Five Ways HS Has Influenced my Wardrobe
Last updated: October 2022
I often am thankful I exist in this time and space as opposed to years and centuries past, because I have so many clothing choices as opposed to people in the past. And when I say people in the past, I mean the ones I learned about who had one fancy outfit to wear to events, and one getup to wear while mucking stalls and planting seeds and picking rocks from fields so plows weren’t damaged. Or the unlucky ladies who wore things that had so many laces and buckles and wires and actual whalebones that when we see them now, they have pictures and paragraphs on how to use them properly – because it isn’t obvious just by looking at the devices.
But hidradenitis suppurativa comes with very specific limitations in clothing that I have personally had to adjust, sometimes with a bit of sadness.
Black has become a staple in my wardrobe
The first is that I’m an outfit kind of woman. I love to throw on a theme from head to toe, like a butterfly theme, or a flower theme, and wear bright colors, even incorporating my makeup into the overall effect. However, HS can ruin my look in about five seconds flat if a lesion opens up and leaks through. For that reason, black has entered my wardrobe like a black hole. Or maybe like a thundercloud? Whatever the analogy, I don’t like it. I mourn the days when I could dress up in cherry red and turquoise blue and not even blink one eyelash.
To counteract this problem, I think about which prints will not show a leak so readily. I also have found some fantastic tops and dresses that are made from very lightweight synthetic fabrics that are pretty and fun, that don’t stain and wash very easily. They are sleeveless and so I usually don’t overheat in them.
The second way HS has altered my wardrobe is that I now make open-front cardigans a staple of my wardrobe. All of those sleeveless tops? Not too hot and not too cold with a lightweight open-front cardigan. I have a bunch now in dark grey, navy blue and black. Some of them have ruffles and gathers that keep them from looking dull. I like a little drama in my clothes! They also are great over short-sleeved tops if I need a little extra coverage. And no one has any comments about me wearing all of these cardigans. It’s a “look.”
Leggings and layers!
Third, I wear leggings all of the time. I really do! I enjoy wearing dresses and skirts, but they always have leggings underneath. This actually serves two purposes. First, we have a lot of “skirt alert” days where I live: it’s so windy, there’s a good chance the hem is going to be blown somewhere above the waistline, and far above modesty. Second, leggings help me to keep bandages in place! Some of my fellow patients may not care for clothes that fit so closely, and that’s okay. We’re all different. I like having the leggings to hold everything in place, so I’m not constantly adjusting and worrying where everything is, or where it has gone. I’m the queen of clothing disasters (I have so many stories)! But my leggings now are all black, because a lot of my HS activity is in my groin and buttock area.
The hidden blessing and fourth way that HS has altered my wardrobe is that layers hide a lot. Sometimes layers hide the body parts I’m not crazy about. Like… what happened to my toned arms I had in my 20’s?? But the layers also hide any possible leaks that sneak up on me, as well as muffle any odor that comes with lesions that pop and drain. They even hide outlines of bandages and pads.
My survival bag
The fifth way that my wardrobe has been altered is that I have a purse I keep with me at all times. It’s my survival bag, packed with supplies. We’re all curious about what other people carry, right? I’ve got extra gauze and self-adhesive pads, a 2 oz. bottle of witch hazel, some q-tips, some cotton balls (both in a small baggie), a couple of sanitary napkins, a tube of scent-free ointment, and some all-natural wipes. I was never a big purse person. This is a lot of stuff to pack in addition to my usual lip balm and breath mints. I have learned not to leave this purse anywhere or to trick myself into thinking I can do without it for a while, so HS has turned me into a medium purse lady instead of a tiny purse lady. This is my bare minimum.
All of these changes are made from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have specific wardrobe requirements for such things as employment, and who identifies as female. I’d be interested to hear how you have made wardrobe changes according to how hidradenitis suppurativa has affected your life, and if you have any tips for others that might make something easier for them!
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?