Body Type

How to Look Stylish in a Wheelchair

Just 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 a 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 also uses a wheelchair, 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.

Hi 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 currently 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


stylish in a wheelchair


Hi Shari, 

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 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 a 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.

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9 thoughts on “How to Look Stylish in a Wheelchair

  1. Hi, my name is Angie. I’ve just gone 50. I’ve been in a wheelchair for four years due to ms. I have gone from a confident size 10 to size 20 with no confidence. My beautiful daughter is getting married in July. Got no idea what to wear been on a few shopping trips, which have ended up in tears. I don’t feel comfortable in anything I try on. I’m in an electric wheelchair, and when I look at myself, I look like a fat blob.

    1. Hi Angie, Please don’t despair. I’m sure there is something perfect out there for you. Have you seen this post about Alicia? She is a Fabulous after-40 blogger in a wheelchair who I’m sure will have lots of suggestions for you.
      Please check out her post and her website listed on the base. She is lovely, and if you write to her, she will give you some ideas. This is her area of expertise:
      Best Wishes, Deborah

    2. Angie, I am in a manual chair due to recurring autoimmune myelitis… and at 44, the last five years have been hard to find clothes.
      However, I have gone from a size 18 down to an 8 in 5 years. I push myself around so I don’t bother going to the gym. I don’t work out lol… It comes down to what we eat.
      I was forced, due to allergies, to stop eating wheat, dairy, soy, nuts, shellfish, and eggs. I must eat primarily organic, especially meat, as some beef and chicken make me sick. But holy cow, my weight dropped, is staying off, my hair is growing back, and I have nails- for the 1st time in my LIFE, I am growing nails!
      I was heavy most of my life because I was bloated and swelled from eating things my body could not handle, and it took a while to figure it all out. Most people’s gains aren’t due to inactivity but poor diet, metabolism, and food intolerance.
      Dietary changes for wheelies like us are significant, especially if you want to avoid the exhaustion and humiliation of clothes shopping. Being forced to eat healthier (kind of Paleo, really) and figure out my allergies, it’s made me eat a lot better. And I always recommend Janice Vickerstaff-Joneja’s Dealing With Food Intolerance book to help figure out if sneaky ingredients are making you heavier than you should be :) Good luck, and keep your chin up ;)

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


    1. 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 loves clothes and always looks stylish at 80! She inspires me never to let myself go, no matter my age or life situation. She’s beautiful on the inside and out!

  3. Well, gosh! I’d forgotten I wrote that letter and was 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 eventually, but I relish every moment for now.

    I’m also happy to announce that not only have I lost all the weight I gained, but I’ve also 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!

    1. Shari, that’s fantastic news! I’m so happy you can 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.


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