ZOYA JIWA | September 18, 2017

Each morning, we decide what to wear. We check the weather forecast, consult our clean clothes, and assess our daily activities.

However, many of us also consider our health. We must ask ourselves, “how do I feel?” and make a decision based on our energy levels, our pain points, and our uncomfortable symptoms that find a way into our routines.

Alongside an autoimmune disease called Lupus (SLE), I live with Fibromyalgia (FM). Fibromyalgia is characterized by intense pain in muscles and soft tissues. Essentially, any pressure to tender points including my shoulders, arms, abdomen, and thighs feels as though I am pressing on bruises: painful and uncomfortable.  For these reasons, I am not particularly fond of wearing tight jeans, closely fitted tops, or multiple heavy layers.

During the autumn of 2014, I spent much of my time between doctor’s appointments, school, and my home. Since I was adjusting to a medical treatment for my Lupus and navigating my Fibromyalgia symptoms, I often felt exhausted, nauseous, and weak. My greatest priority was feeling comfortable and warm wherever I went. One chilly morning, I opened my closet to discover that I owned more pajama pants than real pants. I had completely lost my sense of fashion, and I had also discovered a greater problem with my wardrobe: it did not reflect how I wanted to feel.

After having a good laugh, I decided that it was time to rebuild my wardrobe.  I visited local clothing stores (including consignment shops) and found some great pieces: relaxed-fit pants with an elastic waistband, loose tops that were still flattering, and light accessories that added a bit of sparkle to my outfits. I managed to find clothes that not only reduced the pressure on my tender muscles and the severity of my Fibromyalgia symptoms, but clothes that also made me feel confident.

Suddenly, I was excited to get dressed in the morning and attend social events because I knew that I did not have to sacrifice comfort in order to embrace my personal style. Fashion quickly became an outlet for self-expression and creativity. 

When I asked my friends who also live with health conditions if they dressed to accommodate to their daily challenges, and they all said yes, each with a story to share. Although we do not all have the same diseases, we experience similar symptoms, medication side effects, and emotional moments. I saw an opportunity for us to connect our individual stories to a greater community of empowerment and impact.

This is where As We Are emerged.

Guided by values of community, creativity, and confidence, As We Are is a style website for people who are living with health conditions. It combines peer mentorship and storytelling to support individuals experiencing symptoms and side effects of diseases, disabilities, chronic pain, and other sources of discomfort. This is a space where comfort meets style, where functional fashion thrives, and where courage shines.  We seek to feature personal styles and stories that are relatable, that make us smile, and that remind our readers that they are not alone in their challenges. While focus is usually placed on living a vibrant life ‘when you are feeling better,’ this is a space to celebrate and embrace who we are, as we are, in this moment. Check out my recent TEDx talk to learn more about the story behind As We Are.

Over the past six months, I have had the honour of featuring the incredibly moving personal stories and styles of some extraordinary people. Whether you are living with a health condition or not, I invite you to read through the Style Stories featured. 

When I learned that My Modern Closet is also rejuvenating our relationships with our clothes, I was inspired by this movement and so excited to connect. Stay tuned for our upcoming collaboration.