Flying with Endometriosis Part 3: What to Wear

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

What is the first priority on a plane (except from arriving at your destination, of course)?  Comfort!  Planes are not the most comfortable, particularly if you are crammed into economy.  With endometriosis, it’s even less comfortable.  You’re stuck in pretty much one position for hours at a time and you have to line up for ages to use the toilet.  Then you have to walk around a heap in the airports.  Enduring all that, you can bet your [insert noun here] I want to be comfy.  Trouble is, I also want to look good, partly because I am vain and shallow and partly because it makes me feel more confident, alert and prepared.

I’ve already discussed how to dress an endo belly, but when you are travelling you really have to take comfort to the next level.  If you are more of a video person, I highly recommend checking out Miss Louie, who is one of my favourite youtubers.  She’s done this video and this one with a whole bunch of easy-to-wear travel outfits.  There’s something for everyone.

However, if you prefer a written list or simply can’t see Miss Louie’s options working for you, read on for a more general discussion.

In choosing an outfit, I think there are some questions you should ask yourself:-

  1. Does this press on my pelvis when sitting, standing or lying?
  2. Does it press on my pelvis if I swell up?
  3. Does this press on any other joints that tend to get sore or swollen?

These three are the most important, because that is ultimately what will dictate if an outfit is going to be comfy for a person with endo.  Anyone who suffers from flareups knows that something digging into your pelvis when it is sore and swollen if just horrific.  For some people, this may mean that any pants at all are off the table and you need to look at a dress instead.  For others, leggings or even super stretchy jeans or an elastic-waisted skirt will be fine.

The remaining questions are more general and probably less of a deal-breaker than the above three, but still worth thinking of:-

  1. Are there any buttons, zips, or other decorative things that will dig into you?
  2. Is it comfy enough to sleep in?
  3. Will it ride up and flash things it shouldn’t?
  4. Will it give you a wedgie?
  5. Will it wrinkle easily/does it look bad wrinkly?
  6. Can you take layers off if you get too hot or add layers if you get too cold?
  7. Do your shoes slip off easily for going through security?

If it will dig in, isn’t comfy, rides up, wrinkles, can’t layer and your shoes require a lot of lacing or other fiddling, don’t wear it.  It will be a hassle.  It will be uncomfortable, you will not sleep as well and you will get to the other end looking and feeling less than stellar.

My go-to for flights is this combination.

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All of these items are from Modcloth, except the boots which are from Betts.  (Yes, I used Stylebook to put this together).  They are a few years old so I doubt anyone dying of envy about my incredible stylishness will be able to get those exact items, however.  From the bottom up:

  1. Knee-high riding boots might not be as easy to slip in and out of as a pair of slip-on trainers, ballet flats, or ankle boots, but I know that I will wear them a lot in the UK so if I don’t wear them, I’d have to pack them anyway.  As they are my heaviest shoes, it makes sense to carry them on my feet rather than haul them all over the airport in my suitcase.  They do still come on and off easily, and look good with my leggings.
  2. Under my boots I’ll be wearing a pair of compression socks, to avoid DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a blood clot that forms in the leg.  You won’t necessarily get it if you don’t wear them, but if you do, it can be super dangerous.  It’s very easy for DVT to become life-threatening in a very short space of time.  I’ll also use the compression socks in hospital after my operation, so they are good investment, if not the comfiest.  As I wrote earlier, I’ll have cosy socks to wear over them on the flight, because I kick my boots off as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off.
  3. I love these leggings because they have actual function pockets that can hold a lip balm or spare change.  They are a little small for my phone, but having pockets at all is great.  They are thick and warm but not too hard on the old pelvis.
  4. Underneath the top I’ll be wearing this singlet from Boody.  Incredibly soft and comfy (with the added bonus of being ethically made and environmentally friendly), the singlet will just provide an extra layer of warmth, help preserve modesty if something happens with my top, and let me take a top layer off if somehow my flight gets stranded in Dubai with no air-conditioning again.  Seriously not fun.  I nearly passed out.
  5. The top itself is just loose, soft and very comfy, but a bit fun with the patterned sleeves.  It helps make it just a little less basic.
  6. The cardigan is loose and voluminous so I can wrap it around me.  It has a deep hood so I can cover my face in case I loose my eye mask for the flight, and hide the fact that I’ve got a sheet mask on or suchlike.  It looks a little more dressy than, say, my Batman hoodie, but it is still comfy and casual.

I’ve flown with this outfit before and it was comfortable and practical.  Post-surgery the leggings might be a little tight or irritate the incision sites – if that happens, I’ll switch to a long-sleeved maxi dress from Divinity collection.  It’s not quite as ideal as they are incredibly long so they do drag on the floor and do wrinkle a bit.  However, it is very comfy, will keep my covered when I lie down, and is an easy canvas to accessorise.  My pelvis will be totally free to do its thing and I will be warm, my modesty will be protected, and I should still look pretty acceptable when I stumble into my husband’s arms when I arrive back in Australia.  I’ll be taking both my black and my burgundy ones in my suitcase in any event.

Do you have a go-to travel outfit?  What do you look for in travelling clothes, either generally or to protect yourself from endo pain?  Let me know in the comments!

App Review: Stylebook

I may be coming across as intensely shallow with my recent posts about hair and makeup and my previous post on fashion.  Well, I am shallow, so that’s fine.  I like pretty things and I have no shame in that.  Mock if you will.  Anyway, as part of maintaining a life of prettiness, I like to keep organised (my mother will scoff at that but there is a method to my madness, I swear).  I could do that through my bullet journal, which is how I organise most of my life, but for hair, makeup and clothes, I like to use the amazing Stylebook app.

I was first introduced to this app by my friend the Vintage Barbie.  If you like vintage-y style you will love her blog.  Go and follow it.  Anyway, she got me hooked on this app and there has been no going back.

Stylebook currently costs $5.99 of the Australian dollars on the App Store.  It’s not available on Android, alas.  Normally, I’m not a fan of paying for apps, but I make an exception for this one.

I won’t go into a breakdown of how to use the app, because Vintage Barbie covers it beautifully and I’d just be duplicating her excellent explanation.  What I want to talk about is why I love it.

Although Stylebook is an absolute pain to set up, particularly if you have a lot of clothes, it is incredibly easy to use once you have it completed.  It’s also really useful and totally customisable.  For example, although the app is intended to be used for clothes and accessories, I have added in my makeup, perfume and hairstyles.

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I do not agree with the concept “too many lipsticks”.  

This lets me pick what lipstick I want to match with an outfit without having to rummage through my obscenely large collection to pick a colour.  It also inspires me to try different hairstyles by picking them ahead of time instead of just leaving it to its own devices (or throwing it into a hasty ponytail on court days).  I’ve just pulled screenshots from my favourite Youtube tutorials or Pinterest and wacked them into my Hairstyles section.

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You can see one of my favourite styles, the Candyfloss Bun, up there in the left column.  

The biggest pro of Stylebook, as far as I’m concerned, is that it shows me a) what I’m not wearing very much and b) what I’m not getting good cost-per-wear out of.  That’s super valuable in terms of curating my wardrobe, because it forces me to take a good look at the items in question.  If they are things that it makes sense not to wear often and to have a high cost-per-wear (for example, my wedding dress, which is the only floor-length gown I own and I’ve only worn twice) then I don’t mind it remaining in that category.

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Did I get married in Review?  Yes, yes I did.

However, if it is a more casual item, then there is no excuse for it to be hanging around if I’m not wearing it regularly, and that’s a sign to me that I should be selling it on or donating it.  I’m a really goal-orientated person, so if I set myself the goal of getting something out of my “only worn once” list, then by golly I will do it, whether by making myself wear it more often or getting rid of it and deleting it from the app.

It also helps me when I’m shopping, which is something I’ve been better at not doing this year but still really enjoy.  I have a rule that I’ll only buy something if it goes with at least three other things in my wardrobe (unless it is a dress or something for a special occasion).  With Stylebook, I can pull out my phone and check through my other clothes and go yes, it goes with these three things, so I can buy it.  I don’t have to waste valuable brain real estate on committing my current clothing stash to memory just to pick new items – my entire wardrobe is there in my hand.  For example, I just bought the Betty Bloom skirt from Review during their recent 30% of sale items promotion.

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Did I need another floral pencil skirt?  Probably not, but it is nice and long, which is hard to pass up for me.  Also, it was really, really on sale.  Never pay full price.  Words to live by.

Pulling out my app I can see that it will go with these four tops at least.

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Yes, they are all Review, and yes, I have a problem.  From left to right, the ivroy Royce, the Moore top, the Tasha top and the Isadora jumper.  None of them are the current season, but if you want to try and find them I recommend the Review Buy Swap Swell page on facebook.  It’s a goldmine.  

It’s not only going to go with a fair few things, but this means I know I can work it for both cold and hot weather.  I know I have others it will go with as well.

This app is also great for keeping track of my clothes.  Like everyone, I have pieces that I wear more often than others, and I tend to know where they are.  Pieces I love less sometimes go missing and I won’t immediately notice.  Stylebook reminds me of their existence so I go hunting for them and recover them from the back of drawers or the bottom of the laundry bin.

I also can’t get past the peace of mind it gives me to know what I am wearing in advance.  I check out my roster for the coming week, figure out what is happening on each day and select appropriate clothes.  For instance, on an office-only day in summer I would like to wear my lovely Veronika Maine culottes, but judges will look at me askance if I wear those to court, so I’ll pick a pencil skirt or dress trousers for those days instead.  If I’m having a flare-up, it also lets me plan soft, comfy clothes for the week so I know that I will be presentable with minimal effort and maximum comfort.  It also lets me challenge myself – for example, to celebrate spring I am wearing a floral every day through the month of September and aiming not repeat the floral item.  So far I have managed every day.  Last October, it was a dress every day for Frocktober.

Finally, this app is incredibly useful for packing.  I’m a massive overpacker for holidays despite being able to be totally frugal on bushwalks and hikes.   Using Stylebook I can create a little capsule wardrobe for wherever I’m headed and plan my outfits in advance based on my activities.  This helps me make sure that everything I pack goes with everything else and I don’t have any single-use items, except for special occasions.  I’m going to the UK next month, so I’ll post a packing list before I leave.

In conclusion, Stylebook is great and I have a lot of Review.  I do have a lot of Veronika Maine and Cue too, but because they don’t name their pieces the way Review does it’s really hard to find old stock photos so they don’t get added to Stylebook as much.   Anyway, for me this app has been totally worth the money as I use it on a daily basis and it helps me make more informed choices about what I buy and sell.

Do you have Stylebook?  Are you an Android user with an alternative you love?  Any other great fashion apps I should check out?  Let me know in the comments.

Two Sizes Bigger in Two Hours: Dressing for Endo Without Compromising Style

Massive trigger warning for pregnancy, infertility.

 

I’ve already explained the exciting phenomenon of endo belly in an earlier post, where you swell up for no good reason and look like you’re about to give birth.  In the image at the top of the article, you can see my poor stretched out tum during a particularly bad episode of endo belly.  Normally I’m a relatively slender size 10.  Not so during a flare-up.  Recently I’ve had two unrelated people just assume I was pregnant, and my endo belly wasn’t even that bad at the time.  You can see why people assume it at the height of a flare, though – there is a very distinct, almost pointy shape to the belly that is clearly not just weight gain, and it is very localised.  The rest of me looks as it always does.  It can really suck for many people with endo, particularly those who feel strongly called to motherhood, because endometriosis can have a horrible impact on fertility.  Endo belly is a very cruel, sad mockery of that.

On a lighter but still extremely annoying note, it makes it very hard to dress.  Clothes that fit you some days of the week are suddenly two sizes two small the rest of the week.  It’s a pain in the rear – many of us have work to go to wear pyjamas are not considered appropriate (I’m just trying to imagine a magistrate’s face if I asked to do an appearance in pjs!) and the rest of us would just like to be able to get dressed.

So I want to share some tips and some favourite brands/clothing items both for everyday wear and for work.

I apologise in advance: this is not a particularly gender neutral article.  I am not a designer or even a particularly fashion-forward person and I don’t know enough about men’s bodies and clothes to give tips.  If any men with endo would like to give me some hints, or even write a post for this blog, I would welcome you most warmly.

Shop Maternity

Yes, given what I’ve said above this is not going to be an easy tip for everyone because it really just rubs it in that you aren’t pregnant and that you’re wearing maternity clothes because your own body hates you.  For those who don’t care so much about the pregnancy side of things, however, the maternity section can be a really good option.  It offers sizes that accommodate a range of swelling, from minor to enormous, and because it is specifically designed for women with a bump, it can offer some really stylish, comfortable options, and comfort really is super important.

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I quite like this look from Target’s maternity section.  It is cheap to put together (relatively speaking) but still appropriate for a more casual office environment or a dressy-casual event.  Swap out the trousers for maternity jeggings and you even get to sort of wear jeans.  https://www.target.com.au/look/colour-block-fun/LOOK1215104

Another great thing about maternity clothes is that they cradle and support the bump without putting pressure on it, which tends to make everything worse.

The downside is, of course, that it does nothing to disguise the bump, if that’s your preference.  It can also take a little getting used to.  It’s a lovely thing to be shopping for maternity clothes when are pregnant, I assume, but it can feel strange and humiliating when you aren’t, not least because of the assumptions and explanations if you end up in conversation with a stranger there.

Avoid Shapewear

Beginners to the bump may think the best way to deal with it is to force it to comply by squeezing it into shapewear.  That might slim it out, but you are probably putting yourself through untold agony for minimal gain.  When you have endo belly, pressure over the pelvis is restricting blood flow and pressing on spots that are already inflamed and irritated, so the most likely outcome of shapewear is just pain.

If you need to squeeze yourself into tights or similar for work, go for something like these Bonds Comfy Tops.  Yes, they say slimming, but they are some of the least restrictive tights I have found and tend to sit comfortably over the pelvis without squishing it.  Alternatively, get some soft comfy leggings and pretend they are tights by hiding their footlessness in boots.

Embrace the Maxi

A shapeless maxi was something I would once have turned my nose up at.  Now, I love them.  Loose and flowing, they are perfect for avoiding the summer sweats, or for snuggling up into in winter.  The key to making them look fun rather than like you are practically dying from pain and this was literally the only thing you could find is accessorising.  This great Popsugar video shows 7 summery ways to dress up a shapeless maxi that shouldn’t take too much money or effort, but take you from swamp creature (my standard morning look) to chic (never my standard look).

This article from College Fashion has some cute ideas for winter.  Short girls are often told they aren’t allowed to wear maxis because you will look short (which you are, so, shock) and that their only goal in life should be to look tall and slender (it should not be).  My high-fashion tip is just embrace being short and stuff the height-shamers, but if it is a concern for you, try this article by Petite Dressing and this one by Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins for some tips on how to style a maxi without looking like you’re being swallowed up by it.

Search for Elastic Waists

More and more retailers are realising that women want comfort, regardless of their size and shape.  One of my favourite Australian brands, Review, comes out with a couple of elastic-waisted skirts a year, which I live for.  Their current offering is this pretty grey number.

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Review’s Love Parade Skirt, $169.99

Past options have included black and navy.  I’m hoping they give us a lot more of these.  Thankfully, Review has a really good rewards programme and great sale, so endo-havers on a budget may still be able to snap up some nice pieces.

Trouser fans may enjoy this offering from Reformation, but beware of shipping costs and all prices being displayed in those wacky US dollars.

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Reformation Joss Pants, $78USD

 

Land’s End offers a more conservative, work-friendly trouser for those of us in traditional office jobs.  I’ve ordered a couple of swimsuits from Land’s End and they are lovely quality, so I’d imagine their trousers are pretty spiffy too.

Women's 7 Day Elastic Waist Pants
Land’s End 7-Day Elastic Waist Pants, $57.49

There are, of course, plenty of more budget-friendly options too, including these truly bizarre but very colourful ASOS culottes.

Target has a whole range of nice options, but won’t let me import any of their pictures, so I’ll just link you.  This skirt is elastic-waisted and office appropriate, and costs only $25.  Somehow they make these joggers look office-appropriate, but that might just be clever photography.   They even have a pencil skirt for $30, and are trying out some bizarre trend called “Treggings” (trouser-leggings), although I’d be wary of these compressing the pelvis.

Check-out Menswear

If you are a man with endometriosis, you’re probably rolling your eyes at this super obvious tip, but for women with endo, it may not be territory you’ve explored before.  Menswear is generally cheaper, stronger, has more pockets and is built far more for comfort that clothes aimed at women.  It’s a great source of looser, lower-riding jeans and hoodies to snuggle up in.  That being said, don’t discount styling menswear for more than just staying home: some women love it for work, going out, and even formalwear.

 

I hope this gives some hope for people with endo who still love their fashion and hate being relegated to pyjamas as much as I do.  Don’t get my wrong, I love my pjs dearly, but sometimes I do actually want to go out into society and not get mocked.

What are your favourite pieces and brands for when you have endo belly?  Any tips I’ve missed?