Picture the scene: it’s 2016, the height of summer in London. The pavements are steaming, kids have permanently ice-cream-stained chins, women are floating around in mini dresses and Birkenstocks. I’m sitting in the park, shaded by big trees, with the sweatiest top lip imaginable because I’m wearing a black, long-sleeve polo neck with black jeans. My friends know not to ask if I’m hot but passersby do not – after all, it’s over 30 degrees.
At 18 I was diagnosed with both types of psoriasis: guttate and plaque. Two for the price of one, if you will. My once-clear skin became alien to me, covered with red patches glowing with infection and crusty with healing. Silvery scales coating the welts and shedding flakes with every movement. I had it in my scalp, clumping my hair together and covering my shoulders as if with glitter, only not in a fun way.
I had it on my arms, back, stomach, hands and, most severely, on my legs. Psoriasis favours the joints, sinking into your elbows and knees so deeply it can cause arthritis. In more recent years I’ve developed psoriatic arthritis too, causing a deep ache in my bones and a stiffness to my joints that I wasn’t expecting until at least my 60s.
Fortunately, a decade since my first flare-up, I’m no longer sitting in the shade covering every part of my body. One of the main things this autoimmune disease took from me was my sense of style and I’ve finally clawed it back.
As we head into summer I’m reminded of how this season has always been the hardest to dress for. It’s uncomfortable to wrap your skin in lots of fabric and besides, skin conditions generally benefit from vitamin D. Light colours are hard to wear as my skin often bleeds and stains fabric; tight clothes don’t give my skin any room to breathe.
Anyone who has lived in a body that’s othered will also know that the stares and comments from strangers don’t help either (no matter how body positive I aim to be). It’s safe to say there’s a plethora of things to contend with before you’ve even considered your own personal style.
I like to think I’ve become an expert on how to dress with a skin condition so I’ve created a guide to help you skip a lot of the sartorial stress and offer up some inspiration. A skin condition can require fashion adjustments but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your style.
For a summer wedding
A midi dress has become a staple piece in my wardrobe as it gives enough coverage to feel comfortable but still feels weather-appropriate. Want a summer wedding outfit that will have everyone swooning and can be worn again? Try something like this dress from Never Fully Dressed. Its flowy arms mean no skin chafing, while the adjustable cord means you can draw in the waist pre-wedding breakfast and let it out afterwards.
When it comes to shoes, a lot of people with psoriasis and other skin conditions will have it under their toenails too, so a closed-toe heel is often more comfortable. Style with a woven bag and a statement ring or two.
For the rooftop bar
Jumpsuits are a revelation for anyone with a skin condition — they look cool and effortless and are the perfect mix of breathable and covered up. This mesh floral number will see you through every season.
For the office
Need to look professional and chic but can’t wear a white shirt? A linen co-ord is the answer. Just open up the shirt and wear a black tank top underneath for after-work drinks or switch out a mule for trainers at the weekend.
For running errands
A silk midi skirt is one piece I reach for most days; it works with a strappy sandal and structured top for the evening, as well as with trainers and a tee for popping to the post office and grabbing a coffee.
For the beach
Ah, the dreaded beach. The place where our body anxieties come to the surface more than any other. It needn’t be that way! Invest in a swimsuit that makes you feel beautiful and let that salty water act as nature’s antibacterial on your skin. Jade Swim is on the pricier end but the confidence their swimwear gives me has been worth every penny.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?