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female figure in a high fashion pose wearing sunglasses, basketball shoes, sweat pants and a sweatshirt.

The Passing of a Design Icon

You may or may not have heard that Karl Lagerfeld, the Creative Director of Chanel and Fenti, recently passed away. This is a major event in the fashion world as Lagerfeld is a design legend. He was in the luxury brand business for decades and was head of Chanel for at least three of them.

Short disclaimer: This article is not about luxury design but how I’ve re-evaluated my idea of fashion because of my RA.

I have never realIy been into it but I’ve always had a soft spot for Chanel; probably because my mother loved Chanel. She wore Chanel No5 perfume and I now wear Chanel Mademoiselle.

Lagerfeld’s influence on my RA journey

I never met Lagerfeld, though it was on my bucket list (seriously!). He was cagey about his personal life, especially his age, and he had a very specific manner. He often said things that went down in infamy and I would take his quotes with a grain of salt. However, there were a couple of them I took to heart.

The first, “I’m very impeccable and clean before I go to bed. When I was a child, my mother always told me that you could wake up in the middle of the night and be deathly sick, so you always have to be impeccable. I laugh about it now, but I think everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door.”

The second, which makes me giggle each time, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”

I laugh because I am that person. According to KL’s rules, I lost control of my life. One day I had RA and started wearing sweats. I stopped caring about my appearance.

Defining my RA-friendly style

Well, let me rephrase that. I do care about how I look on some level as a beauty influencer but I often opt for easy, accessible clothes like “athleisure wear”. Given my RA, zippers, buttons and snaps are especially hard and sometimes even leggings are too tight to maneuver.

When I do one last primp before I leave the house, I check my makeup, I check my hair, then I do a quick glance at my clothes (generally just to make sure they fit). I think, well, my nice t-shirt is too hard to get over my shoulders so I opt for a more loose pullover. I blame my condition but deep down I know its because I’m just not trying. Why though? I’ve perfected “arthritis-friendly” ways to do my makeup and paint my nails. Why can’t I do the same with how I dress?

And, why do I ditch the nicer work attire for sweatshirts and pants the second I enter the house? A few months ago, I binged my favorite FBI homicide show and panicked that if I died people would go through my things and realize I was a disorganized mess. I have a tendency to just shove things into drawers so the tops look nice, you know? Well, what if something happened to me while I was walking my dogs? Or I didn’t wake up one morning? Do I want the last thing I wear to be a pair of neon green fleece pants with penguins on it? (Actually…Probably!)

I need to sit down, evaluate my needs (RA style) then look for clothes that fit the bill. I don’t have to settle for button downs or pants with extensive fastenings, my accessories don’t have to be extra fiddly and I don’t have to own an array of heels to feel fashionable. There is no reason for me to spend oodles of money doing so, either! As Lagerfeld once said “…Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans—it’s up to you.”

And, if I get stuck I can always ask WWKLD? (What would Karl Lagerfeld do?)

How do you stay fashionable with your RA? Let me know in the comments!

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.


  • jack5225
    11 months ago

    Btw, I’m a girl. Jack is my log-in name. Carol D.

  • jack5225
    11 months ago

    I loved your article on KL. I just want to say that sweats are the go-to RA fashion because they feel so good on a hurting body. They aren’t my first choice, and lately, I’ve been forcing myself into a routine of hair (what little I have left after MTX), makeup and getting all spiffy to go to a dog rescue where I volunteer as a dog cuddler. Jeans and a tee- shirt can be very stylish when paired with a cute jacket, scarf, and accessories like hoop earrings, or bangle bracelets. You’d be amazed at what you can find at Goodwill. You can find stylish tunics and jeans with an elastic waistband for those bloated days when you can’t see your feet. When I feel like crap, I ask myself, WWKLD? I think that’s what KL would tell me to do. When I get home, it’s sweats-time and cuddling my own sweet dogs. At least I’ve made the effort to get out of the house and be a part of the human race and look good while making that effort. Now flares are another story, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Thanks for the air-time! Carol D

  • Casmere
    11 months ago

    Hi Monica, as always I enjoy your articles. I to have reverted to track pants around the house but not when I go out. I have/was always partcular about my appearance. My oldest daughter used to say mom you are so vain. It’s not that I am vain it’s how the way you look makes you feel good about yourself.

    At this particular time in my life. With all the meds that have been added the last 2 years. I first lost lots of weight then I put that amount back on plus more. I blame Prednisone, Gabapenten and Amitriptyline.

    I, when I am able to, get out shopping for new clothes. The other week, I went to a womens wear shop to find a good pair of black pants. What I didn’t realize was they close at 5 and I got there at 4:45. The shop clerk was great and she did the searching for them. I tried on at least 5 pair. The one I like fit great for my legs but dug into my bloated prednisone belly. They got a larger size that fits my belly but goes right up almost under my chest. I ended up getting those ones as it was closing time. The sales clerk had her things on to leave. So it was a purchase because of all her help. Yes I will wear them occasionally but really am not please.

    I did get out to another shop yesterday, and of course found nice pants that fit great both for my legs and belly. I also f
    ound some nice tops. By the time I am finished I am exhausted. BUT, I need new clothes that fit.

    So what I am getting at is, I understand the desire to look your best even when you don’t feel the best. This also did transfer to my home, but I now live with my daughter and family. I do what I can when l can, around the house to help out. And that’s life.

    Carol aka Casmere

  • Heartsong
    11 months ago

    I have always loved fabric and color. I find that always refreshing my wardrobe ( more like a stash) elevates my mood and self worth. Ebay and online shopping has saved me since marching around malls is no longer an option.
    What I wear announces that “I still am valid”.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hey @heartsong! Thanks for sharing on my article!!

    Honestly, I feel the same way. I was never much into fashion (until very recently) but a fun addition, whether it’s pants, scarves or tops, makes me feel a lot better.

    I love online shopping because there are always so many great sales but I often run the risk of not getting the correct size (which is not the biggest hassle since we don’t have to return in a physical store anymore!)

    Now, I try to inject some fun and color through accessories. I am partial to shoes and scarves. I still wear leggings and yoga pants but the accessories always seem to elevate them!

    All the best, Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    11 months ago

    I knew nothing about Karl Lagerfeld until I watched the documentary on Netflix called 7 days out. It is a documentary about the last seven days before the introduction of a channel line at Paris Fashion week. I was amazed by the intricacy of the final selection, staging and ultimately success or failure.

    OK, I still know nothing about him, fashion or Channel. But, I did like the documentary.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    11 months ago

    Ooh! I haven’t heard of that documentary but I will definitely watch it!

    What amazes me most is that he kept Chanel current. If I am not mistaken, there was a time that nobody bought a lot of Chanel. While I think there was a definite shift in catching the younger generation’s eye he still managed to keep everyone engaged.

    These huge fashion shows are no joke. I am glad I don’t have to be part of it!

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