Her self-confidence took a big hit. But Dunnill didn’t give up. Eventually she learned to dress in a way that compliments her unique frame and puts a spring in her step.
Any child can develop adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, but it often hits girls harder than boys. For starters, it afflicts seven girls for every one boy. Girls are also eight times more likely to develop scoliosis.
What’s worse, scoliosis often strikes between ages 10 and 15, when girls’ self-confidence is most fragile, causing visible symptoms such as:
- Uneven shoulders
- Off-center head
- Uneven rib cage
- A shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other
- Lopsided hips
- One leg that appears shorter than the other
- Body that leans to one side
Many develop body issues as a result. Nearly six in 10 scoliosis patients feel dissatisfied with their bodies—and scoliosis patients are 45 percent more like than their peers to feel ashamed of their appearance. Whether they wear a brace or not, many girls with scoliosis report struggling to find clothes that fit their curves.
“Most of my clothes do not fit,” says fashion-conscious teenager Caroline Sonier, who refuses to hide her curves under sweatshirts and sweatpants.
Thanks to teens like Sonier, a growing scoliosis fashion movement is encouraging girls to take pride in their bodies by dressing in a way that makes them feel at home in their curves. Entrepreneurs who know the pain of dressing for scoliosis are developing fashion lines for spinal curves—from workout clothes to under-brace camis. Stores like Nordstrom are even sponsoring scoliosis fashion shows.
“Fashion doesn’t end when scoliosis begins,” Dunnill says. For girls with scoliosis, flattering clothes aren’t as hard to find as you might think. Here are some scoliosis fashion tips to help you dress up your curves:
Choose asymmetrical lines
Off-the-shoulder shirts and asymmetrical hemlines draw attention away from uneven shoulders and hips. They also make a statement: Straighter isn’t always better! Fabric that drapes off-kilter also gives you a breezy, casual look that never seems to go out of style.
Pair a tunic with leggings
Here’s another perennial fashion favorite. A loose, long tunic over stretchy pants provides the ultimate comfort for scoliosis patients. Clingy shirts accentuate spinal curves, while jeans can dig into scoliosis curves and make for a miserable day. This outfit solves both problems with panache.
Layering—it’s the oldest fashion trick in the book. It’s also a great way to hide the outline of a brace or uneven ribs and shoulders. Jean jackets, blazers, cardigans and button downs can add extra coverage to just about any outfit. You can even add a shoulder pad to balance out your shoulders. For hot days, try a lightweight vest over a tank top.
Bold accessories play a double role by expressing your sense of style while luring the eye away from areas you want to de-emphasize. For example, a large bag can help balance out your hips, while an infinity scarf masks uneven shoulders and draws attention to your face.
Minimize curves without bracing
The worst thing about scoliosis bracing isn’t that it makes your clothes fit differently. It’s that bracing rarely works—and it often causes more harm than good. Instead of selecting clothes that will cover a brace, consider pursuing a more effective treatment, such as ScoliSMART’s Scoliosis Boot Camp. We use a combination of exercises to retrain the brain and muscles to treat curves of 25 degrees or larger. It’s scientifically proven to reduce curvature, slow progression and improve cosmetic appearance.
Whether you wear a brace or simply have pronounced physical symptoms, you can still find clothes that flatter your frame and express your personality. The key is to “stick to clothes you feel comfortable in,” Dunnill says. “When you feel comfortable in your clothes, the confidence just radiates out of you!”
Don’t worry if you still have days when nothing seems to fit right, she adds. “When you start developing your own signature scoli-style, you’ll have less of those days and more confident days!”