, it’s not possible to go to a store and quickly slip on a pair of jeans in the dressing room to make sure they’re the right size and I like the fit. I mean, I personally have never seen a dressing room with a Hoyer lift; I rarely find one that’s even big enough for a wheelchair.

Try then on at home, then return

If I want to buy pants, I have to purchase them, come home, get in bed, try them on, and get back in my wheelchair to see if the pants are comfortable. If not, I have to go back to the store to return the pants and then sweat out those dreadful days while I wait for the money to get refunded to my credit card.

Trying a clothing subscription service

That’s how the shopping experience has always been for me until recently. A couple years ago, there was an influx of clothing subscription services like Stitch Fix. An able-bodied friend of mine had been using Stitch Fix for a while and seemed satisfied with the stylists and told me they pay attention to your wants and needs. So, I decided to give it a go.

I went on the Stitch Fix website and completed a style profile that asked questions about sizing and overall style preferences. I got nervous since it was pretty basic but at the end there was an open-ended section to fully explain my clothing desires. I took this as an opportunity to tell whatever stylist I was matched with that I’m in a wheelchair.

Explaining what works with my wheelchair and me

I explained that my legs are skinnier below my knees and I prefer pants that taper toward the ankle so they don’t look too baggy or long. I also mentioned that since I’m sitting, jackets would need to be short so as to not hang and look messy. Long-sleeve shirts also tend to puff out because of my skinny arms (I mean muscular arms) so please send shirts with tighter sleeves or ones that aren’t too long. Lastly, I said to never send any shoes or accessories.

Waiting for the box

My first Stitch Fix box was scheduled and I couldn’t have been more excited. The entire premise of Stitch Fix is they mail a box of clothes (at whatever frequency you choose) and you only pay for the items you keep. Usually 5-6 items are sent. Most importantly, I’d be able to try on pants before purchasing them.

About a week later I received the Stitch Fix. Inside was a description of the items along with ideas of how to pair them with clothes that might already be in your closet. Also included is a letter from your stylist explaining why certain items were chosen.

The stylist listened (and I purchased)

I was blown away by how personalized the letter was as the stylist mentioned my note about being in a wheelchair and pointed out the pants that were skinny fit or shirts for shorter torsos. I’m not ashamed to admit I purchased everything in the box because it all fit perfectly.

If you’re having problems with shopping, definitely consider Stitch Fix or a similar company. Just make sure you’re honest and detailed in your profile for the best results.

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