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Two different versions of the same man in a dressing room trying on clothes that don

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • trishak913
    2 months ago

    Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your amazing gift of inspirational writing & witty humor! It’s the best pain reliever without the side effects.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    2 months ago

    @trishak913 Thank you so much for your kind words, I hope you found some kind of relief in reading it, as I did in writing it! Side effects include: laughter, smiles, humiliation of author. Ha ha. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 months ago

    I need to consider tailoring. Having never been in a situation that needed tailored clothes (yay scrubs!) I just never think that way. Oh, these pants are too long, I won’t buy them.

    That being said. Scrubs (especially scrub pants) are amazing. You can get them in all sizes and lengths….And people think you are super successful when you wear them!

    Great article, Daniel!!

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    2 months ago

    @mysengupta Good to hear from you Monica. I use the Proper Cloth tailoring website, they let you measure yourself and you get one free mess up if the first one they send isn’t right. It’s a good system because you can get it exactly right and not waste money. If you have a local dry cleaners you can just bring them pants and should be able to hem them in a day or two for cheap. You can even mark how long you want them before you go so that you don’t have to try them on there. Use a paper clip and fold them over or pins. I have scrubs, they are great for relaxing or at night but trying to date in scrubs, well, unless I’m going to start calling myself Dr. Dan, that dog won’t hunt! Ha ha. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • vhanson
    2 months ago

    I finally found cosyfeet! They now ship to US!

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    2 months ago

    @vhanson I have heard a few people mention CozyFeet, I will have to look into it. Do you know if they make a dumpsterfire size? Ha ha. Thanks for reading. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • 2mra
    2 months ago

    UGH! Clothes! Not one of my favourite topics like it used to be. I must say that you have put more thought into it than I have. Good job!

    I was born short and I didn’t get much taller in my adulthood. I was handy in getting something from under a chair, etc. for friends or foe, however.

    I ended up at 5′ 2″ but with the help of RA, I am now at 4″ 11″. Whoa! My end job is always hemming my pants/jeans. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I can purchase a pair of girls jeans that fit. I dislike the ones that look like rats got a hold of them though.

    Some stores are irritating. The size smalls that they offer are more likely for small elephants. Good for the elephants!

    Great that you have succeeded in gaining a functional and fashionable wardrobe Daniel.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    2 months ago

    @2mra Well, it costs an arm and a leg, literally! Sometimes the jeans are so tight these days I feel like they are girls leggings. Going from 5’2″ to 4’11” I get, though. When I lost my inches, it made things so much different when shopping, those stupid little 3 inches. Thanks for reading! Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 months ago

    DPM, another great article on a serious subject that you were able to brand with your own unique sense of humor. I read your article while I was in a public setting and received quite a few strange looks as I chortled and guffawed my appreciation

    Everyone with RA struggles with finding well fitted, comfortable and easy to get into clothing. The number one clothing complaint from women seems to be finding comfortable and attractive footwear. I mean we can all wear the boxes but somehow they just seem to clash with my all black, leather jacket Neo look. But selfishly, I’ve never considered the plight of men with RA with respect to clothing. Men don’t have the luxury of buying, “petite” clothing so the length of their shirts and pants remains consistent and sized towards men between 5’10” and 6’1″. I imagine that’s why men tend to use tailors more often than women.

    For most of my adult life pre-RA I was 5’5″. Of course I’d always dreamt of being 5’7″ but no matter how often I hung upside down on the monkey bars those 2″ never materialized. Okay, so I was 5’5″ until I wasn’t any longer. I lost my 5″ in stutters, 5’4.5″, 5’4″, until now I’m down to 5’3″ and even that is dropping fast. Last time I was measured I refused to take off my shoes, so there. Funny thing with me is that my torso stayed the same length but it’s my legs where I lost my 5″. So unlike you with your hands in your pockets I try to be seated in photos or stand behind others so you can’t see that my legs are too short for my torso. Though owing to the fact that I’m 5’3″ if I stand behind anyone I usually can’t be seen at all which is just as well.

    I feel like the, “Incredible Shrinking (Wo)Man.” Remember that old movie from the 50s? I do. He survived many misadventures with cats, furniture and clothing until he shrunk so much he eventually did battle with a spider and killed it with a sewing needle he wielded like a sword. He ultimately could fit through the tiny holes in the screen and he was still shrinking….arghhhh.

    All that silliness to say thanks for opening my eyes. It’s almost as if the disease itself is doing away with us inch by inch. But your acceptance and humor helps me to deal with all the physical changes I too am experiencing and also aids me in being more
    cognizant of the mostly invisible ways this disease impacts others. Keep the faith @danielpmalito

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    2 months ago

    @cynthiav OMG you hung upside down as well? I know, it didn’t work did it? No matter how many people I asked to hang onto me at the time. I was afraid my hips were going to yank out so I had to stop. Thanks for your kind words, btw, you are always such a huge fan of my writing it’s humbling. Seriously. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 months ago

    Okay, so, Cynthia @cynthiav! You’ve given me an idea for an article!

    Recently, I’ve started wearing men’s clothes. As Daniel mentioned, the torso seems to be about the same as women’s (I have a very short trunk) and the fit while a bit slouchy is comfortable and means they’re easy to get in and out of. Like you said, though, men don’t have the size options that women do which is a shame!!

    I do have some more fitted clothes like jeans and some shirts but they are so uncomfortable now. I don’t have room to move, the fabric irritates my skin and let’s not even get started on getting in and out of them!

    So far, I don’t have noticeable height loss but then again I was already as tall as a chincilla so it may be a while before we see a real change. Not looking forward to it, though!

    Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 months ago

    Hey Monica! Good to hear from you. I’m glad my comment sparked an article idea. Best wishes with that. I never thought to wear men’s clothers though I have worn some of my husband’s in a pinch though I swim in them.

    Once while we were waiting for my rheumy the A/C was so cold my feet were turning even bluer than normal. Of course I hadn’t worn socks so he took his gigantic socks off and put them on my feet. Even when I scrunched them they were like woolly buckets on my feet. But I didn’t care, at least my feet no longer felt like cold dead fish…yuk. I love his flannel shirts after he breaks them in. Soft and warm so I often wear them around the house. But I never thought of purchasing men’s clothing in my size. Now you’ve given me an idea…lol so we’ve helped one another.

    Btw, love the chinchilla comparison. Now each time I think of a chinchilla I’ll picture your pretty face on it…lol

    I hope you are feeling and doing well. So nice to hear from you. Gentle hugs, Cynthia

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    Oh heck I used to be 6’4″. Now days I am 6’0″ and shrinking. I lean forward way to much. But the good news is that i still have to cover the same body, it is just at a radically different angle.

    By the way, I was a pro basketball player in my younger days. I mean I was in my own mind when I was younger. Just saying.

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