Friday, 27 September 2013

Illness and Dressing

A Collection of 9 Anecdotes, Old Wive's Tales, Good & Misguided Advice, Stories and Experiences

I have been ill in September - strep throat gone wrong. After 10 days of thinking that I should be able to overcome this myself, I went to see a doctor here in France. I have just completed a couple of potent medications right now but this health related lead-in has a purpose. When one is feverish, one loses all personal inhibitions and what one is wearing is of no consequence. 

I began thinking about the stories, old wives' tales, good and misguided advice and other anecdotes I have encountered about clothing and illness - the following post is a hodge podge related to illness and clothing choices.

1 Did your mother tell you to wear clean underwear, in case you were in an accident? This advice should be: if you have to wear dirty underwear, you might as well, especially if you are in an accident. This is not the place to describe the details of what happens when the body is hit with force but clean underwear is not even a consideration.

For the female gender, if you are prone to yeast infections tight pants and synthetic underwear are two things to be avoided since the two provide the perfect environment for a yeast infection to develop or if you already have one, the environment that needs to be avoided. As for men and this piece of advice - not wearing tight pants - I can imagine that there are health consequences, I just don't know what they are.

Continuous wearing of tight neckties and shirt collars are an issue for men who are genetically pre-disposed to stroke concerns.

When going out for dinner, where you expect to indulge, leave the spanx and tight clothing in the closet. Acid reflux can be the least of the negative consequences.

If you are a chronic wearer of spandex for the torso and thighs, you need to know that compression clothing worn habitually can lead to nerve damage and pain.

Many with sensitive skin or eczema, are often irritated by wool products. However a friend with eczema told me that she's not affected by cashmere.  

A woman I know in Switzerland was angry with her mother for a long time after her mother's death. Her mother was dying of cancer and apparently in Switzerland one can make a choice for euthanasia. The mother awoke one morning, went to get her hair and nails done, put on her favourite suit, went out for lunch with her daughter and told her about her decision. That afternoon she returned to the hospital.

I worked in an upper end dress shop while in high school and the most memorable sale I ever made left me slightly appalled and amazed at the same time. A young woman, who looked very pale, very ill came into the shop with her parents, who in turn looked distraught and overcome with fear. They asked to see bridal gowns. I informed them that I had to get my supervisor because I was not part of the bridal sales team. The young woman, who looked about the same age as me, said she would like me to help her and so it was arranged. Apparently in her heritage, a young woman who dies before marriage is buried in a wedding gown. This young woman and her parents were shopping for her wedding gown, which was not going to be used in a marriage ceremony. I still get goose bumps when I think of it.

The classic hospital gown or "johnny" gown is not an example of warmth, modesty or dignity yet it is endured by most just because the last thing we are thinking about while hospitalized is what we are wearing. Yet between the pain killers and being lofted from bed to gurney and being rolled through public access places in hospitals, we see patients conscious of their gowns as they tug and pull so that their bottoms are not exposed to passersby. Short of bringing your own, which may or may not be tolerated by the hospital, cost and the idea that this is trivial when you are ill, will keep the "johnny" gown the mode in the majority of hospitals.

Culturally there must be many more stories and anecdotes about what people wear during illness and beyond. Your comments in response to this post may just be the place for this "odd" collection of stories.


  1. Sorry you have been ill. That's no fun. I liked this post. You are so right.... when I am sick, I really don't care what I wear and am more apt not to put on makeup or dress up if I know I'm only running to the store for 7-up, soup, or medicine. The part about the hospital gown made me laugh... it was so true! Take care and hope you feel better soon.

    1. I am on the mend and feeling better everyday although still frustrated with the "fatigue".

      I'm sure that anyone who has been in a hospital and worn one of those wretched gowns can tell a story or two that we can laugh at now.

  2. Where did you get the information for paragraph #5 that compression can lead to nerve damage and pain? My physician prescribed compression gear after surgery for several months to help with healing.

    1. I can't tell you offhand but it was online quite awhile ago when there was a surge of these different companies touting the flat stomach and tight thighs and of course there was a concern to counter it. If you search "compression garments nerve damage" you should find something. In your case, you need it to recover from your surgery, there is a medical necessity and that's quite different. It's an awareness issue, if you know about it, you can ask some targeted questions about that the next time you see your doctor. As a diabetic, I'm choosing to opt out of the compression choice because of the possibility of nerve damage - I already have enough going against me, I don't have to exasperate it by wearing spandex for vanity's sake.

    2. One more thing, the definitive word here would be "habitual" wearing of compression garments and that could mean everyday for a very long time - now the question is what is a long time?


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