The Dressing Dilemma

Writer Gail Grant explores the physical complexities of getting clothes onto an aging body.

September 8, 2023 | | Over the Next Hill

Is it only me, or is getting dressed every morning becoming more and more of a struggle? As I see it, this challenge has two parts. The first involves the physical complexities of getting clothes onto an aging body. Balance, flexibility, stretching are all required. Plus pulling, snapping and buttoning. This all takes a good deal more concentration, time and energy than it did when we were younger. All this with full awareness that the challenge will have to be reversed at the end of the day. A chair in the bedroom helps, but I’ve also found that leaning on a wall can do in a pinch.

Then there’s part two, the what-to-wear part. My tendency is just to get out of bed and grab. My go-to is easy pull-up pants and an easy pull-over top, at least to start the day. And Velcro is again becoming a friend. (Have I really gone full circle from my toddler days?)

I find it boring to spend time mulling over my wardrobe first thing in the morning, but I know if I choose badly, I can always update later in the day. So far, I seem to be getting away with it.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama spent next to no time deciding what to wear. In an interview with Vanity Fair during his term in office, he said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” I like his thought process.

My New Year’s Eve outfit last year required putting on pantyhose. Never again. That process turned into a 15-minute contortion-filled, gruelling, cursing episode steeped in frustration. Most definitely gone are the days when I slipped into them without a thought. That night I was late for my date. And grumpy.

And have you noticed how shopping for shoes comes full circle in a lifetime? First, to mitigate falls, parents buy their toddlers comfortable shoes with good grips. Next, it’s “as long as they’re quick to slip on and off” anything-will-do period. This is followed by the “for the look of them” stage. No matter how crippling they are to walk in, or what dreadful things they do to your foot structure, they gotta look good. After that comes the sensible stage – that’s when we know we are approaching the back nine of life. And finally, to mitigate falls, we look for comfortable shoes with good grips.

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  • My neighbour, 85-year-old Marie Jay, a widow, arrived on my doorstep recently with the zipper in the back of her dress stuck in the fabric. A dilemma indeed. Thank goodness it wasn’t the middle of winter when she would have had to find boots (with good grips), hat, coat and gloves to venture outside for help.

    And speaking of Marie, she also said, “I’m always cold. Which means I often change up to three times a day just to keep warm. But my biggest struggle is getting into and out of support hose. While I know they’re useful for improving circulation and preventing blood clots, I often wonder if they’re more trouble than they’re worth.” She told me about someone in her circle who had been taking off her leotards at the end of the day, and in the struggle, fell and broke both her wrists.

    And the fact that our computers are now the equivalent of a 24-hour department store is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it makes shopping for anything downright easy, and bad because it makes shopping for anything downright easy. With delivery right to our door to boot. The result is that my closets are jammed, even though I did a massive purge in the early days of Covid.

    And while we’re on the subject of closets, do you know any husband who isn’t miffed because his entire wardrobe is relegated to an eighth of the matrimonial closet space? I know the day will come when I’m standing in front of a packed closet with nothing to wear … everything either hopelessly out of date, ill-fitting, the wrong colour, or simply too darn much trouble to wrestle with.

    But I won’t think about that right now. I’m going out in an hour and I need to get changed. It’ll be a workout.

    About the Author More by Gail Grant

    Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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