Some people are born with fashion in their blood, an eye for trends and a flair for style. Some people, like myself, should have been arrested by the fashion police years ago for some of the crimes they have committed against the human eye.
I’ve struggled my entire life to put a decent outfit together- even before lymphedema days. I have never been one to follow the ‘latest trends’ and I’m not really sure how to describe my personal style- because it changes depending on how I feel each day (and more importantly, how my leg is feeling!). I like a huge range of different styles of clothing, such as simple, casual, bohemian, rock n’ roll, sporty and vintage looks. My inability to stick with one kind of style is probably why I have such a problem getting dressed in the morning!
So now that I have your trust, I’m going to share with you my personal approach to fashion with compression, which obviously won’t suit or please everyone (or anyone maybe?!). I’ve included pieces for both arm and leg lymphedema because a lot of what I like is oversized in style and could suit either of these ‘problem areas’.
I hope that you can take away a few little tricks that you can adapt to your own fashion tastes, to help make dressing with lymphedema a little bit easier during these colder months!
Defining my everyday winter style: simplicity & downright laziness
First things first: my ‘everyday’ winter staple look. It’s actually really simple and requires zero thinking on my part. On the bottom half, I like to wear stretchy denim jeans or a pair of thick tights (you know the fleece lined ones?!). On the top half, an oversized top or jumper (that extends to my hip) and a medium length coat to top it off. To complete the look, I usually wear boots (either ankle or knee length), with a small heel.
Another style I stick with for my weekly dressing is the Athleisure look mixed with a bit of city chic. This involves stretchy yoga leggings, oversized skater hoodies, sporty sneakers and a big tailored coat thrown over the top. Oh and a big scarf. Can’t forget the scarf.
Pants, Jeans, Leggings and Tights
When selecting jeans, I often go styles that have a lot of stretch in them. I find this helps to keep my leg happy, as I’m not restricting it from bending or moving in a natural way, especially when I sit down. The fabric moves more easily with my body and doesn’t dig into areas like behind the knee. Heavier types of denim without stretch are a big no-no for me, as they don’t feel comfortable with compression underneath. I also love jeans that are frayed and distressed! This is great for creating movement and flexibility around the knee- the frayed areas really open up the pants and give you more freedom of movement. I hate nothing more than feeling restricted in a pair of jeans!
Aside from jeans, I also love loose fitting pants like dropped crotch style. These kinds of pants look great with boots that go above the ankle and it can adapt to any kind of style- chic, rock n’ roll, sporty and casual to name a few. Just be careful to not go too baggy because they can end up making you look much bigger than you really are.
Pants that have interesting details on them (like beads, patterns, rips, stick on patches) are also another way to take the attention off size differences in the legs or any compression garment that might be sticking out the bottom! Another trick I have started to use is wearing fishnet socks under cut-off jeans. It allows me to wear this style of jeans comfortably without worrying about people spotting my compression garment.
Tips to take away:
- Look for fabrics that stretch
- Ripped details, especially around the knee area
- Look for pants that have zips around the ankle area
- Chic, loose-fitting pants that follow the body contours
- Fishnet socks to hide compression garments
Note: Some of the photos in the gallery below may look not very “wintery” in style- but just imagine them paired up with boots or layered a bit more on top to keep you warm!
Jackets, Cardigans & Oversized Sweaters
My number one winter essential is a great knitted cardigan. I love the long, slouchy type that extends to your hip or knee. This is perfect for hiding any size difference you may have on your upper leg. Matched with a pair of ripped boyfriend jeans and ankle boots- you’ll be looking all class, my friends!
Duster jackets are also a trend I have noticed for this 2017/2018 winter season. Duster coats or jackets extend to the ankle and basically cover your entire leg. So if you are really conscious of your size difference, this could be a cool option for you.
Tips to consider:
- Mid-length jackets
- Slouchy, relaxed fit that has room to move inside
- Tailored coats for a more chic look
- A great look to put a pair of ankle boots with
Dresses and Skirts
Those of us with leg lymphedema just LOVE a maxi dress in the summer- so why not extend this trend into winter as well?! Wearing a maxi dress or long skirt totally eliminates the need to worry about compression. There are so many different ways you can wear a maxi dress for winter- with a cute leather jacket, a slouchy knitted top (great for arm lymphies) and even with a duster jacket. Viva la Maxi Dress!
Footwear that easily fits sausage toes and Kankles
Ahhh shoes, glorious shoes. Or should I say the little bas**rd inventions that cause us Lymphies so. much. grief. Like all of you with LE, I also struggle with footwear and this is one area that drives me a bit nutty. Finding the perfect pair of shoes is never straightforward, but I do have a few tricks that make wearing them a bit more comfortable.
Alternate your heel size
Something I tend to do is alternate the height of the shoe heel- one day flat (think sports shoes ‘flat’), one day a small heel (think ‘cowboy boot’ sized heel) then the next day flat again. I rarely wear really flat shoes that have no arch support, because my leg doesn’t appreciate them. Changing up the heel size means that my foot is not always flat and not always elevated- because I find that wearing the same angle for too many days starts to have a negative effect on my ankle area.
I tend to avoid any shoe that has a very high, thin heel because they are way too stressful for my ankle area. It’s rare that I wear heels, but when I do I go for a thicker heel that has a bit of a platform (which means less arch in my foot) or I go for wedges.
Go up a shoe size
This was a game-changing brainwave for me! At one stage, I thought I could no longer wear nice shoes because they didn’t fit my lymphie foot (insert sad face here). However, when I bought a bigger size (either one or two sizes up from my ‘normal’ size), they suddenly fit me again. It’s not rocket science guys, it’s common sense! If you find your non-lymphie leg shoe is too big, there are several things you can do. Firstly you can simply wear a thicker sock on your foot. Secondly, you can buy some sole inserts for your shoes, which sit directly on the bottom on of the sole and help fill the empty space.
Zippers, Buckles, Elastic and Soft Materials
I simply cannot buy a pair of shoes that don’t have the option to regulate the size. Zippers, adjustable buckles and elastic panels are GREAT features to look for in shoes because they give you room to move! They make getting that shoe on your fatty foot heaps easier! Somedays, when I am having a really bad kankle moment, I don’t close the zip on the side of my shoe, meaning that I can still wear them comfortably without cutting off blood supply.
Elastic elements in shoes is always a big bonus for lymphedema folk. These days, elastic is incorporated into A LOT of trendy shoes. Think Adidas Boost sports shoes, cute little ankle boots or over the knee boots that have stretchy elastic sides. Elastic panels help give the shoe some flexibility and allow for any fluctuations in foot size you may experience during your day.
Buy supportive shoes
Buying supportive shoes does not mean you have to buy grandma shoes. If anything, it probably just means you need to invest a little bit more money in them. Buy shoes that have a proper sole and arch support and that protect them from being scratched or injured (eg: rolled ankles are not good!). The investment will be worth it in the long run because they will last longer and help keep your leg in better health.
Find a style that works and buy it in different colours!
If you find a pair of shoes that are just perfect, check to see if they come in a different colour or design. Finding something that works with a lymphie foot is hard enough, so when I find something that works, I stick with it and see how I can be creative and flexible within that certain design. Buying different styles of the same shoe means that I am not always “seen in the same shoe every day” and I don’t destroy the one pair in a few weeks!
Things to remember:
- Take an extra size up (or two)
- Wear a thicker sock on the foot which isn’t affected
- Look for buckles, zips, elastic panels
- Soft leathers that stretch naturally with time and are soft on your feet
- Low heels (or thicker heels if you go for a high pair)
- Platform heel as an alternative to stiletto
- Buy some sole inserts for the non-lymphie side