Sunday, October 28, 2007

Essential Winter Style Tip #2

Today's style tip is one for the wheelies:

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.
New Rock Boots
  • 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.
My lovely bootsOne great advantage of not walking very far is that, unless you have interesting feet, you can buy cheap shoes which last forever. I've had my lovely boots for years, and every now and again I give myself a totally new look by replacing the laces with different coloured rattail, which is about 25p a metre. People hardly recognise me after such a transformation.
  • 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).
Uh... that's all I can think of just now. I'm sure someone else will have some suggestions.


Wheelchair Dancer said...

Ho hum. I'm going to get a rep for poor style here, but ....

Yes on the boots. LOVE 'em. Yes on the tights. Oh so yes on the tights. And, in extreme cases (NYC in the way below freezing, snow, wind state), I favour the oh-so-sparkly metallic space blanket.


It's lightweight, water and windproof. AND it folds up into your (by now de rigueur) sparkly metallic handbag.


Anonymous said...

I also recommend silk longjohns. (You can find them here and here, among many other places. They are not expensive, they are thin and often knit into pointelle fabrics patterned with tiny perforations, they are a natural fiber so they breathe, and yet they are very, very warm. You sometimes have to handwash them, but they dry overnight, and they are strong so they last a long time, especially if you're not walking in them, chafing out the crotch (which is what happens to most of mine; the curse of chubby thighs). I do have one pair that has lasted me about eight years and which I actually wash in the machine (though I hang-dry it) and one camisole which has lasted me the full 12 years I've lived in Massachusetts.

A little tip I learned in Alaska for people who live in climates which are both cold and damp: wool and silk warm up when wet; cotton just gets cold and stays cold.

Love the purple boots!

Katie said...

unless you have interesting feet, you can buy cheap shoes which last forever

*Stares at the flat black Mary Janes which last her a month a pop and are definitely not designed for wearing in winter.*

*remembers that her feet are so interesting she cannot get them into any other kind of shoe.*

*reminds herself that these shoes cost £60 a go.*


Pedagogical Pedaler said...

I don't use a wheelchair but I do get cold toes, and one thing that I've found that works is these toe warmer things. I'm not sure what they're made of, and they look kind of weird- like condoms for your toes. You wear them under socks and they really help keep in the heat. Another thing is that my mom used to go skiing and could get these little disposable packets to slip inside her boots. She'd snap them in the morning, put them by her feet, and they'd stay warm and toasty for about eight hours. She's always had a lot of circulation problems too.

Love the boots, by the way. :-)

Anonymous said...

Heehee--you totally had me cracking up because my mom used to try and try and try to convince me to suffer the horrible fashion misfortune of wheelchair blanket at my brother's football games but I REFUSED! It is horrendous....You've covered all the best remedies but hot hands/feet are good too! Those little disposable heat packs that you shake to em but don't use many here in Miami!

Casdok said...

Great ideas!!!

Sally said...

The silk longjohns every time, under cord trousers and 'walkers'' socks, in the boots, with extra thickness round the toes. Ecco boots with thick fleece linings - I have had mine 10 years (without being resoled naturally) but they
don't make them any longer.

And a natural (sheep) fleece, big enough for the seat and back, sounds comfy; enabling cosyness without sweatyness, probably from Celtic Sheepskin.

Mary said...

Top half is no problem. I can put on increasingly baggy tops one over the other until my top half is toasty even in the coldest weather.

But I am having big problems with my lower half. See, before Lurgy I was really quite active. I would walk, cycle or rollerskate absolutely everywhere. As such, I had big muscly legs.

Suddenly crashing to absolutely minimal exercise and walking... well... those muscles are turning to flab... my top half is still a size 12 but my bottom half is a size or two bigger. Particularly the circumference of my thighs.

I've tried those super-loose sk8er b0i type jeans and combat trousers, the only problem is that although they are nice and loose on my legs, opening up the possibility of layering... they are designed to show off your pants, whereas I'm looking for something to actually cover my pants and possibly even curve IN at the waist. Trying to get those trousers to be at your waist makes you feel like you should be using rubber braces and a big hoop rather than a belt.

Any tips?

seahorse said...

Thermals do it for me. Those over the knee socks that are about can look quite funky though. And I'm with Sally on sheepskin. Warmer than a blanket. But not as warm as WCD's space foil I would wager.

The Goldfish said...

WCD - You have special sparkly privileges because of your profession. Otherwise I'd report you to the Style Police. ;-P

Sara - It's a useful point about silk and wool, I didn't think of that.

Katie - My sympathies. I'm sure it is a blindingly obvious idea, but given you're spending so much on shoes, you couldn't pay someone to make ones that would be more suitable and last longer?

Sarah - yes, the toe-warmer things (I think they're latex) are a good idea. I will have to try them.

Kara - I'm sure mothers have a lot to answer for when it comes to wheelchair blanket.

Casdok - Thank you!

Sally - Thanks. I have largely avoided animal products because of long periods of vegetarianism but I had a sheepskin coat when I was very small (it was a hand-me down which had been handed-down very many times) and it was very cozy.

Mary - How about skirts? I'm funny sizes; my bust, waist and hips each square up to different dress sizer=s so any trousers which fit my waist will be too tight on my hips. So I wear skirts, mostly with elasticated waists.

Unfortunately, most ladies fashionable trousers are pretty rubbish to be sat down in just now; most of them are low-waisted, which whilst flattering on someone who is stood up, usually leaves a gaping space exposing the bottom of the spine when you're sat down.

But like I say, I personally solve this by living in skirts... The other possibility would to be make your own. But perhaps someone else might have a suggestion?

Seahorse - thanks, but please don't encourage WCD and her sparkly-obsession. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I was doing perfectly okay until you started hinting at fishnet stockings and then the entire tone of the post changed for me and I needed to go and have a lie down...


Katie said...

My problem is I put weight through a weird bit of my foot, so wear out a bit of the shoe that isn't designed to have so much pressure put through it. Rather than having someone design me my own shoes, what I need is someone prepared to rethink the entire concept of shoe - they are just not designed with me in mine. None of them.

I have given this considerable thought over the years, and what I actually need is a human horseshoe - it would be perfect, with some snuggly socks over the top. But I do not see human horseshoes becoming social acceptable in my lifetime.


Anonymous said...

You forgot leg warmers..... ;-)

Sandi said...

I did not know that about the fishnet hose.. hmmI am gonna try that! :)