It is no secret that I love to shop. I feel like I am constantly browsing, adding things to my wishlist or to my cart (though not always following through and checking out). But sometimes, as a disabled woman, it doesn’t always feel like shopping loves me back! It can be a struggle – not only the physical process of shopping, but finding things in my size that work for my body, too. So today I’m going to talk a little bit about being disabled while shopping.
I’m going to split this up into two different ways of shopping – in person and online – because for me, they are vastly different experiences.
Disabled While Shopping in Person
Honestly, I think that the last time I can remember doing a real “shopping spree” in person was… high school? Maybe a few years in college? It was a long, long time ago. In general, shopping in person – at least for clothes and shoes – is not really accessible for me. There are a few reasons for that.
I can’t shop independently
Shopping in person is just not something that I can do alone. Not only do I have to find someone to drive me there and back (and find nearby, accessible parking, which is no small feat), there’s the act of shopping itself. Of navigating small, crowded aisles, and of trying to reach things that are typically a few feet above or below my head. So I have to ask someone to pick up and hold up every piece I’m potentially interested in. Obviously, my friends and family are willing to help me, but sometimes it just gets frustrating!
Trying on in-store is a nightmare
Even back in high school, I rarely tried things on in store. Most of the time, it’s just not accessible to me. Often, stores tend to use the accessible dressing room as storage, and have to clear it out when I ask to use it, which can take quite a while. Even if the dressing room is empty, while the larger space is nice, it’s still often not really a good fit for my specific disabilities. I sometimes need to lay down to get dressed and undressed, and that’s definitely not happening in a public dressing room! It’s also a matter of time – it just takes me longer to get dressed and undressed, and more time when I’m not in my home environment. So I’d rather take something home to try it on and return it if it doesn’t work out.
Stores carry limited sizes
I wear an XXS. This isn’t a humble brag, it’s just the fact of life for me with SMA. I am basically child-sized! But often, retailers don’t carry their full range of sizes in store. They might sell a larger selection online, but in their physical store, the sizes at both ends of their range aren’t stocked. So it gets frustrating to find something cute in a store, only to learn that I need to go online to buy it anyway – what was even the point of me coming into the store and browsing?
Disabled While Shopping Online
Shopping online is, generally, much more accessible and easy for me. The full range of sizes is available, you can sort and filter based on size and price, and dressing rooms are just your house. So here’s what I’ve learned from online shopping over the years.
I know what works for my body
I’ve become an expert on what clothing types and styles will work on my body. I try hard not to have to return things, because more often than not I miss the deadline and end up owning clothes that I meant to return. So there are certain styles and design choices I look for. Smocking is always great, because it’s basically built-in adjustability. A-line silhouettes tend to work well for me, because it leaves space for my feeding tube and won’t ride up while seated. Fabric that has a bit of stretch to it is much easier to wear than fabric that’s stiff and doesn’t have any give. There are more specific design details that I look for – probably enough for a post of it’s own! But in general, I have honed my sense of what will likely work for me and what won’t, and I place orders accordingly.
I shop from my go-to stores
Even though the internet is a vast place, I have a shortlist of stores that I look to and frequent. They’re stores that carry my size, having styles that I like, and have decent delivery and return fees. If you check out my Wednesday Wishlist posts, you probably have a good sense of what they are! Some of those stores are:
- J. Crew: I love their size range, styles, and price point. I shop here a lot. They’re great for classics but also for some more on-trend pieces that won’t break the bank.
- Madewell: Madewell and J.Crew are both owned by the same company, and they have the same general size range and price point. I think they’re a little more casual cool; most of my favorite sweaters are from Madewelll.
- Everlane: Great for classic basics. I typically shop their tops, which start in XXS.
- Nordstrom: They have a huge range and selection, and their shoes come in a wider range of sizes than most. Their return policy is one of my favorites – they let you return items for a LONG time.
- Shopbop: This is a relatively newer favorite of mine. Sometimes it’s out of my price range, but I try to get things on sale. I can often fit into an XS from their brands, though it varies.
- Target: Target can be hit-or-miss for me – sometimes they offer XXS, sometimes they don’t – but they’re really expanding their adaptive options, and you can’t get much more affordable.
- Hill House Home: Obviously, I love my Nap Dresses, and find them super accessible to wear. I’m glad they offer XXS now!
Even online, options can be limited
Sometimes, even with the whole internet available to me, the options just aren’t great. Many, many stores still don’t offer size XXS – and while XS sounds like it should be small enough, I’ve found that it varies wildly from brand to brand. I wear a size 4 in shoes – that’s also extremely limited (and often extremely expensive). Sometimes the options just don’t exist. Trends come and go – what’s in one season might be body-con style dresses that are extremely uncomfortable to wear with a feeding tube, or when sitting all day. So when I do find something that I love, I don’t hesitate. I buy it, often in multiple colors or prints (hence my collection of Nap Dresses!). I try to build a collection that will work now and in the future, since I can’t be ever be confident that clothes next season will work for me.