Clothing Options for CHF

As a female, one of the challenges with my heart failure diagnosis has been how to dress this new body. I have experienced weight gain and swelling in my abdomen and thighs. As a slender person pre-diagnosis, by and large, I did not struggle to find clothes that fit, were comfortable, and made me feel good about myself.

Wearing clothes when carrying fluid

I had no idea that the fashion industry seemed to create clothes for one type of body type. Now I have curves that I'm hesitant to show off, and tight clothes when I'm carrying fluid are uncomfortable. Moreover, it’s amazing how my weight and body composition can change depending on if I’m carrying fluid! So, I do not just need clothes for one size, but I need options that will adjust with me.

Case in point: I realized the other day that I didn’t have any jeans. I had been living in athletic gear and one pair of slightly too-large work pants that were able to accommodate a swollen tummy. I didn’t feel fashionable or sexy in any of the clothes that I had, which is a shame when we should be celebrating the body that we have and all that it’s gone through (and continues to endure) to keep us still kicking! We deserve to celebrate who we are, no matter what.

Bring someone to help you shop

I did go out and actually find jeans with an expandable waist. This leads me to tip #1, bring someone! I had no idea how exhausting it is to flip through clothes and walk up and down racks. I think you need someone to help take some of the physical burdens of shopping away from you. Also, trying on clothes is exhausting.

Unlike previous times when I could just load up the fitting room with numerous options, it now comes down to quality over quantity. Also, thinking about options and what you have is exhausting, too. All in all, if you can bring someone, do it.

Options you may not be aware of

Also, there might be other options in terms of fabrics that you are not aware of. For example, for those who are like me and carry fluid in their midsection, there are jeans that have spandex at the waist! Think maternity jeans but not. And they can be cute!

Also, as far as shirts and dresses go, the design AND how you style it can be helpful. There are shirts and dresses that have loose designs, but the way the item gathers at the waist does NOT make it look frumpy. Also, for example, I have gotten accustomed to a ‘french tuck.’ There are shirts that are longer and are designed to be tucked in at the waist only. Honestly, I feel very Parisian. The plus, too, is that the tuck hides the stomach.

Think about fabrics as well. I am amazed at the number of fun bright patterns out there! I used to feel sexy by showing off my slender body, but now I feel sexy being bold enough to wear a pattern that is meant to be noticed. Layering is another technique that can create visual appeal without a hugging or tight-fitting design.

Other clothing options

Also, think about things that do not involve clothes! A pair of shoes that you love can really make you feel great. For example, I now own a pair of Keds (sneakers) with a super fun plant design. I don’t know why, but when I lace those bad boys up and pair them with some lip gloss, I don’t feel crappy.

Try things that you might not have been into before. Were hoop earrings never your thing? Were bright colors always too much for you? Give them a shot! No time like the present, and we all deserve to feel good about ourselves.

My point is this: I get that it is hard, but do not give up! Let’s celebrate our bodies and everything we have, and continue to, go through. We are awesome. It's not about what others think of you, but what you think of yourself. And we deserve to feel good in our own skin.

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