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Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

A health crisis can come in many shapes and sizes. For some people, it is managing a disease or defect for an entire lifetime. This disease or defect might be visual or it could be internal. In many cases, it’s both. For others, it could be an injury sustained in the line of duty or while playing a sport.

Dr. Laura Miele-Pascoe, a professor with Ohio University’s Masters in Coaching Education, wrote about the psychology of injury for professional athletes in an article for Psychology Today. Discussing the career-ending injuries of athletes like Lamar Odom, Miele-Pascoe points out that, “Not everyone has the capability of overcoming what I call the darkness inside of their psyche. Some people turn to drinking; others turn to drugs . . .” This can be said for anyone who has suffered a health crisis and is struggling to cope.

If the crisis involves a person’s appearance, coping can sometimes be even more difficult, as everyone can see the scars, the loss of hair, or whatever has altered that person’s appearance. We all cope differently. While it may seem superficial to some people, fashion can work wonders for people managing health crises. Some use it to cover up; other use to enhance.

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Fashion As A Cover-Up

I had open heart surgery when I was eight months old and have had a huge scar on my chest ever since. It is visible above most necklines. I’ve been lucky that my heart has remained relatively healthy the rest of my life. I haven’t needed extra surgeries, and my scar healed nicely without any extra help, though there are some great new treatments out there.

Had my surgery taken place when I was older, or had I needed more than one, I may have been less confident about having this scar. For many of my fellow women survivors of this type of surgery, comfort may be found in wearing a strategically tied scarf or higher neckline.

I have a second scar from my surgery, one that healed improperly. This one is more traumatizing psychologically for me than the other, because I was always teased for having a second belly button. Even today, I prefer swimsuits that cover it rather than ones that cover the giant red line running down my chest.

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Fashion As A Way To Show-Off

For more than five years, I’ve volunteered with my local branch of the American Cancer Society (ACS). I’ve met amazing people who have survived cancer and who are still fighting it. I’ve met a young man recovering from breast cancer and toddlers fighting lymphoma.

For these fighters, one of the biggest battles is the physical effects cancer treatment has on them. Not only do they deal with the emotional toll of hearing, “You have cancer,” but many endure painful treatments that will save their lives but do damage to their appearance in the meantime.

There are nonprofit programs — like Sherman Oaks, California’s weSPARK — that treat both the emotional and the physical effects of cancer treatment. weSPARK partners with ACS’s Look Good Feel Better to provide self-esteem boosting fashion and beauty treatments for cancer patients.

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Look Good Feel Better provides makeup tutorials, hair styling guides, and even a virtual styling tool to women and teens undergoing cancer treatment. Some cancer survivors and patients go about using fashion in a different way to show off their strength.

One woman I met at a Relay for Life still wears her hair shaven as a reminder to herself and to others that she survived breast cancer. She also wears a “F*ck Cancer” shirt on a regular basis; the t-shirt and her hair proclaim an understandable love/hate relationship with the disease she defeated.

Fashion As Both

Many people going through a health crisis use fashion in both of these ways. They gladly show off some scars and hide others, like I do, calling one a lifeline and barely admitting to another. Others cover up their balding heads with hats and skillfully tied scarves while wearing vibrant clothes, calling attention to the healthier parts of their bodies.

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Some people take the combo to extremes. Brave mastectomy survivors are covering up scars and showing off their survival by getting tattoos on their chests. PersonalInk is an organization of tattoo artists dedicated to providing their services to mastectomy patients who want to cover the scars but show off what they’ve survived.

Injured veterans are also finding solace in the fashion and tattoo worlds. Many who have lost limbs to improvised explosive devices are turning to modeling to heal their psychological scars. Alex Minksy, a former Marine who lost his right leg, began his second career as the subject of a photographer’s simple request. Now the tattooed vet models for fitness sites, fashion photographers, and even on the runway.

Fashion As A Healer

No matter how we use fashion, it can be a great healer. We may use it to cover up a new injury or show off an old scar. We may use it to do a little of both. Like each of us, it is diverse enough that it can heal our psychological and physical wounds. We just have to find the fashion that speaks to each of us.

More by this author

H. E. James

Writer and researcher

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

Instagram allows you to see exactly what inspires people and how creativity is drawn from their everyday life. We use Instagram to capture what makes us smile, what brings joy to our life, and what we are passionate about, and the accounts listed below are sure to inspire you in turn.

Here are our 20 top creative Instagram accounts that you should be following today.

1. Humans Of New York

Brandon Stanton walks the streets of New York City taking street photography, and he gets his subjects to open up about life details that even many family members may not know about them. It makes you smile and connect with the images at a new level.

 2.  Paris in Four Months

Carin Olsson moved to Paris and is documenting every part of her experience, from the macaroons to the Eiffel Tower with all of its shimmering lights. If you want to go to Paris but can’t get there today, Carin will take you.

3. Civilized Caveman Cooking

George Bryant offers up more than his love for cooking Paleo cuisine as he shares more about life, joy, and happiness. His coined hashtag is #hugsandbacon.

4. Andrew Knapp

Andrew has taken the world by storm with his adorable version of Where’s Waldo? His version is Find Momo, and stars his border collie.

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5. Idafrosk

Ida Skivenes has developed a knack for food art. From the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Strawberry Fields Forever, she has recreated it all with food.

6. GrandmaBetty33

Grandma Betty is fighting cancer and is inspiring others to smile and be happy in life. She brings a smile to your face instantly and is like having your grandma right beside you.

7. Maya_on_the_Move

Tania Ahsan captures the world of her cute bulldog, Maya, on her adventures in New York. Maya makes appearances that will make you smile, laugh, and inspire you to go out and create something special.

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8. Leoleoparis

Leo captures the life on the streets of Paris. Most of his work is done in black and white, offering that iconic Parisian look.

9. Jacob Santiago

Jacob Santiago creates stunning, vibrant images around New York City, showcasing the architecture and streets. I’m sure you haven’t seen the streets of NYC like this before.

10. Julie’s Kitchen

Julie Lee showcases how everyday produce can create colorful art designs. At first glance, you think it is just a design; then, a second take illustrates that it is really fruits and vegetables.

11. iloveplaymo

iloveplaymo brings together photography and Playmobil toys in action. The images are up to date with current world events and everyday life.

12. “Red” Hong Yi

Red Hong Yi loves to paint without a paintbrush. Her style uses daily items to create lovely images.

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13. Alexis Diaz

A breathtaking artist from Puerto Rico who loves to paint murals. Alexis’s work is featured all over the world.

14. Murad Osmann

Murad Osmann is a music video producer, but his claim to fame on Instagram has been his photographs with his girlfriend leading him by her hand.

15. Simone Bramate

Simone Bramate is a storyteller who just so happens to take delightful photos as well.

16. Willie Kessel

Willie Kessel brings beach life right to your smartphone. Amazing surf and lifestyle images that take your mind off of all of the work and stress in your life.

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17. Nick Ulivieri

Nick Ulivieri is a talented photographer who loves to capture the windy city of Chicago and skies, especially during storms. His images are gorgeous and make you realize how wonderful life really is.

18. Jo Jerry

Jo Jerry’s landscape photos around Santorini, Greece, make you want to book a flight immediately. The bright colors and simplicity in the images make his photos stand out from the rest.

19. GoPro

GoPro uses fan-sourced images on their account that are all captured with a GoPro. Creativity to the max is used in these images and range from the grocery store to incredible surf.

20. Vin Farrell

Vin Farrell is a creative who works on the agency side for large clients and has a knack for photography. His iPhone captures amazing aerial images around NYC and the world.

Featured photo credit: Andy via flickr.com

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