Guys, autumn is finally here, and not that I’m wishing the warm beach days and beautiful sunsets away or anything, but I’m very excited. Coats are back in stock, the air is crisp, and, in California, the weather is hitting low 70s. It’s exciting stuff.
When it comes to back-to-school shopping, however, finding the right clothes that are cute while work with a brace can be a bit difficult. Although the wooly knits are filtering back through onto the racks, you’re still in danger of melting if you’re wearing a layer of plastic around you; so I propose that there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle that we should be aiming to hit - that perfect, gray area that we all dream to attain. So, today I’m providing my share of items that fit this sometimes clammy, sometimes chilly summer/autumn transition.
Sweatshirts My favorite. Sweatshirts are the perfect comfortable-but-still-somewhat-put-together item. Not only can you find them pretty much anywhere, but they are perfect for covering up the brace in the back if you size up. You would not believe the number of sweatshirts I own - without completely exposing myself, I’ll just say that even for me, it’s too much. It’s just too easy to fall into the spiral of sweatshirts - the possibilities are endless! Any color, pattern, brand, logo? The one I’m wearing is from Ivory Ella...pricey, I know, but I justified the purchase because of the good cause (who can’t resist donating a bit of money to saving those cute elephants and getting a cute sweatshirt? Good marketing.)
Sweaters Sweater weather is the best weather. Similarly to my sweatshirts, I seem to have a black hole of a closet when it comes to sweaters. I just swallow them up like there’s no tomorrow. Sweaters are perfect for those colder days when you want a little extra warmth - not to mention that they are another great option for hiding the brace. Need I say more?
Denim Is there ever a bad time to buy denim? I think not. The backbone that glues everything together and whenever I challenge myself to break out of my comfort-zone for a couple of days I always come running back to denim, with it feeling like home once I’m snuggly zipped back in. My holy grail clothing piece are these Topshop High-wasited Jamie Jeans. If you are going to go out on a limb and spend on a new piece for fall, I would recommend these jeans 110% of the time. The perfect length, stretchiness, size selection. The perfect jean. They fit right above the lowest strap of my brace, so they never slip down, and they are thick enough to conceal my brace without getting too hot.
Patterns My secret tip for hiding the brace? Patterns. You’ve probably seen a trend up until here that I have patterns in almost everything I wear. Not just because I love patterns, but because patterns distract from the little plastic parts poking out that might be more noticeable. Patterned pants like these Urban Outfitters ones are perfect for providing a distraction (and in my mom’s opinion, a bit of a headache).
Cardigans Here in California, we may still have a couple of days of camisole-wearing weather left, and perhaps even a few more short-sleeve tops, so, for those days, I like to throw on a lightweight cardigan. Cardigans are great because you can get them extra cozy or lightweight, and they are such an easy add to an outfit. I was channeling my inner Santa Claus with this Topshop purchase, but I still have no regrets. Bold colors are a great distraction from the brace. And who doesn’t mind a little reminder of Christmas in October? Personally, I’ve been playing my Christmas playlists since June.
Jackets My trusty denim makes a second appearance in the same article? Can you say you’re surprised? Trucker and denim jackets seem to be making a comeback this fall, and I can’t say I’m disappointed. Big, oversized jackets like this Topshop Oversized Denim Jacket are another great option for concealing the brace. They are long in the back, and work with almost any outfit. I must say, I was definitely attempting (and failing?) to channel my inner Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in this denim on denim outfit.
Wearing your brace loud and proud is great, but we all have those days where we just want to wear normal clothes and don’t want people asking why there is a hunk of plastic sticking out at our hip, so hopefully my share of items and tips help you to find something that suits you. And underneath all the layers of denim and wool, remember we are bent, not broken! :)
The Basics: Under the Brace
With the weather currently being a delightful mix of hot and clammy, I have definitely been more aware of the cons of having half an inch of plastic wrapped around my torso. Lately, I’ve found myself all hot and bothered. Being so sticky from the sweat under your brace is not only bad for your skin, but also just feels gross (TMI? Sorry...just trying to be real!). But, I try to limit the amount of sweat that can be squeezed out of my clothes by finding suitable tops to wear under my brace.
When I was first diagnosed with scoliosis, my doctor gave me what he called a “body sock” that you would dispose after wearing once. However, the material was thick and did not breathe, which gave me rashes. Not to mention the fact that it wasn’t great for the environment.
So, I started looking at other options. I decided to go with 100% cotton tops because they were the most breathable, and I still wear them to this day. We got about 15 ribbed, white, cotton tanks from Old Navy, and they have stuck by my side like an old friend. To my dismay, the tank tops from Old Navy were discontinued, but I have found possible alternatives that would work well. The most important things in looking for an under-the-brace tank are that it breathes well and it is long enough to cover all of the skin covered by the brace. Hopefully one of these options will work for you...and remember, we are bent, not broken! :)
The Basics: Shorts and Pants
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a mid-rise, skinny jeans wearer. And then, recently, I had a revelation. I discovered high-rise mom jeans, and I must say, we were meant for each other.
I’ll admit that the hardest clothing item for the brace, are bottoms. Not to mention that they aren’t nearly as fun to shop for as tops or dresses (you can only look at denim so many times before you get sick of it). Between a change in size, slipping off the plastic, and concealing the brace, finding jeans and shorts can be time consuming and very frustrating (I’ve had more than enough yelling-into-my-pillow sessions about my clothes).
In regards to pants, I’ve found that the stretchier, the better, especially when it comes to denim. The one restriction is an elastic waist - something elastic that comes without a drawstring or button easily slips off the brace. Waist wise, I recommend high waisted jeans (insert heart-eye emoji) because they stay on the brace and do not slip under the bottom strap, unlike mid-rise and low-rise jeans. I love the Topshop jeans - they are just stretchy enough and are SO comfortable. I especially enjoy the Jamie cut. Aside from skinny jeans, I have found that mom jeans and boyfriend jeans can help conceal the brace a little bit more when you are wearing shirts that don’t quite cover the brace. Topshop and Urban Outfitters have great mom and boyfriend jeans.
I am a slave to denim...the addiction has begun to reach an unhealthy stage, and lately, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to cover up my obsession. Enter high waisted leggings: they are literally pajamas, but can still make you look put together if need be. Lulu Lemon and Old Navy both have great leggings that work relatively well when it comes to staying on the brace. However, because leggings are a thinner material than denim, the brace can show through more in the hip area. Hence, I try to look for thicker-material leggings when doing my shopping.
As we are approaching summer, i’m afraid that I have to address the elephant in the room: shorts. My downfall. Shorts, for me, are my most hated clothing item of all time. I understand that they can be practical, but I just don’t like them. However, if, like me, you live in sunny, hot weather (this SoCal sun never retires), and shorts are a necessity, they just follow the same rules as the jeans - generally material that is a little bit stretchier works well and a high waist is always a bonus.
All clothes aside, I try not to worry too much about my brace showing, because I consider it to be a part of me (yatta yatta yatta...yes, we get it Kate, positivity is key). I have never been too bothered about my brace showing...most of my classmates already know that I wear a brace, and I think that it is important not to focus too much on covering the brace up. But I also know that there are days where you just feel like you need to conceal it, and hopefully these tips will help. And when you are scrolling through websites online or trying on dozens of pairs of shorts in a sweaty dressing room, knowing in the back of your mind that they probably won’t work, just remember, we’re bent, not broken! :)
The Basics: Shirts and Jackets
I’m definitely not one to ask for fashion advice, but I will readily admit to spending too long obsessing over fashion models on instagram (I just can’t get enough of Karen Blanchard, Frédérique Harrel, Alyssa Coscarelli, and Carly Heitlinger).
As much as I wish I could embrace my inner guru, having a brace definitely makes my fashion aspirations harder to pursue. Finding clothes that work with a brace and are still flattering can be hard. Being a teenager with scoliosis, I have to admit that clothing has been one of my biggest struggles with having a brace. When many of the popular clothing stores sell trendy clothing that may not fit well with a brace, it can be hard to find something that works for you.
I wear a Boston Brace, which goes around the torso and is elongated on the sides. As much as I embrace wearing my brace and many of my peers know that I wear one, it is not something that I try to advertise. Hence, longer shirts and jackets definitely come in handy. I usually go for a classic t-shirt, which can be found in almost every clothing store. Madewell has some great, high quality t-shirts, but more affordable brand like Old Navy can do the same job.
Jackets are my saving grace when it comes to covering up the longest parts of the brace. I love oversized sweatshirts and big jean jackets. Pro tip: the men’s section has very comfy, oversized jackets and sweatshirts if you’re on the hunt for one. In the winter in California, the coldest it gets is the mid 60s (freezing, I know), so I have definitely learned to love cardigans for their thin material, but long length. Hopefully these tips help, and even though finding clothes may be hard, just remember, we’re bent, not broken! :)
Hi, I'm Kate.
A 16 year old SoCal-raised student, swimmer, and scoliosis patient with a love for Netflix, Pinterest, and Harry Potter.