Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Autism really cramps my style

How I'd like to dress:
vintage photo of a girl wearing a 40s style green and white print cotton dress

Couple posing crouched in a garden.  She is wearing a pretty pink Edwardian-style dress, light pink scarf and pink pillbox hat.  He is wearing a suit.

Model posing in ruins, wearing a sleek black knee-length gown and a sheer cape, with high heels.

How I actually dress:
Jodes, wearing jeans, a plain pink t-shirt and a blue wig, making a V sign with her fingers

I love neat little vintage dresses, bows, buttons, cute shoes and complicated updos and curls.  In my dream world, I wear crisp cotton dresses with matching heels, a string of pearls and funky shaped glasses, my look hovering somewhere between librarianish and rockabilly.

But in the world we actually inhabit, I wear loose t-shirts or blouses made from soft knit fabrics with jeans.  Or I wear simple shift-like dresses made from the same soft fabric, with thick tights or leggings, and a light cardi over the top if it's sleeveless because I like to keep my armpits to myself.

I can't overstate how much Aspergers affects the way I look and dress.

For a start, the clothes I'd like to wear play havoc with my sensory sensitivities.  I just can't wear some fabrics; anything with too much nylon or wool in it, anything that doesn't breathe well, stuff with too coarse or uneven a weave, stiff cloth that doesn't give with movement, stuff that makes sound when it moves.  Similarly I can't wear anything tight, which rules out a lot of tailored styles of clothing.  Seams cause trouble as well, so the simpler and looser the cut the better.  

If I wear something that disagrees with me, it plays havoc with my ability to focus on anything else or get anything done.  It puts me on edge, so I spend the whole day uncomfortable.  After a while, I get irritable and likely to snap at people and get cranky about things I'd usually let go.  My other sensory sensitivities - to light and sound, for instance - get worse.  It makes me really miserable, and not a pleasant person to be around either.

I can't wear shoes with any sort of heel at all because  it does odd things to my proprioception issues.  It's not just about not being able to walk gracefully in heels - although I can't - but about being barely able to walk at all.  Once there's a heel involved, even if it's just a half-inch or so, I can't judge properly how or when to put my foot down.  You know that thing where you're going down a staircase and there's one less step than you think, so your foot hits the ground really hard because you were expecting it to be lower?  That happens to me a lot when I wear shoes with heels. Fortunately, these days there are lots of cute little ballet flats available cheaply, so I spend my walking life in those or joggers.

I can't do my hair with any degree of skill, which is mostly a motor skills thing.  Make-up is a complete no-go zone, because not only do I lack the fine motor control to apply it but I can't see well enough without my glasses to do so anyway.  (And, before you ask, that same combination of poor vision and ropey motor skills means I can't put contact lenses in myself either.)   Make-up feels odd on my face.  I haven't worn it enough (maybe half a dozen times in the last decade) to know whether this is a sensory issue or something I'd get used to if I used it more often, but I suspect the former.  I suspect it'd go the same way the uncomfortable clothes would - I'd have to either wash it off after an hour or two, or watch the whole day descend into misery.

And, of course, I'm fat, for reasons which are kinda sorta in part Aspergers related.  Cute little vintage-style dresses don't often come in my size, or work particularly well with my body shape when they do.  That's not to suggest bigger girls shouldn't wear whatever the hell they like - it's just that my particular fat has, for whatever reason, decided to settle in places that give me a somewhat masculine shape.  I can pull off a shift and cardi, but in a tailored dress, I look a bit like I'm in drag.