Why I Live in Leggings - Clothing & RA

Last updated: May 2022

The last time I bought hard pants was a decade ago.

What are hard pants, you might ask?

To me, hard pants are anything that feels hard to get on - anything that has tight legs, a tight waistband, anything that requires a button, snap or zipper closure, or anything that feels hard against my skin, especially when my knees are swollen.

How leggings support my joints

Not to brag, but I was truly a pioneer of leggings as pants long before they were cool. To me, they look more “together” than a pair of sweatpants or pajama pants, but provide the same level of comfort. They are simple, soft, comfortable, and most importantly, easy to put on and take off. What's not to like?

Getting dressed to keep my body comfortable

When you live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), life becomes about finding functional ways to keep your body calm, your pain at low levels, and keeping anything that might trip you up, cause frustration or hurt, or flare-ups to a minimum.

For me, getting dressed was something that had to be considered. In the beginning, it was less about the on and off of pants that were challenging and more about wearing the pants throughout the day. Anything that was constricting or uncomfortable sent my body into a tailspin.

Not finding RA-friendly clothing is frustrating

As time progressed, and the joint pain and swelling increased in my hands, wrists, and fingers, I have made several other adjustments in my wardrobe.

Clothing features I try to avoid

  • Any item with buttons
  • Invisible zippers (the tiny ones behind fabric or seams, especially in the sides or the back of dresses)
  • Tightness - long sleeves or pants that are too fitted and require a dance of sorts to put on
  • Laces requiring tying (shoes, shirts, jackets)
  • Hook closures (often on blouses or dresses, usually at the base of the neck just further than what you can reach)

Any of these items can cause pain, frustration, and in general trip up my getting dressed or undressed. In my opinion, they are just not worth the hassle!

Building a joint-friendly wardrobe

Instead, I've found what does work, what makes me feel comfortable and confident when dressed, and what allows me to get in and out of clothes without hassle or heartache. Here's a list of clothing tips I've cultivated over the years:

  • Looser clothing - Nothing I have to wriggle into
  • Soft and stretchy items - Shirt, leggings, sweaters, and dresses
  • Over-the-head dresses - This is my favorite tip for looking and feeling put together without expending too much energy in getting dressed!
  • Swapping out a clasp bra - Many companies now make a version of a wireless bra that just slips over your head. They look and feel much nicer than sports bras but require no hooks or facets. Plus, the wear time is in general more comfortable.
  • Layers - This is a key piece of my RA-friendly wardrobe. Most days start with a soft short sleeve shirt and end with a sweater or sweatshirt addition. I get warm quickly, especially when my pain increases. So, wearing outfits that are unable to adjust to my temperature fluctuations is a no-go.

I'd love to know if there's anything you'd add! How has your wardrobe changed with your RA diagnosis or symptoms?

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