Easy dressing: MS style – multiple sclerosis

Easy dressing: MS style – multiple sclerosis – includes related articles

Shelley Peterman-Schwarz

Everyone want to wear clothing that makes them look and feel good. But what can you wear and how can you get dressed when your hands are numb, or your legs are in braces, or you’re too fatigued to manage even the simplest of tasks? Whether your problems are temporary or permanent, you owe it to yourself to wear comfortable, fashionable clothing that flatters you and makes you feel good about yourself. Here are some tips to help you “put your best foot forward.”

First, make sure your home is comfortably warm in the morning. Overly cool temperatures can make you stiff and clumsy. If dressing first thing in the morning is difficult, take a shower and eat breakfast. Some people find that after they’ve moved around and loosened up their stiff joints and muscles, dressing is easier.

If your balance is unsteady, sit on the edge of the bed or on a chair while putting on your clothing. To put on slacks without standing up, sit on the edge of the bed and slip the slacks over both feet up to the knees. Then lie back on the bed and roll from side to side to pull the pants up to your waist.

Generally, it’s best to dress a disabled limb first. To undress, take the garment off the good limb first.

Dress in front of a mirror. This will help you find the sleeves and match up buttons with buttonholes. But it’s also good to check how you look. Do the colors and textures you’ve chosen today go well together?

Another way to put on shirts or jackets is to lay the garment on the floor, a table or a bed with the collar nearest your body and the wrong side of the garment facing up toward the ceiling. Then bend over, put your arms into the armholes, and lift the garment up and over your head.

Wear loose fitting clothes, preferably made of knit fabrics. They’ll be easier to put on and take off. If you’re like me and use a wheelchair, consider buying slacks or trousers one size larger. The extra room will make clothing less binding.

If you’re not very active, you’re more likely to feel chilly. Dress in layers and you’ll have better control over your body temperature. The more loose fitting layers, the better. The spaces between the layers trap the warm air. Take off or put on a layer as needed to keep yourself comfortable.

Men and women will find that wearing silk or nylon underwear makes it easier to pull slacks and trousers up and down. Cotton underwear tends to “stick”.

Women can wear knee-high hose under slacks and eliminate the need to pull panty hose up and down. Under dresses and skirts, they can wear thigh-high hose. Like knee-high hose, these also have an elastic band at the top.


You can make a dressing stick from a wooden hanger. Remove the hanger hook. Then, screw a cup hook into one end of the stick and put a rubber finger thimble on the other end. Use the cup hook to grab onto garments and the rubber tip to slide clothing into a comfortable position. Or, make a dressing stick by untwisting a wire coat hanger with pliers. Use the wire hook to pull on shirts and jackets.

Use a pair of 24-inch tongs, (the same kind you use when you barbecue) to help pull up your pants without bending.

Sew loops of sewing tape inside the waistbands of slacks and trousers. Use the loops to pull pants up. The location and length of the loop will depend on your needs.

To keep long sleeved shirts from bunching up at the elbows when you put on a jacket or sweater, sew loops inside the cuffs. Then grab onto a loop as you put your arm into the second garment. Tuck the loop up into the shirt sleeve when you’re done.

To pull up a zipper on a pair of trousers, slip a paper clip through the hole in the zipper tab. Select a paper clip size that’s easy for you to handle, and keep it in your pocket when not m use. Or, make your own zipper pull by screwing a small cup hook into a dowel. Attach a small pendant, a locket, a key chain object, or a notebook ring to the zipper pull on jackets or sweaters. particularly frustrating, but I’ve found you can modify your clothing to make buttoning easier.


Enlarge buttonholes and replace small buttons with larger ones. Textured buttons are easier to manage than smooth buttons.

Replace buttons with toggles (buttons that resemble pegs) if you need something even bigger to hold onto.

Use Velcro as a substitute for buttons and other fasteners. Sew the existing buttonhole closed and sew the button on top of it. Then sew the soft fuzzy side of the Velcro on the underside of the closed up hole, and the hard side with the small hooks where the button used to be.

Build up the shank (the area between the button and the fabric) to make buttoning easier. Place a toothpick or wooden match over the top of the button. Sew the button on as you normally would. When almost finished, bring the needle and thread through so it’s between the fabric and the bottom of the button. Remove the toothpick or match. Pull the button up and away from the fabric. Wind extra thread around these loosened threads to make the shank. When the shank is completed, knot the thread and cut off the excess.

Sew buttons on with elastic thread. If buttoned cuff openings are too small to get your fist through, either move the buttons to make the opening larger and/or sew the buttons on with elastic thread. The elastic thread will give the rebuttoned cuff opening an extra quarter inch or so.

Independence contributes to my sense of style – and my self-esteem. These tips should help with the independence part, but your sense of style is up to you!

WISH LIST FOR CLOTHING MANUFACTURERS Manufacturers could make friends with a huge group of consumers, including but not limited to people with MS, if they offered:

* Larger openings for over-thehead garments.

* Longer zippers to make garments easier to put on and take off.

* Larger seam allowances to allow for minor alterations.

* Reinforced seams, especially at armholes.

* More garments made from knit fabrics.

* Larger print on care labels.

* Stretchable waistbands.

* Ready-tied bows and neckties.

Special Mail Order Resources for Clothing

* Adaptability Products for

Independent Living, P.O. Box 515,

Colchester, CT 06415-0515.

Telephone: 800-243-9232; Fax:

203-537-2866. A variety of dressing and grooming aids to help you look and feel your best. Free catalog.

For people who are looking for fashionable ready-to-wear garments designed with easy dressing in mind:

* Penney’s Easy Dressing Fashion.

Telephone: 800-222-6161. Casual to

dressy clothing for women.

Free catalog.

* Irwin/Taylor’s Prime Time Fashions.

Telephone: 716-473-7290. Clothing for women with active lifestyles. Ask to be on mailing list.

* Avenues. 3233 East Mission Oaks

Boulevard, Camarillo, CA 93010.

Telephone: 800-848-AVES. Clothing for men and women who use wheelchairs. Go from the board room to the beach in their stylish clothing. Free catalog.

* Fashion Ease, M & M Health Care

Apparel Company. 1541 60th Street,

Brooklyn, NY 11219. Telephone:

800-221-8929 or 718-853-6376 in

New York City. A complete line of clothing for women and men. This firm also has Stay-Dry fashions for people with incontinence problems. Free catalog. To see their Fashion Ease clothing, ask for their fashion show video, “More Than Meets the Eye.”

* Sears, Roebuck and Company, Home

Healthcare. Telephone: 800-326-1750

(voice) or 800-733-4833 (TDD).

Modified clothing for men and women which includes intimate apparel, special abdominal and back supports, hosiery, Velcro closure shoes, and devices to make dressing easier. Free catalog.

For people who enjoy sewing:

Design Without Limits- a book that teaches you how to adapt home sewing patterns and modify ready-to-wear garments. Check your local library, or order from Simplicity Pattern Company, Drexel Design Press, P.O. Box 2102, Niles, MI 49120-8102. The book costs $14.75.

COPYRIGHT 1992 National Multiple Sclerosis Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group