What to wear

What to wear with a crutch
A nice article of the The Financial Times columnist Vanessa Friedman

When I hurt myself seriously enough to need surgery a few weeks ago (I ruptured my Achilles tendon), the first thing that struck me was not the pain – which, on the childbirth scale, fell somewhere around a four – but the avalanche of platitudes that streamed out of many acquaintances’ mouths.

“Maybe your body is telling you to slow down,” quoth some friends. “Take this opportunity to sit back and relax,” said others. Right. They should try sitting back and relaxing in the vicinity of three children under 10.

Vanessa Friedman

Then there was the public nature of my injury; post-hospital I was in a cast and on crutches, and as I hopped my way to my kids’ school and back (while chanting in my head, “triceps! triceps!”) strangers not only stared but randomly began talking, as though my medical condition was an open invitation to chat. I haven’t felt so generally, and irritatingly, accessible since I was pregnant – and indeed, just as when I was pregnant the world suddenly seemed to be full of other pregnant women, I suddenly began to see aircasts everywhere I went.

But, ultimately, the greatest challenge was one I had never anticipated and one that the doctor did not discuss: dressing.

I have spent the last decade creating a purpose-built wardrobe, with items of clothing bought to solve the problems of specific events, whether ice skating at Christmas or a black tie gala or interviewing a designer/chief executive/hedge fund guy (not the same thing), so that as long as I know my schedule I never have to stand stymied in the morning in front of my closet door. But I discovered a gaping hole in my planning: I had never once thought about what I would need if injury suddenly entered the picture.

Consider: the first two weeks after surgery I had an enormous plaster cast just below my right knee; a cast with a “foot” so large not even yoga trousers or Moroccan pyjamas could surmount its edges. The only options were dresses or skirts, which you would think would be fine given it is now spring and warm – except because said cast inhibited circulation, 90 per cent of the time my foot had to be resting above heart level. Dress + leg elevation = extremely undignified exposure. The equation does not compute.

A maxi-dress worked when I was lying down – and, in a felicitous coincidence, all sorts of fashion brands, from Chloé to Haider Ackermann, had maxis on their mind this season – but it was dangerous when standing up (floor-length hemlines and crutches not being an ideal pairing). So, finally, after transforming my bedroom into one that looked like it belonged to a teenager dressing for a party, I discovered the only item I owned that worked both upright and supine: a Rick Owens bias-cut LBJ (little black jumpsuit) that was effectively a little black dress with generous but truncated leg holes instead of an open hem. I wore it when I had company, and the rest of the time simply draped a Pucci throw, previously used as a decorating item, strategically over my bottom half.

But that was just the beginning of the problems. Going outside, for example, presented its own issues: primarily, how to carry a wallet and assorted other necessities. After all, I couldn’t use a shoulder bag, or a handbag, and my dresses did not have capacious pockets. Having always subscribed to the idea that the “fashion backpack” was a ridiculous thing – that mature professionals had no business co-opting the accessory of schoolchildren or anyone travelling through Nepal – I never owned one. Yet it was the only practical solution, so I sent my husband down to the cellar to find ... a purple canvas knapsack last used while hut hiking in the Alps before we were married – 14 years ago.

Then there was the shoe issue: once I got out of the plaster cast and into the aircast – a removable, Velcro-strapped hard plastic robo-boot with heel lifts – I was easily two inches taller on my injured leg (which also weighed about five pounds more) than my good leg. My physiotherapist wanted me to “walk” with my crutches, however, which meant I had to equalise my height. That was when I discovered the sad reality that I, like so many women over the past few years, had been unconsciously suckered into a quest for higher and higher heels (with in-built platforms! Wedges! The against-all-logic-seriously-comfortable YSL tribute!) and now had a closet full of either four-inch numbers or flats. Only one pair of Roger Vivier snakeskin gladiators with a 2.5-inch heel proved the right height.

It was the American Ballet Theatre black tie gala, however, that gave me real garment anxiety. “Wear a long dress to cover your boot!” advised my mother, forgetting about the crutch/hemline issue. “You could tie ribbons to them,” suggested a friend.

Chelsea Clinton 
But there was Chelsea Clinton, who broke her heel, appearing at a Broadway opening in a short black dress, crutches and the exact same robo-boot; and there was David Beckham, a fellow Achilles tendon-tearer (granted, his injury was due to the super strength of his calf muscle, while mine was probably due to unacknowledged middle-age, but still), proudly sporting his black robo-boot at a Knicks game, and I thought: why not just go the full monty with my paraphernalia? I figured I’d have more chance of crowd control with all equipment on display – especially since I crutch-co-ordinated with a silver cocktail dress. And I did.

The interesting thing is, as I have hobbled around ranting to various designers about the above issues, taking advice and issuing it, I have gradually realised that a little preparation would have taken me a long way, and fashion is actually relatively accommodating. Devi Kroell, for example, crafter of super-luxurious handbags and fabulous shoes, told me she felt backpacks as a style item were on their way back. Likewise, Tory Burch has just recreated a nylon version of the same. Bruno Frisoni, creative director of Roger Vivier, said he thought the mid-heel-height was the “most interesting” going forward. And at Yves Saint Laurent, Stefano Pilati has cleverly made a black jersey dress as comfortable as a T-shirt that is effectively a robe knotted in the front, so the “skirt” can be tucked as needed around each leg when seated.

So here’s what I think: perhaps it’s time to expand our definition of “basics” beyond the white T/jeans/trench litany to include at least one each of the above. Consider it preventative medicine for the wardrobe.

Plaster shoulder cast

Beautiful Cuban brunette Carina is coming back from visiting the orthopedist to get her long arm cast and shoulder set. If you want to enjoy more free videos of recreational casting just stop by for Doctorcast.blogspot.com All the credits for the CUBA snapshots 2010 collection!