Lymphedema and Fashion

How does lymphedema and fashion go together? My lymphedema has actually dictated my fashion style most of my life.

When I was younger I had to wear wide legged jeans while everyone else my age was wearing very tight legged jeans. I also had to wear pants/jeans that were way too big in my waist just so I could get the jeans up my legs.

I remember a time when I was a teenager when mini dresses were in style and all of my friends got them. I got one too. We all wore them one day and as we were walking around the mall people kept making rude comments about my legs. Needless to say I never wore a mini dress again…. Actually, I lied. I did wear a mini dress again. I had gotten a part time job as an elf for Santa Claus at the Millbrook Mall in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. I was just an alternate for when the 2 regular elves couldn’t do their shift. My sister Carla, who also has lymphedema, was a regular elf. lol  It was funny when Carla and I did shifts together because people would mention our big legs and we would say that all of Santa’s elves had big legs. And that was all we had to say…

As I got older I continued to wear the wide legged jeans or sweatpants with long shirts that did nothing for my body shape. I didn’t care what my clothes looked like as long as they fit over my legs and arms.

Eventually my legs got too big for even my oversized jeans and sweatpants. I had to start wearing dresses or skirts. This was sort of a blessing in disguise… from the moment I put on my first dress I started getting compliments. People thought I had lost a lot of weight but in reality it was just because the dresses showed my shape better than the oversized clothes that I used to wear. I can buy dresses and skirts in my size. I wear maxi dresses or maxi skirts whenever I leave my house now. There are a couple of reasons why I chose the maxi length. A big reason is that I don’t want to be judged by my legs. If people see my legs before they get to know me then  they focus on my legs and not me as a person. Once a person gets to know me then I will show them my legs. Another reason for the maxi length is my lack of pretty footwear.

SHOES!!!! Shoes have been an issue for me all of my life (or at least since I was 12). In my teenage years I was able to get away with just wearing wider widths a couple of sizes too large for me. I haven’t been able to wear pretty shoes since I was about 15. At about 20 I had to start wearing men’s wide shoes that were a couple of sizes too large for me. Then I had a pair made…boy was that a mistake. They looked like huge baby shoes and they didn’t take in consideration that my feet get smaller or bigger depending on the time of day, temperature and my activities. Anyway, that didn’t work. There have been times when I wore orthopedic/diabetic slippers, cast shoes and during my pregnancy I wore grocery bags. I am presently wearing a pair of shoes from an orthopedic shop that they were able to special order for me (and these too are a couple of sizes too large for me and they are men’s wide and extra depth). People are always suggesting shoes for me such as crocs  and different types of sandals. I always get my hopes up but the minute I can’t get them past my toes I feel really defeated (pun intended).

Even though lymphedema does dictate some parts of my fashion style it does not dictate every part of it. I still get to choose the fabric patterns and colours  that  I like, the shapes of the dresses, and the necklines that I prefer. Lymphedema does not hold me back from expressing who I am through what I wear (except with my shoes 😛 ).


5 thoughts on “Lymphedema and Fashion

  1. Karen, regarding shoes, I know very little about women’s shoes, so I hope this suggestion is helpful and not just babble. LOL! Anyway. I noticed on the Rupaul’s Drag Race show that Rupaul has his own line of womens shoes in mens sizes for drag queens. Since you said you wear mens sizes, perhaps a Rupaul shoe would help? Just google Rupaul shoes. Hope this helps. 🙂


  2. P.S. Karen. I forgot to say that with my lymphedema I have found that New Balance makes extra extra wide shoes in mens sizes (size 14-15 for me) that I can tolerate and even leave unlaced if need be. In case you did not know about New Balance.


    1. I haven’t been able to fit into New Balance for about 15 years. Width is not the issue. My instep is very high (my foot looks like a ball with toes) so that is my issue. Even RuPaul’s shoes would not fit. lol.


  3. I’m so proud of you and right all I worn for 3 years during the summer were maxi dresses/skirts. I just learned the other day that I can wear palazzo and wide legged pants. They are great! I will include them in my summer wardrobe


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