looking the part

While I’ve had my share of regrettable fashion choices (you can ask my former boss about the summer I cycled through 12 different colors of the same t-shirt dress), I’ve always considered myself a rather stylish person. I love dressing up, and I’m a big believer in the idea that what you wear influences how you act. So the minute I found out I was hired for a new teaching job, I knew it was time to hit the mall.

One of the reasons teaching is such a cool profession is that you’re allowed to be creative and have fun with your wardrobe. When I think of how women in corporate careers are expected to dress, images of black-and-white pantsuits and patent leather pumps (which are cute but impossible to walk in, at least for me.) I always expect teachers, especially the younger ones, to wear bright colors and cute dress with ballerina flats and fun accessories (think Jess Day, Zooey Deschanel’s character on the show “New Girl.”) And that

Anyway, I took photos of what I wore the first week of school, so let me know what you think! (And yes, that’s a “tattoo” on my prosthetic arm.)

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why style matters

IMG_0180Like most other red-blooded females in the universe, I LOVE shopping. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something so exhilarating about buying new clothes and then pairing them with other pieces in your closet. The idea of following fashion and obsessing over finding the perfect outfit may seem frivolous (my boyfriend always rolls his eyes at me when I bring up this topic), but your clothes are actually a big part of how others view you and how you act. What you wear is an outside expression of who you are and what you like. Some studies even suggest that the way you’re dressed also influences your attitude and how you feel. And it’s not like it’s legal to walk around naked anyway, so why not give a little thought to how you present yourself to the world?

IMG_0767Although it seems like some people expect those of us with disabilities to care less about our looks and what we wear, that idea is far from the truth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that I (and several others I’ve both met and followed online) love nothing more than the opportunity to doll up in a cute dress and pearls. That said, I’d love to introduce you to a few style blogs that happen to be written by women with disabilities and that are definitely worth a follow.

1) Spashionista

1b5bcb7a9064abd7f474291dad3c67c1Alicia is a ‘fashionista over 50’ whose quirky and fun style makes you wish the stick-thin 20-something runway models would be a little more like her. Every outfit perfectly captures her personality and sunshiney attitude. And aside from sharing her personal style, Alicia also advocates for animal rights and has rounded up a group of ‘roll models’ (I’m one of them!) to prove that fashion and happiness are for everyone.

2) Threaded

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Haylee may still be in college, but this girl is already on her way to becoming the next big fashion designer (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll see her on Project Runway someday soon.) She’s a master seamstress who designs and creates her own gorgeous outfits that leave you thinking, “Oh my gosh, she made that?!” Yup, that’s talent.

3) Manufactured 1987

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Jillian, an FIT grad and NYC native, writes about the latest in the fashion world and shares photos of her own daily outfits. She’s also completely badass and makes me wish I were brave enough to rock her unique hair color. Oh, and she’s a model in the most recent Nordstrom catalog. No big deal, right?

 

These women have the style and confidence that I admire and aim to exude in my own daily wardrobe picks. They take the idea of self-expression to another level and make sure every outfit they wear says, “This is me. This is my personality. And I know I’m awesome.”

 

(Just as a side note: I’m hoping to include more topics, like style and fashion, in this blog in the near future. I still plan to write posts on disability and living with a physical difference, but I would love to include some other content as well. What do you all think?)

 

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being a good girlfriend

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the show Project Runway. And what girl wasn’t? It was a reality competition series featuring several talented fashion designers competing for the ultimate prize: $100,000 to start their own line and the chance to show their collection at New York Fashion Week. Of course, my impressionable teenaged self decided after the first season that I wanted to be a fashion designer. But when I announced this to my father, he told me it was a stupid idea because I would never be able to sew or make the clothes like a two-handed person. (Yeah, my parents are big believers in “tough love.”)

One of the pockets I sewed up for Chris

Although my dreams of becoming a designer eventually faded (along with my desire to become an actress and my goal to become a lawyer), I have always loved clothes and style. Up until recently, though, I was in the habit of throwing an item away if it had a rip or tear. What was the point in repairing it if I could just buy a new one of whatever it was? My boyfriend is way more practical and money-savvy. So when he ripped the side seam (and both side pockets) in his pants, he turned to me and asked if I knew how to sew. I didn’t, but I lied and told him I did. I figured I’d give it a shot.

The once-ripped/now-stitched side seam of Chris’s pants

And so began my first adventure with sewing. Granted, I wasn’t creating a dress for Versace; it was a simple restitching. But still, I was glad I proved to myself (and to Chris) that my lack of an arm doesn’t mean I can’t be a domestic diva. I’ve read and heard about people saying they wouldn’t be willing to date someone with a disability because of the lack of functionality rather than a more superficial reason. And while I understand the concern, I know first-hand (sorry about the pun) that someone with a physical limitation can still find a way to do almost anything and live independently. So am I concerned about being a good clothes-mending/dinner-cooking/floor-sweeping wife someday? Not at all. I’m already getting my practice. And to be honest, I’m way more nervous about finding a way to balance my career and my home, just like most “normal” young women my age.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

(Mannequin photo from Pinterest; other photos my own)
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style

You know what they say: another day (or week in this case), another discovery. And this week’s discovery was more of a reawakening than a realization. In addition to working on Oxygen’s upcoming fashion-based shows, I’ve been styling my friends and helping them shop for the outfits that I know will make them look best. I’ve always loved shopping and clothes and all that fun stuff that comes with being a girl living 20 minutes from New York. So it’s not like my boyfriend Chris had to twist my arm to get me to help him buy new clothes for the Fall. It’s become a relationship routine of sorts; with every major change in weather, we head to the mall and I pick out some basic pieces and cool accessories to supplement his seasonal wardrobe. He ends up looking quite put-together and handsome, if I do say so myself. This autumn I was going for a sleek look with button-downs, sweaters, and vests (think Justin Timberlake circa 2007), so I was running around the store looking for the clothes and then running back to his dressing room to deliver the next piece for him to try on. Then just a few days later, I hit the mall with my friend Lyss to find her new outfits for Fall. And yes, I must say I enjoyed these shopping outings immensely, especially since I believe that what a person wears says soooo much about him or her.

One glove only

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t love fashion for the reasons that non-fashionistas (is there even a term for people who aren’t into clothes?) may think. I’m not shallow or all that materialistic, and I certainly don’t judge people solely on appearance. But whether or not you’re pretty/plain/rich/poor/disabled/all of the above, you have the freedom to choose exactly how to decorate and present your body to the world. And how awesome is that? As a writer/creative/media professional/artist/20-something/whatever you want to call me, I’m really into personalizing everything. From the background photo of my baby cousins on my iPhone to my hot pink and zebra print bedroom (rawr), it’s all about self-expression. And what better canvas than the body that takes me through every moment and every action to showcase who I am?

Now let’s get one thing straight: I don’t buy into the “ideal figures only” approach to fashion. Having a disability doesn’t preclude me from celebrating the way I look and wearing the clothes I want to wear. And over the past few years I’ve found a handful (haha, I love puns) of ways to highlight and prettify my asymmetrical figure. Sadly, though, the computer that was home to the majority of my photos crashed a while back. So I hope you don’t mind if I post pictures I found on Google or store websites instead of pics of me in the completed looks. Anyway, I type too much. So without further ado:

1) One-Shoulder Tops/Dresses – I LOVE asymmetrical necklines because they mirror the unevenness of my arms and make the statement that strange or different proportions are beautiful. There’s a lot of talk in the science world about beauty and symmetry being synonymous, but this look proves that it’s the unique and the off-kilter that strikes the eye and holds attention.

Subtle but lovely

2) Upper Arm Bracelets/Cuffs – When I’m not wearing my prosthetic hand, I don’t have a wrist on my left arm to wear a bracelet. But I think that arm deserves to wear pretty accessories too, so upper arm cuffs work particularly well. Plus, it’ll go just as great with a party dress as it will with casual jeans and a tank top. If Cleopatra could pull it off waaaaay back when, then I say why not?

3) Opera Gloves – Yes, they look super fancy shmancy over the prosthetic and paired with a cocktail dress, but I think it’s also pretty cool to wear just one on any given day. (Note: For me, it started for practical reasons rather than as a fashion statement. The “skin” on the prosthetic was easily stained by ink on newspapers and books, and I hated how it looked “dirty” so I just wore the glove over it.)

4) Grecian/Roman Goddess-Inspired – The famous Venus de Milo statue has long served as a standard of beauty for all women, in spite of AND due to her lack of arms. So it’s always fun to channel this icon with a Greek/Roman-inspired piece or full outfit.

So there you go – just a few ideas on how I like to use clothes and style to my advantage. I hope this has been an interesting post. And I promise I’ll start taking more pics of what I wear so I can post them on this blog. Do you want to see more style/fashion content on this blog? Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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media monday – beauty/fashion hauler vanessa

Happy Labor Day, all! To celebrate, here’s a video I found of a YouTube beauty/fashion hauler who was born without hands and feet. Vanessa from Australia gives awesome style tips and has really great taste in fashion (she loves Alexander McQueen, my favorite designer!). In a world where people with disabilities are depicted as abnormal and “different,” Vanessa proves that a girl’s gonna be a girl (and a perfectly normal one at that). At the end of the day, regardless of how many limbs I have, I’m still into clothes and accessories and I LOVE a good shopping trip. Enjoy the video above and check out all the other vids on her YouTube channel.

Have a stylish week!

Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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