Friday, December 5, 2014

The Cape, the Colours, and the Mobility Scooter: Disability Style Every Day

What's up with the cape? Read on and I'll tell you all about yet another aspect of Disability Style that might never have crossed your mind.

Let's start with the cold. Riding on a mobility scooter in late autumn is f*cking cold. Even on the west coast here, where we don't get much of a winter, it's f*cking cold. I can't even imagine what people in colder climates do. I also wonder how they get through snow.

This was an early and failed attempt at braving the rains on my scooter. My forearms were freezing!
Of course, in my city, there is also the rain to contend with, and I mean, a lot of rain. 

Imagine driving a car down a wet, cold road at night -- with no roof, windows, doors, floor, or walls. Remember, you're not walking, cycling, or running, so you are generating no body heat whatsoever. Remember too that, unlike when you walk, the rain and wind are coming straight at your face, sideways, not downward onto the top of your head.

It's cold! Really cold.

Now think about your average winter clothing. Most of it is designed to keep your torso warm but not your legs because, well, you're walking, right? So your legs aren't cold, right? Wrong. Even winter coats and rain coats designed to cover the legs only do so when you're standing upright. Try it. Put on your long, button-up, rain coat. Now sit down. See how it splits over your lap? See how much leg is exposed? All that leg will get drenched and/or freezing when you're on your scooter or wheelchair.

The friendly folks at Ugly Sh*t for Disabled People have come up with some truly hideous solutions. Garbage bag fashion, anyone?

How about a sleeping bag to wear in public? This woman looks about as happy to be wearing this as I would be.

I can't speak for others but, for me, being disabled really does kind of totally suck. This is my "I hate being disabled" face. It's especially evident when I've just crossed a street that's not properly accessible, meaning I've had to risk life and limb by waiting in traffic to get across the road. 

Here's another woman thrilled to be disabled, actually having to ride on the road to get to her destination!

I like her style though. She clearly knows all about how freezing it is to ride a scooter so she's bundled up in a pretty great coat and a richly coloured blanket that just happens to match the outfit I'm wearing in this post.

Still, if I can help it, I'm going to avoid the whole "blanket on my lap," "garbage bag over all," disability solution. I may not succeed, but I'm trying.

Boots, cape, brooches, scarf, and earrings: vintage; Hat: boutique ; Gloves: found on Amazon; Dress; from JQ Clothing
For now, my solution is a wonderful, vintage, wool cape. I think it looks pretty amazing if I do say so myself. It's one of the very first things I bought when my disability claim was finally approved and I started getting money again. (My disability payments have been cut off again, due to clerical bungling on the part of my insurance company. I'm trying hard not to let my blood boil, but I haven't been paid in well over a month, yet again.)

My cape is from the 1960s when there was a real vogue for them. The hat in this one kind of even matches mine.

Here's another thing to contemplate as a disabled person. I wear hats even on sunny days because of the cold on my scooter. On rainy days, they are a must for me, because carrying an umbrella is painful and, with a cane, very awkward. So, when I'm deciding on my hair style for the day, I have to figure out one that won't be ruined by a hat. 

I suppose those of you in colder climates haven't much sympathy for me, as you have to wear toques (now there's a good Canadian word for you: toque) all winter long, rain or shine, disabled or not.

A longer cape is essential for me in winter. Otherwise it won't cover my legs. This one, from Saint Laurent in 1971, is divine. Talk about style!

Louis Vuitton
I hadn't really registered that capes are having another moment in the sun (and snow and rain) these days until I got my own cape. Then I noticed that they've been showing up on runways all over the place. I guess I'm just fashion forward even when I don't know it, eh? 

I just wanted to look as cool as I could even though riding a scooter feels pretty darned uncool.

Some of the capes are absolutely stunning, vibrant and daring. I would wear this in a heartbeat, though I'm not so sure about wearing it in leather.

I'm certainly in the market for more long capes, including ones with bold patterns and colours. I'm not shy about that sort of thing at all.

Dolce and Gabbana
But, for my first my first cape, I needed something neutral so I could wear it often, with a great range of outfits. It needed to be something versatile for every day use.

The outfit I chose on this day was one rich with berry colours.

The only flashy thing about my cape is its shiny, satin lining, and that won't clash with anything, even berries.

When I got my cape, I certainly wasn't thinking of modern runways. I was thinking of a very different look. When I put it on, I felt like I should be ringing a bell and asking people to find Jesus. It's very like the original Salvation Army capes, as you can see. Indeed, my file of photos for this post is called the Sally Ann Cape.

I'm not sure why dark capes are associated with various "do gooder" and conservative Christian pursuits. My cape also looks like something a nurse might have worn while tending to a man's wounds -- and asking him to find Jesus.

When paired with the right boots ...

... it makes me like Mary Poppins, which is odd because I don't think she ever actually wears a cape in the movie.

I seem to have combined Mary Poppins and Maria in my head and come up with a woman in a cape.

Of course, I'd rather my cape conjured up Julie Andrews' role in Victor/Victoria, when she plays a woman, playing a man, impersonating a woman. (You follow that?) She starts out a number in a satin cape, her back to the audience ...

... turns around and stares imperiously at her/his soon to be adoring fans ...

... daring them to believe she/he is a woman ...

... and then tosses off her cape to reveal the splendour beneath it.

Yeah, that's what I'd like to look like. Oh well.

I digressed, didn't I?

Okay, back to my cape. It soon became clear to me that, when using my scooter, I was going to have to wear more layers than I usually do here. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm back in Montreal, for crying out loud!

And yet still the cold creeps in ...

... and I have to readjust my cape to cover my shivering legs.

See how my forearms poke out of the cape there?

After my first ride on the scooter with the cape, I knew I was going to need very long gloves. This too is disability style but oh! what style! I think these gloves are super sexy.

Talk about feeling imperious.

They just add authority and sophisticated sass to any look, don't you think?

The layering is actually kind of fun. I get to wear more fabulous things at once, and that's a good thing, right? This sweater looked pretty dowdy but the belt easily transformed it into something more stylish. 

The belt also accents my waist, something any woman with an hourglass figure should do, no matter what her size -- in my humble opinion. 

I thought the overall effect was quite slimming and flattering ... 

... from every angle. See? Hourglass. Beau loves my hourglass shape.

I'm really into berry colours these days. I think they suit me quite well and they are great for autumn, but my recent adoration for them goes beyond that. They just seem so pretty, feminine, without being resorting to Barbie pinks.

My pinks -- in my scarf, my belt, my tights, my earrings -- were all more like wine than like Pepto Bismal. They're hearty pinks that can take on the cold and woollen textures. 

And, in case you're wondering, that berry shimmer on my lips is Burt's tinted Beeswax, in Fig. I wear it all the time, often with no other makeup at all.

To add a little colour variety, I wore my brand new (to me), Hollycraft earrings. The pink matched my outfit, and the effect of the colour combination is just so rich that I snapped these up on Etsy. 

Only when they arrived in the mail did I notice that they're almost a perfect match for a brooch I already had.

And yeah, there's a little bit of orange kitty fur on my cape just to complete the look. You can actually just spot him in a few of the photos in this post, glowing in the beautiful light.

Voila! With my slightly pigeon-toed pose, I'm a modern, retro, pin-up girl. Seriously, have you noticed how hip pigeon-toed poses are these days in "alt," "lady-like" fashion? It's everywhere on style blogs and "hip" clothing sites.

My pose is born of back pain. You can see this pose all over my blog. My physiotherapist explained it to me once, something about relieving some pressure on my hips. I forget exactly, but there it is, in post after post after post. I wasn't even aware I was doing it until I started this Sublime Mercies.

And I'm off, ready to take on the world, one personal benediction at a time. 

Honestly, it does take courage to get out there into the world with chronic pain and a mobility aid. I didn't realize how small I look in my scooter! It's a bit scary to see that. I sometimes feel like a target: "Look at me. I can't fight back. Mug me. Rape me. Whatever. I'm an easy target."

So I do whatever I can to make myself feel more powerful, from getting to know all the big guys in my neighbourhood, so they can help out when needed, to being a bit mouthy ... 

... to wearing an outfit that makes me feel beautiful. I'm not even sure why  beauty gives me courage, but it does. And courage is a thing I need so I'll take it where I can.

(I'm sharing this with Share In Style, Spy Girl, Hat Attack on The Style Croneand Visible Mondays at Not Dead Yet..)


  1. Oh, beautiful beautiful Charlotte! That outfit suits you so well, and it's practical. Sexy gloves, swishy cape, gorgeous hat and wonderful boots. You did well! Can't get over the garbage bag/sleeping bag style. They think people will wear these?! Your style is impeccable disability or not. You could give anyone a run for their money :-) xo JJ

    1. You are too kind, JJ. There seems to be this idea that disabled people don't care how we look or, worse, don't deserve beauty. You should see how ugly household disability aids are. And my scooter came in a HUGE range of colours: blah beige, boring black, bleah blue and racy red, for those who roll on the wild side. I still plan to get a dragon airbrushed on mine when I can afford it (so after the wedding).

  2. Charlotte, I think it's so good that you started this series - Disability Style. I of course did not even think of such challenges as rain, snow, wind, cold weather etc. You look very stylish and elegant in your cape - it's truly beautiful, and I love how you top it off with this bright red hat, very chic! I'll be thinking now how to keep you and many others warm while still being stylish. No garbage bag fashion, of course. Hmm... You look very cozy and so charming in this outfit! I wonder what other variations you'll create...

    I also love berry colors - pinkish/purplish reds are wonderful on our complexion. And by the way, in the Russian movie Mary Poppins does wear a cape! Look at this link - some photos of Russian MP (the actress name is Natalya Andreichenko and she lives in the US these days if I'm not mistaken) -

    The high end fashion capes you showed here are gorgeous! xxxxx

  3. I enjoyed reading this post so much, Charlotte. I did not want to miss it so I am so glad you notified me about it. I love your cape. It is in such a classic style and navy is such an elegant color, always. I really like your incorporation of history in this post and as usual your point of view and sense of humor just shines through.


  4. fabulous style and fabulous berry colors!! great attitude and gorgeousness!!

  5. As someone who pushes a small boy considerable distances in a hilly town, daily and in all weathers, many of the struggles you mention here are familiar to me. Zach in his buggy needs to be apparently over-wrapped in order not to looses body-heat sitting there, and of course wind and rain go straight in to his face. For myself, I am all too familiar with the cold-hands-and-forearms syndrome as my arms are stretched out and exposed in front of me. Likewise the effort of pushing, especially uphill, mean that I lean forward / my bum sticks out backwards, and rain lands straight on my back. It doesn't take long for me to be soaked to the knickers if I am caught unawares. I also find it almost impossible to use an umbrella, as the buggy needs both hands. A couple of suggestions that might help: would you consider lap rugs of a more pleasing variety? Like the driving rugs motorists wore in the early days of automobiles; thick plaid wool, say. For my wee one I recently thrifted a gorgeous burnt orange hand crocheted blanket which adds an attractive and stylish blanket option to keep s legs and feet warm. If you have the idea in mind you may find suitable textiles in thrift stores too. A brocade table runner, perhaps, could find a new and adventurous life protecting your knees? The other thought I had is that I have seen Vespa delivery bays sometimes with an arched Perspex roof to keep the rain off. If you do hope to be out and about a great deal in the rain, perhaps you could look in to something similar? You look truly fabulous in your berry colours and cape, fantastic. All the best!

  6. You know who also wore capes? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also due to his (rarely photographed) wheelchair. (And canes and leg braces and more.)

    Thanks for your fun ideas for making a fashion statement . . . because I now also am on a cane and am to get a motorized scooter and more, for the same reason that FDR did. Post-polio syndrome.

    And as I read other posts of yours with which I can empathize, such as the bad back, I wonder if you have read some excellent books about PPS? We deal with some similar symptoms, and some of the advice may be as useful -- and encouraging -- to you as it is to me. By the way, sexual abuse of young polio victims, incapable of protecting themselves in hospitals and removed from their parents, also was all too common.

    I am so sorry . . . but again, I also am glad that I found your blog, as I face this!