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How to Dress for Success in a Wheelchair

June 4 2012 | by

woman in a wheelchair at the office

­Alright, you’ve taken the time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% complete. You’ve made a concerted effort to keep all questionable photos and comments off of your Facebook page. You’re even following and networking with all of the right people on Twitter. You are truly a social media rock star.

But now that you have to sit in front of an actual human, you’re petrified. You have no idea what to wear or how to wear it. Well, don’t fret, I’m here to help. Here are five of the most asked questions I receive about dressing for interviews when you have a seated body type.

1. When does the interview begin?

The interview begins the moment the interviewer sees you. Like it or not your interviewer consults your appearance to get clues into your work ethic. Your hair, nails, and shoes tell the interviewer if you’re detail oriented. If your clothing is wrinkled, dirty, or disheveled — that tells the interviewer you don’t take pride in yourself.

2. What does it mean to be well-dressed?

Being well-dressed means balancing your body type and complimenting your skin tone with clothing that is APOSHSM (accessible, smart, and fashionable). Remember when you look good, the company looks good. It’s also imperative to dress for the job want. How would you dress if you were offered a position at your dream company, working your dream job? That’s how you should dress during the interview and after you’re hired. I also encourage you to “think beyond the labels” others have placed on you as a person with a seated body type.

3. I have no idea where to begin; what do I first?

First get accurate measurements and identify your body type. Ask a tailor or a personal friend to take the following measurements: bust, waist, hips, the rise, thigh, neck, across the back, inseam, torso to waist, and across the front. Knowledge is power, and knowing your exact measurements will make shopping (online and in brick and mortar stores) more enjoyable.

Also, everyone has a personal body type; do you know your body type? It’s not difficult to figure out. Use your measurements and ask a few questions like, “Am I bigger on the top and smaller on the bottom? Am I bigger in the middle and smaller on the top? What areas are difficult to dress? Dressing well is about finding clothing that balances your body. In other words, wearing brighter colors and adding volume to the smaller areas and wearing darker colors and reducing volume on the larger areas.

4. I’m on a tight budget, what do I absolutely need to purchase?

Invest in clothing designed for the seated body type. There is no way around this one, clothing designed for the seated body type instantly makes you look neater and more put together. The clothing is bulk-free; it lies properly, and will not cause unwanted body sores. Since you’re on a tight budget and you have to select one or two pieces, it may be best to purchase one pair of slacks and one shirt, that way your pants are not hanging over the side of the chair and the elbow area on your shirt fits the bended arm. Note: Until designers and retailers begin to provide in-store clothing designed for the seated body type, it may take up to two weeks to get your clothing. So I suggest, as soon as you start looking for a job, order the clothing you will need for your interview, that way you’re prepared.

5. Do I have to wear a suit?

In a word, yes. Suits are the best way to dress professional, period. Note: Ladies, make sure you have on a thigh band to keep your knees together when wearing skirts. Here are a couple of ways to show your personality and showcase individuality when wearing suits. Guys: Your tie is an opportunity to subtly show your personality, choose wisely. Select a color that compliments your eyes or skin tone but stay away from ties featuring animation, less is more.

Footwear is a great way to showcase individuality. Your shoes do not have to match your look, but they must compliment your look. If shopping for new shoes, purchase shoes with a wider width to compensate for foot swelling. And make sure you consider any issues you may have with foot drop. Men: Make sure you match your socks with your slacks. Women: To extend your leg line, your shoe should match your slacks, skirt, or opaque stockings. If you live in a warm climate and you wear bare legs, wear shoe colors similar to your leg; doing this visually extends your legs. Note: If you are uncomfortable showing your legs due to loss muscle tone, stick with thigh high stockings.

Here are a few final tips for dressing for the interview:

Tailor to fit. It is imperative to find a tailor that you trust and feel comfortable with. That way you can work together to come up with clothing solutions tailored made for you. When tailoring clothing, try to stay away from clothing with lining, it is very costly to tailor. Also, the cost of tailoring the garments should not exceed the original cost of the garments.

Smile, it’s your best accessory. A smile is a universal symbol for confidence and approachability. There are plenty of quality toothpastes and teeth whiteners to help you whiten your teeth. The whiter your teeth, the more youthful you appear. If you absolutely hate your teeth, raise your eyebrows (literally) and practice a closed mouth smile; it has the same effect.

Take time to dress your best and “luv what you wear”. When a moment passes, it passes; we will never get that moment back. How do you want to live each moment? As you prepare for this interview, make time to plan your outfit, try-on your outfit, and execute your professional look with confidence.

As always, if you have questions about styling and what brands are best for seated body types, please send me an email and I will be glad to help you.

  • Supportedemployment

    what is aposhsm?

  • Suzanne Robitaille

    This is the writer’s trademarked phrase: “APOSH (sm) accessible, smart, and fashionable.”

  • Stephanie

    APOSH is an acronym for my disability styling system. And SM is the service mark or trade mark of the styling system.

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