8 Style Tips for Women With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to mean living in dowdy sweats and T-shirts. Use these tips to stay comfy without giving up the glam.

Gina Roberts-Grey
Reviewed by
John Varga, MD
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“Having arthritis does not mean you have to forgo fashion,” insists Clinton Kelly, host of What Not to Wear, TLC’s popular reality show. Kelly, 41, should know. Several of the fashion guru’s close friends and family members, including his grandmother, have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

RA can make it hard to reach and wrestle with buttons, clasps and zippers—as well as simply bend your body. “But there are many fashionable yet comfortable clothing options available,” says Kelly. “Have them on hand for days when you feel achy and stiff, but still want to look great.”

Head-to-toe tips for women with rheumatoid arthritis

1. Forget “fussy” fabrics. Fabrics like silk and linen wrinkle and stain easily. They also are difficult to manage when fingers are sore or wrists are stiff. Instead, choose garments made of microfiber jersey, a soft and durable synthetic fabric that’s stretchy, breathable and worry-free. “You can roll it into a ball and stuff it into a bag—and it will still have shape without wrinkles,” Kelly points out. Microfiber jersey, which comes in many colors, is available at most department and clothing stores, and is kind to your wallet. As Kelly notes, “It really is a woman’s best fashion friend.”

2. Select day-to-evening dresses. Instead of changing clothes as you go from one activity to another, select outfits that can be dressed up or down, depending on your plans. One good option: A faux-wrap dress. It looks like a wrap-around but doesn’t require tying. “You can pull these dresses on over your head or step into them,” says Kelly, “without having to worry about zippers, buttons, sashes or belts.”

3. Try pullover tops. Forget blouses with buttons, says Kelly. Instead, opt for tops that slip on over your head. “Always look for clothes that go over your head,” he says, “or that you can step into and pull on.”

4. Pick pants with “give.” Skip zippers! Choose slacks with a side or back elastic panel instead. “You can pull them on like sweatpants,” says Kelly. Elastic-panel pants are comfortable and available in many fabrics.

5. Tights to the rescue. In fall and winter, Kelly suggests opting for tights. “They are easier to put on than thigh-high hosiery or stockings,” he notes. “They’re also not as fragile as hose. You can grab and pull instead of inching them up your leg.” In warm weather, he advises going barelegged whenever possible.

April 2013