Since birth, my mum always dressed me in beautiful outfits. I always loved the items she chose for me. However, there was a time I fought her tooth and nail over my style choices. It’s not rare for teenage daughters to fight with their mothers over attire, but our arguments were unique in every way. While my mum wished I would wear cute tank tops, leggings, and flattering skinny jeans, I wanted to wear loose jeans and baggy tee shirts. Though I didn’t find the baggy clothes fashionable, they were comfortable. And as a teenager with JA, I was willing to sacrifice style if it meant I had a little less pain.
Clothes can be a major pain point for kids with arthritis. Skinny jeans and leggings can be constricting for a kid who deals with a lot of knee swelling. In my experience, it can be hard just to put on skinny jeans if your feet and ankles are swelling! Other kids have a hard time with heavy layers — the weight can be too much on a tender joint. Some kids have a hard time physically getting dressed: Zippers and buttons can be agony for someone who has issues with their hands (there are tools to help with this).
While I love fashion as much as the next girl, wearing something that causes discomfort is never worth it. During a flare, it’s a good idea to find outfits that are easy to slip into and offer extra room for swelling joints, such as loose shirts, sweatpants, and casual dresses. A friend of mine with severe JA often wore skirts and dresses because it hurt too much to pull on a pair of pants. During my flares, I always made an effort to wear clothes that made me feel the most comfortable. Yoga pants, jeans that stretch, and light polyester blend T-shirts worked the best for me, but everyone has their preferences.
Teenagers with JA may be particularly self-conscious of swelling, redness, and other visible symptoms. Additionally, medication side effects can also be unpleasant, such as breakouts from prednisone. As a teen, I dreaded summer clothing styles because I was so embarrassed about my puffy knees and ankles. On top of that, my medication caused acne on my face, back, and chest. While my mum wished I would wear tank tops and modest shorts, we compromised with pastel T-shirts and capri pants. To this day, I’m so glad my mum was so supportive and never pushed me out of my comfort zone.
During my baggy T-shirt days, I was always trying to find a way to add a personal touch; I used headbands and sneakers as fashion statements. But I eventually longed to dress in ways that flattered my body. Once I hit my junior year of high school, I began wearing light, flowing blouses. Instead of the skin-tight jeans my peers wore, I now choose fitted or tapered jeans made of stretch material. On days I know my knees will swell, I choose boot-cut or straight-cut pants. It may take some time, but you will find that you can often find ways to make your child’s preferred styles comfortable. Sometimes all it takes is adding the right baseball hat or a sparkly belt. What really matters is encouraging kids to wear what makes them feel good, physically and mentally.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.