Clothing is an important part of many people’s identities. I’ve gone through many phases in my life; monochrome to clashing colours to colour coordinated and hoodies to cardigans to tailored jackets. While most people aim to dress for their body type and shape, I have an extra shape alongside the usual classifications to consider, that of the ‘S’ shape. The S stands for scoliosis.
About 2-3% of the human population have what is defined as “an abnormal curvature of the spine” and it usually develops in that cruicial moment that you are discovering yourself; adolecence. Further to that, scoliosis is ten times more common in girls than boys. My parents noticed mine when I was 13 years old and thus began the long road to stengthening my weak muscles and finding out what this meant for my appearance and my self confidence. I chose not to have surgery, and opted for a form of physiotherapy that enabled me to stand straight and so I don’t have the scars that so many people like Princess Beatrice do.
I’m lucky to have an honest but sensitive mum when it comes to how I look and for a long time I was only comfortable going clothes shopping with her. It took a while, but I made some positive changes to my wardrobe that not only made my back look better, but made me feel good about my body too. The hardest thing was having to acknowlege that not all clothes were going to suit me anymore and it led to a lot of tears when clothes that I loved had to be put on returns rail on the way out of the changing room.
It was definitely tears of frustration that I felt; frustration that my body didn’t fit into the clothes that everyone else could and that fashion brands didn’t cater for anyone who didn’t have a perfectly straight spine. I was often tempted to wear ill-fitting clothes regardless, but I’m relieved I didn’t as this would have damaged my self confidence more. Finally accepting that some clothes just wouldn’t ever look right on me and that I woudl never be perfectly straight was thanks to my dad, a hypnotherapist. He used IEMT (integral eye movement therapy) to help me let go of the negative feelings I had towards my body because my developing teenage brain was struggling.
After the help from my dad, I had a much more positive outlook on life and created myself a wardrobe that both flattered my shape and made me proud of the body I have.
- Dresses with elasticated waistelines and tops: my waiste is far from symmetrical and I have a small bump caused by my twisted rib cage which is only accentuated by tight fitting clothing.
- Low backs: Anything that sits below my uneven shoulder plates is a no for me; it accentuates my curves which I’d rather disguise.
- Stretchy tops: They cling to my curves and make them louder which for me is not flattering and detracts from the outfit.
Welcoming with Open Arms:
- Tailoring and Structured clothing: luckily my shoulders are quite even so I can get clothes to hang off me well, even if they come in at the waiste. Structured skirts make my waiste symmetrical and dresses with high, tailored backs make me feel expensive while not relying on the undulations of my back for their shape.
- Floaty shirts: I have a booty but not much boob so these even me out and hide the curve of my spine while making me feel elegant and sophisticated.
- Padding: On occaisons I have needed to add a bit of padding to fill in the valleys of my back. When I was 16, my mum made my prom dress from scratch and added a small pad in the bodice to even it out a bit. An ingenious idea that could be used to scoliosis-proof a lot of clothing!
When it comes to bags, I’m ecsatitc that fashionable rucksacks exist and I recently invested in one to replace my cross-body bag for days out where I want to look stylish instead of sporty. For years though, I’ve been punishing my posture with shoulder bags which do nothing for the comfort of my spine. With both my shoulders bearing the weight of a rucksack, I can stand straight and be hands free!
Having scoliosis has definitely shaped my style, but it hasn’t stopped me from experimenting and and developing the way I dress as I’ve progressed from teenager to mid-twenties. I still make mistakes and choose clothes that I know won’t sit right, but I buy them anyway and end up taking them back the next day. The difference is I completely accept that this is the way things are and that I have a wardrobe full to bursting of beautiful pieces that look good.
Scoliosis is part of my life but it doesn’t define me. Yes, my spine may be a bit on the curvy side and my rib-cage a bit twisted, but I am incredibly lucky that I can disguise it with strategic clothing while many with severe scoliosis cannot. More importantly, scoliosis affects a lot of people who will be feeling similar things so you’re not alone, no matter what shape you are.