Avoiding Wheelchair Blanket.
Wheelchair blanket is the tragic and psychologically debilitating condition in which a wheelchair-user finds themselves with a blanket - usually of a plaid pattern - placed over their knees. Whenever I see wheelchair users in this situation, I assume that someone else put the blanket there; certainly every time I have suffered wheelchair blanket, it was entirely non-consensual.
Not only is this a decidedly unglamourous look, it is also a little impractical; the blanket slips down, gets dirty at the bottom and can even get trapped in the wheels. One can get specially designed wheelchair blankets, which often appear like the sort of plastic body-bags you see in crime dramas except with a hole for the head to stick out. Nice.
There are good reasons why this condition occurs; (a) a wheelchair-user's legs become much colder than those of a vertical type on account of not walking and (b) immobility causes or exaggerates existing problems with circulation, making the wheelchair-user's legs colder still, and rendering the feet prone to freezing and falling off.
Of course, a wheelchair-user can hope for a cozy arse; the wheelchair-user's rump remains well-insulated, usually against a cushion or at least a layer of water-proof unbreathable fabric. These means that it is not merely a question of dressing up like an Artic explorer, since one likely to get rather overheated in the posterior and fiddly bits.
So basically, this is how to keep your legs as warm as possible without resorting to the accursed blanket. I'm not sure I've ever combined all of these at once, but they all make a difference:
- Hairy legs. If you get very cold legs, then chances are, nobody catches sight of your legs between September and May, but even so the Hobbit look is very in this season, as are an array of Tolkein-inspired style innovations. In jewellery, the ring is the new body-bar.
- Massage the feet and legs before going outside. Anything that will stimulate blood-flow will help. Especially if you use something warming, some slimey stuff with cloves, ginger, cinnamon etc. in it. Deep Heat muscle rub or Olbas Oil will do the trick, if you don't mind spelling like you've got a cold.
- Wear fishnet tights. Fishnet, mesh or crocheted tights or stockings are superb at keeping your legs warm whilst still be being nice and breathable. It is the string-vest principle. Those big burly men on building sites, in my experience, are all wearing fishnet tights under their jeans to keep warm in the winter months. Of course, fishnets will only keep you snug if you cover them up with other layers of clothing. Oddly enough, the place which I have found sells the nicest and best quality fishnets at not unreasonable prices is M&S. I know. The shame!
- Over the knee socks. I have been wearing these for many years, but it would appear that Victoria Beckham, following my example, has started doing the same. Thus over-the-knee socks are currently quite widely available in the shops. I would source them from eBay myself, because I am a cheapskate, but you can get a number of different colours from Tightsplease and I discovered the wonderful US shop Sock Dreams, which has a huge range of OTKs.
- Lace-up boots. All the boots should have laces on them in my opinion, but they are ideal for our purposes because they can be adjusted to fit over however many pairs of socks you need to wear under them. The very funkiest boots for wheelchair-users are New Rock Boots, as worn by Mik Scarlett and many a cybergoth wheelie.
- Remember old-fashioned underwear. Long-johns, petticoats, pantaloons and so on; people used to keep perfectly warm without synthetic fleece or waterproof fabrics. Personally, I mostly wear long skirts, so it is a matter of wearing another skirt underneath. You can buy such items at great expense from historical costume shops, but underskirts especially aren't that tricky to put together yourself (make a bit tube, sew elastic round one end, basically).