That day was the first sign my arm strength was declining and when I eventually made it to the changing room I collapsed, sobbing as my arms turned to jelly.
Something as simple as a trolley would have saved me that day and would have made shopping possible. Instead, I left in pain with a reminder about my limitations and the lack of support out there for people with disabilities.
The upsetting thing is that it’s often small changes that enable us, things others take for granted; a trolley to lean on, a wheelie basket, wider aisles… It doesn’t have to be a lot to make a huge difference.
I’ve loved fashion since I was little, from sewing dolls’ clothes to attempting my own. I spent years wanting to study fashion design at college until I developed this idea that, instead, I wanted a career that was going to make a real difference to people - so I decided the almighty power of the pen was a better vessel for change.
It wasn’t until my diagnosis and subsequent mobility issues that I became aware of just how much power art and design hold, how inclusive design in all areas can enable thousands.
I love how fashion allows you to shape your own narrative - that on a bad day, dressing like you feel the opposite can boost your mood, as can dressing like you’re confident and ready to take on the world. Clothes help me to face the world by reminding me that in spite of MS I’m still me, I’m still Rosie.
Loss of identity
In 2016, however, I lost my way. After a bad relapse at the age of 26 I was suddenly living with pain and mobility issues and I was no longer able to go to work. Overnight my entire identity fell away and my beautiful clothes just hung there; heels I would never wear again, fitted dresses that triggered torso pain, all a reminder of my new limitations.
It took me a long time to rediscover myself, to find my confidence and self-believe. Thankfully the rise of athlesuire as a style endorsed my trackie-wearing days - which are the majority! Yet at every turn, I came up against barriers. If you’re a wheelchair user it’s a triumph if you can make it into the shop, then there’s navigating the tightly packed clothing rails and tills, the arm strength required to sieve through the clothes, standing for long periods. Whichever way you look at it, shopping with MS is an energy-sapping experience at best, and that’s without getting started on how fashion itself limits us.
Change, although slow, is finally on the horizon thanks to people like Sinéad Burke, who has been making massive waves worldwide, including becoming the first little person to grace the cover of Vogue, and disability advocate Paddy Smyth for shows such as RTÉ’s The Changing Room, which highlights the need for diversity in fashion.
It’s important that we continue to raise awareness about it ourselves, too - email your favourite shop, ask them about changes that’d make shopping easier for you and if they plan to start stocking adaptive clothing brands
Together we can start to drive the change we hope to see.
For a list of labels offering adaptive clothing, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zappos, visit here and here. Great adaptations include velcro and magnetic closures, one-hand zippers and a range of stylish hospital wear that provides easy access points for treatment.
For more shopping tips if you have MS or a disability, visit Rosie’s blog at https://sherunswithms.wordpress.com/?p=492
If you’re planning a wedding while living with a disability, visit her list of tips and join the Facebook group, Weddings with a Difference, where you can find inspiration and advice - and if you’re already married then feel free to share your pictures and offer others advice for their big day.
Share with us
Make sure to share your tips with us. What’s helped you? What sort of clothing do you find easier to wear? Share your pics online and don’t forget the hastags #babeswithmobilityaids and #disabledfashion