How to Look Stylish in a Wheelchair

sttylish in a wheelchairJust because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to give up on style. 40+ fashion blogger Alicia Searcy is proof of that.

Alicia was born with Choreoathetotic Cerebral Palsy, a type of palsy that is characterized by lack of mobility and grace.

After years of being disregarded in public, Alicia decided to get noticed…for the right reasons. She stepped up her fashion game, took up the challenge of discovering what she liked and what looked good on her and has been documenting her findings in her upbeat fashion blog Spashionista.

After receiving a fashion question from a reader who is also wheelchair bound, I knew Alicia would be the perfect person to answer it. So here is some great fashion advice for those challenged by a disability that limits your mobility.

springred5Hi Alicia,

I am very challenged. Almost two years ago, I had a life-changing injury. As a result, I’ve gained a significant amount of weight (I’m 5’8″ and now wearing a size 14/16 on top and 18/20 on bottom). Complicating this issue is that I’m now in a wheelchair.

So needless to say, my entire wardrobe had to be replaced. I’m slowly but surely purchasing items (other than the ubiquitous yoga pants & tees). My issue is that I can’t find anything that looks “cute”. I’m sure part of it is body image issues due to the weight gain, but it’s really, really difficult to find clothes that really look good when one is seated — and I’m always seated.

Can you toss some helpful hints my way! Thanks, Shari

Hi Shari, 20130214_150015_zps6f004448

You are not alone. According to the Disability Statistics Center in 2002 over 600,000 American adults ages 18-64 were wheelchair users and 58% of these were women.

I’m one of those women so I understand your frustrations. But I’m living proof that you can look fashionable and “cute”– even in a wheelchair.

This is an opportunity for you to reinvent yourself using clothing and to rediscover your own beauty. It didn’t disappear when you were injured and it’s still there no matter how much, or how little, you weigh.

Without knowing whether you use an electric or manual chair or having more details about your limitations – such as the kinds of shoes you can comfortably wear – my advice will have to be somewhat broader than usual. Nevertheless, there are lots of clothes that “look good when one is seated”.

Here’s the advice I give to all of my disabled readers.

  • First, fit is essential to looking polished so have every garment that doesn’t fit altered until it’s perfect for you. Second, remember that you can’t hide in a crowd. You will always be noticed, so always try to look your best.
  • Focus on separates. Individual pieces that you can mix and match offer you the advantage of buying different sizes for tops and bottoms for the best fit as well as offering you multiple outfit possibilities.
  • Start with a fitted jacket or two in neutral colors. Add a pair of dark wash, straight leg or boot cut jeans in a mid or natural rise.
  • Choose trousers that have a flat front and straight, knee length skirts. Avoid full skirts, maxis, and oversized, baggy, bulky pieces.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, don’t show too much skin in mini skirts, micro shorts, or cropped tops. Add color, texture, print, or sparkle to some degree in every outfit. Try a navy sequin tank underneath a white jacket. Or a black lace skirt with a pink or coral cardigan. Scarves are a great accessory, too.
theatre outfit

Alicia designed this look to go to the theatre.

The end result will be better than “cute”. You’ll look chic and noticeable in the very best sense of the word!

Thanks Alicia.  I can’t help notice that you are huge shoe fan too! I’m sure this is all a big help to Shari. For more great advice from Alicia, you can visit her blog, Spashionista.


More From Fabulous After 40

Share Your Comments, Feedback, & Opinions:

Comments, Feedback, & Opinions:

  1. Great advice… these must be great tips because you are definitely fashionable. Love the advice about not disappearing… :)

  2. Thank you, Deborah, for reaching out to me and including those of us with disabilities on your site. It was truly a pleasure to be of service to my fellow wheelchair users. Everybody has the potential to show their true beauty regardless of physical limitations.


    • Thank You Alicia for your great style advice. This is an area that is near and dear to my heart. My mom is in a wheelchair, but she loves clothes always looks so stylish at 80! She inspires me to never let yourself go, no matter what your age or situation in life. She’s beautiful on the inside and out!

  3. Well, gosh! I’d totally forgotten I wrote that letter, and boy was I surprised to see it! :-D

    I’m thrilled to say that I’m now able to walk! Not well, and there’s a good chance I’ll end up back in the chair again eventually, but for now, I relish every moment.

    I’m also happy to announce that not only have I lost all the weight I gained, I’ve lost a bit more, and am on the way to losing even more!! Through it all, I’ve continued to follow this blog, as I’ve again begun establishing yet *another* wardrobe. Of course, it’s a lot more fun this time around. :-)

    And thanks to the Spashionista, as I’m sure her tips will help those of us who struggle with mobility difficulties to look great!

    • Shari, Thanks wonderful. (It’s been several months since Shari sent her question and I found Alicia) Wishing you all the very best.

    • Shari, that’s amazing news! I’m so happy that you’re able to walk again and congratulations on your weight loss! I’m sure both of these are hard-fought victories for you and I wish you limitless success in the future!
      Even though you are now dressing a thinner and more mobile body much, if not all, of my advice will still make it easier for you to find great clothing. Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing.