Tag Archives: Winter Coats

Keeping Warm in a “Polar Vortex”

I am writing you from what the weather people are referring to as the “polar vortex”. It sounds like   something straight out a science fiction novel, but it’s more of a horror story if you ask me. The temperature outside is currently -14 degrees and the high today is supposed to be 0. That isn’t even factoring in the wind chill. You don’t want to know about the wind chill. We also have about 18 inches of snow.

I do not like cold weather. My Daddy lived in Florida for years before I was born, and had he met my mother there, I might have been a beach bunny; instead, he came home to Michigan and I was born in a state where phrases like polar vortex are coined. My Cerebral Palsy does not make the cold any easier; as soon as the temperature drops below freezing, my muscles tense up so much that I can barely move and my joints begin to give me grief. So you can imagine that my number one priority during this record breaking weather event has been to stay warm.

The first few days were easy. I was off work and spent my days in my sewing room where it is nice and toasty. Tuesday, however, I had to return to work, which meant I had to grit my teeth and face the cold weather head on. I was only going to be outside for a few minutes, but in subzero temperatures, that’s all it takes for your skin to freeze. So I made sure I was well prepared.

Two of the most essential items you need in order to keep warm in weather like this are a scarf and a hat. A scarf is important because it helps keep your airways warm, which makes it easier to breathe; and it helps to warm the air around your nose and mouth so that your lungs don’t get shocked by that super cold air. I would recommend a knitted scarf made of wool or other warm material. Your head is where you lose the majority of your body heat, according to my mother and many others, so a hat will keep your body heat where it belongs, in your body.

The next item in my cold weather armory is my Omni-Heat jacket by Columbia. It is lined with a shiny material that helps trap your body heat and consists of two layers, making it both warm and waterproof. It also has these neat little hand protectors attached to the sleeves that fit over your thumbs to help keep the air from blowing up your sleeves. This is a huge problem when I am using my power chair because my arms are usually in a position where the air can blow right in. It also keeps the snow out of my sleeves when I fall.

One thing I really have to keep warm is my legs. My sister and I both have scrawny legs, but mine are extra scrawny do to my CP. In these temperatures, I would love to be able to wear my fleece lined jeans, but they are not exactly appropriate for work. Instead I wear fleece leggings under my work pants along with calf length socks and high boots.

Despite all these layers I am still cold and cannot wait to get home and bury myself under a pile of warm blankets and cats; but until then, I at least know I won’t freeze to death. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a polar vortex, stay inside. But if you can’t, these essentials should help keep you safe and at least a little warmer.

How to Wear a Coat in a Wheelchair Without Looking Like an Inflatable Beach Ball

The art of wearing winter clothes from a wheelchair is exactly that; a talent, and it can take some time and patience to learn.  From trying your hardest to not look like Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when she blows up into a blueberry when you put on a winter coat to making sure you can still move in whichever coat you buy, it can be tricky finding a coat that works when you use a wheelchair.

I’m from Minnesota so having a solid winter coat is a must.  When I was first injured I was a teenager and Starter jackets were all the rage – those ugly puffy sports team jackets everyone seemed to have. I had one too; a Charlotte Hornet’s jacket, replete with black, purple and teal, and I would wear it all day long. Gross.

The thing about dressing for the cold however is that when you use a wheelchair, it’s not that easy to do.  Jacket’s can be too long, too puffy and plain unflattering when you’re sitting down.  They should feel like a hug and make you look great. You have to really study how you look in the mirror to figure out which type a coat looks best before purchasing. Always use a full-length mirror too.

And for some people no matter their size, it can be a tougher search. Always start by looking for coats that have been specifically made for wheelchair-users, and there are several, otherwise get ready to pay a seamstress to modify any new jacket you purchase. One of my favorite adaptive clothing companies is IZ Adaptive by Izzy Camilleri, designer of beautiful adapted coats and lots of other pretty stuff.

Izzy designs everything from chic dresses and jeggings, but her coats is where it’s really at. They’re high quality and I absolutely love her for using a wheelchair mannequin (Mannequal, purchased from artist and paraplegic Sophie Morgan) for the shots of her clothing on her site.  Maybe it’s a passion of hers because she’s from Canada, but her coats truly can’t be beat. They’re perfectly adapted, stylish, comfortable and yes, they keep you warm.

When choosing a jacket that looks best on you, if you don’t want go through an adaptive clothing site or a seamstress and you’d rather keep things simple, you can always do what I do – find mainstream versions of clothing, like at Forever 21, that contain the fashion elements you need.

This takes a lot more “leg” and Google search work, but it will save you a few bucks. Look for high back jackets, generous arm space, not too long of sleeves, and an overall flattering cut.

So remember, look for jackets that aren’t tight and puffy or hide the best parts of your body.  Nothing too long and bulky is a must for the ladies. Belts are also a great way to show off your figure while wearing a jacket sitting down, as well as cropped jackets and adapted bomber jackets.

Just remember to always layer up before putting on your winter coat.  Layering is one of the best ways for someone with a spinal cord injury to adjust their body’s temperature.  Stay warm, and happy shopping.

Check out IZ Adaptive

What winter coat have you found works best as a wc-user?

Products Recommended

– Wool Bleached Trench Coat for wheelchair-users

– Mannequal for stores everywhere

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