Two different versions of the same man in a dressing room trying on clothes that don't fit properly

RA & Finding Clothes That Fit

I was speaking to someone earlier this week and somehow we ended up at a place talking about how it is so difficult to find clothes that fit after a disease like RA has ravaged your body. After we were done, I walked away thinking, “Wow, that’s true. I have to get all my clothes tailored!” Also, “Well I just got a great idea for another article,” and “These pants look good!” So it was a win-win... win. It got me thinking though just how much RA can affect the clothes we wear.

Does RA affect my height?

I’m short now. I say “now” like I was somehow a pro basketball player before, but I wasn’t. I started at a whopping five foot seven, and now I’m an impressive five foot four. You might think that those three inches are nothing much - like going from a hatchback to a Smart Car, nothing substantial. In theory, that makes sense, but in reality, it’s like going from a Range Rover to a milk crate on a skateboard with one wobbly wheel.

Navigating being shorter than average

Average height for an American male is five foot nine, which means at five foot seven, you can squeak by in shoes to not look like a tiny mouse person. At five foot four, though, there is absolutely no way to fake it. You are probably the shortest guy in the room and, if you aren’t, you then you go find whoever is and stand next to them until they file a restraining order. When I go out with my friends, it’s like freakin’ Gulliver’s Travels. Land of the giants and all that. Forget if I do actually meet a girl and she’s wearing heels, I might as well pretend I’m a mouse come to take her home in her giant pumpkin.

The problem behind clothing sizing

Because I’m short now, or shorter-ER, I have to find clothes that fit and that’s a daunting task. Since the height that I lost came from the area around my midsection, it means my torso has shrunk but the rest of my body hasn’t. If I don’t put my hands in my pockets I look like a balding Orangutan with a five-o-clock shadow and absolutely no idea how arms are supposed to work. Those of you unlucky enough to be seen with me in pictures you now know why my hands are always tucked in.

Finding shirts that fit

Needless to say, all of this makes it incredibly difficult to find a shirt that doesn’t look like it doubles as a maxi summer shirtdress. Cute! Even if I don’t wear shirts untucked, the part that’s supposed to be in the middle ends up around my waist, and shoving 17 miles of shirt into your pants is just never going to sit right. It looks like I’m perpetually in the middle of a ferret legging contest (Google it – I promise you won’t be disappointed).

Shirt lengths don't change, regardless of its size

Something I think most people don’t realize is that shirt sizes don’t really change based on length, just width and breadth. In other words, a small is just about a long as a large. Apparently the fashion powers that be decided that people only grow and shrink in one direction – sideways.

Tailoring clothes for a custom fit

Look, I was already short, like I told you before, so I’m no stranger to getting my clothes tailored. I haven’t bought a pair of pants since 1982 that didn’t need to be hemmed. It seems that clothes companies met back when clothes first started and all agreed that normal males come in waist sizes 30-38 and lengths 30-34 and, if you aren’t one of those, then you’re some sort of mutant who wears a loincloth and probably doesn’t care about things like pants anyway.

Customizing my clothes

Since I’ve always been around a 29 in length, I know the seamstress at my local cleaners very well. In other words, I’m no stranger to RA causing me to have to customize my clothes, and I was fine with it. I mean, pants can even be turned up if worse comes to worse. When I lost my height, though, I realized very quickly that shirts were not pants (I’m pretty smart), no matter how much I wanted them to be.

Shirts are much more difficult to alter and, even if you can, it’s usually just the sleeves. Body width and length changes, well, you’re pretty much out of luck. In no uncertain terms: they don’t make clothes for people who have body issues, they make us fit our issues into the clothes they have already made.

A solution to RA's clothing issue

So, what are we to do when those who decide what’s fashionable and what’s not decide we’re not worthy of their clothes? Well, we make our own. I have my shirts custom made now, and I know that’s expensive compared to buying off the rack, but think about it this way. You can buy clothes that don’t exactly fit and you don’t really like wearing for a third of the price, or you can buy one thing that fits well and you actually like wearing. Sure, it make take a little longer to build up a wardrobe, but in the end you’ll feel better about what you see in the mirror. That’s worth a bit more in my book, especially with the body insecurities that some of us suffer from. I know I have my share, but when I look at myself and see something that vaguely resembles a human being, it makes me happy even though it comes with a bit of legwork.

Clothes and RA are linked. This is a connection that many people, even those who have arthritis, don’t make sometimes. Yes, we talk about shoes and how they can affect our gait and hurt our feet, but beyond that, clothes rarely get spoken of so I thought it was time to bring them out of the closet and share yet another issue those with RA deal with each and every day. Talk soon.

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