Reader J emailed me with this question:
What does one do stylistically when your choices are severely limited by other issues? After years of foot pain, I saw a podiatrist and am now the owner of orthotics which has drastically improved the pain but not my style choices. About 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with allergies to many items which has also limited what I can wear and how I can style myself. I am allergic to animal fibers (wool, cashmere, angora, mohair) and need to avoid down jackets due to a dust mite allergy. To say I am frustrated is an understatement.
I would like to update my style of dress and appearance as I will be transitioning from a nurse educator (business casual setting and scrubs) to a student this fall and working part-time. So many stylish clothes feature fibers I cannot wear and having two young children will place constraints on our budget. Most of my wardrobe budget has to be spent on a decent pair of shoes that accommodate orthotics and we all know how (un)stylish many options are! Is there any hope for me?
I told J that yes, there is hope for her, of course! She’s got an abundance of dressing challenges in her life, and is quite rightly frustrated. But there are some great resources out there that can help make updating her style less difficult.
For starters, this older post on shopping for fiber sensitive women has a helpful roundup of vendors and designers who work with various natural or hypoallergenic fibers. To that list, I’d also add Diane Kennedy who does sustainable bamboo fibers – not cheap, but well-made and beautifully designed and with sizes into the plus range. Also eShakti for dresses, most of which are cotton knits or wovens, Fair Indigo for relatively affordable organic cotton basics, and Neon Buddha. If your style skews retro/quirky at all, you could also try Modcloth whose clothes are mostly man-made fibers or cotton as far as I can tell.
Friends and readers who have severe allergies and sensitivities have recommended sewing your own clothes, too. Quite an investment of time and energy – and money in many cases – but gives you full control over fiber content, design, and fit.
When it comes to shoes, I’ll always defer to Kirsten from Barking Dog Shoes. She did a guest post for me about stylish shoes that accommodate orthotics and I followed up about limited shoe options. But definitely check out her blog – you can search by foot condition for brand and style recommendations.
If you’re in a similar boat to J’s, don’t give up. You’re probably just about ready to scream, but there are always more avenues to explore. If you have any to share, please do so in the comments!
Images courtesy Diane Kennedy
**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.