Shopping for Lauren

June 9, 2010

We all have limitations when it comes to the clothes that we buy. We consider many things before making a purchase – fashion, size, appropriateness, color, fabric care, quality, cost, etc.  Lauren needs some new things – shorts, capris, bras, a bathing suit, maybe shoes. Shopping trips can be time consuming, and….depressing. It can be doubly so when you’re shopping for Lauren. The usual limitations are compounded by the factors added by her disability.

First of all, consider the “bottom” – pants, shorts, capris. Lauren needs an elastic, or at least partial elastic, waist. Balancing her while pulling up pants is hard enough without having to zip a fly or manipulate buttons or snaps. When is the last time you saw a twenty-four year old wearing an elastic waist in a garment that wasn’t sweat or yoga pants? Not recently, I bet. But I’d wager that you have seen a slew of matronly grandmothers in a plethora of pastel, polyester, or ladybug-printed elastic-waisted pants. So when we shop for bottoms, that is what we find. With the additional limitation, that those grandmothers are rarely under a size 8, which is where the sizing starts – two sizes larger than Lauren.

Did we find shorts or capris? No.

Then there’s the bra. Lauren wears a 32C, no-underwire. Most manufacturers start their sizes at 34 these days. There is a sprinkling of 32As, possibly a B, never a C. I look at some type of stretchy, sports bra. They are racerbacks – too difficult to get on her. I take a no-underwire, sweet-looking 34C off a rack. Could I alter it? Bras are basically feats of engineering. Wouldn’t altering it kind of throw off the whole support structure? It could make it rather uncomfortable. It’s a framework of elastic, and mesh, and microfiber – do I really want to mess with this?

Were we able to find a bra? No.

A bathing suit is next on our list. Lauren swims at the Y every week. The chlorine just destroys the elastic in a suit. We need to replace her suit at least once a year. She needs a suit that is very modest – supportive, well-covered top and a skirted bottom or shorts. Once again – a matronly style, found – you guessed it – in sizes 8 and above.

Did we buy one? No.

Ah, shoes. It’s hard to find a woman who doesn’t love shoes, and who doesn’t covet pairs in every color, heel, and style. Lauren wears AFOs – an orthotic that reaches from the tips of her toes to just below her knee. With them on she is a size 7 wide, without them a 5 narrow. There are times, for various reasons, that Lauren wears her AFOs and times when she doesn’t. She needs shoes in two different sizes. But, most importantly, any shoe that Lauren wears must be flat – absolutely flat. It is the only thing that will work with the AFOs and without them, Lauren cannot stand with her heel elevated. Also, those AFOs are not easy to cram into a shoe, so they affect the style of shoe that we can buy. We do pretty well with sneakers, but, gee, a girl can’t wear sneakers all the time! So, if we’re near the shoe department, we always pass through in the hope that something will miraculously appear, perfect in every way including price, because let’s face it, the bottom of Lauren’s shoes never even get dirty. We’ve even resorted to the children’s department since a size 5 in women’s is actually the same as a size 3 in children’s (who figures these things out?). These days, however, even the kid’s shoes are hard to find without a heel.

Did any possibilities tempt us? No.

So, our mall trip has ended, fruitless and frustrating. I had even ventured into a “hip” (do they still use that word?) shoe store, crammed with colorful displays to attract the average twenty-four year old young woman. The two, pierced and platformed, clerks looked at me as if I had lost my way, wandered in by mistake, perhaps needed help finding my way to the Naturalizer store down the hall. They stared at Lauren and I as we wheeled amongst the gaily-patterned Converse and amazingly impractical feats of shoe design till I couldn’t resist asking, “How would you feel if your mother chose all of your clothes?” They just stared at me, wide-eyed with horror.

Tonight, I will put my feet up and do some internet shopping. I hope that my search is a success, contrary to past experience. The usual result is that if I am willing to spend $180 for a bathing suit or $80 for a pair of shoes that will never touch pavement, there is someone out there with just what we need.

Will I buy it? I sure hope I don’t have to.

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