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LIFESTYLE - August 2012

+ Individual style and inspiring women +


Having spent a lot of years writing about my own lifestyle change from busy and ambitious finance professional in stiletto heels to that of wheelchair user on [metaphorical] stiletto wheels, I'm now embarking a new venture called Plus Black (+Black).

I'm hoping that +Black will interest those of us who get that it's normal for unexpected things to happen in life, some of them not pleasant, but, regardless, life is there to be lived as well as it may be and should 'normal' changes really make it this hard to get dressed every day?

Plus Black is a concept in development for women who might be experiencing any one of the many different types of 'normal' lifestyle change – shifting to portfolio careers, retiring, ageing, struggling with weight and medication, developing minor and major illnesses and motor impairments and who are trying to manage these normal life events with what has been their habitual style but are finding it tough.

Lifestyle changes such as those I’ve listed happen to us all, affecting maybe ten million women right now, and many more over the next few years – it might be you or someone you know.  Fifteen years ago, it was me.

And what a shock it is but, staying in, going out, working, retirement or even visits to hospitals or rehabilitation centres, if you have a style aesthetic - and who doesn't? - enforced physical change will not render the terms style and life change as oxymoronic.  Or, it wouldn’t, if we were able to source products – clothing, accessories, aids and equipment – that accommodate both style aspirations and physical necessities.  In fifteen years, I’ve looked … extensively … for such items and failed in my search more often than not.

My conclusion: women who are struggling with weight, older than 40 or have some minor/major physical impairment or illness and can’t (as in not allowed or don’t have the capability to) exercise, do Botox or plastic surgery really don’t have a lot of fun shopping for the things they need either online or in the high street.  Doesn’t it just add insult to injury that those of us forced to deal with age, illness, impairment and medication ‘au natural’ - those needing the most help - are the least welcome by our major retailers?

Plus Black is a concept-in-progress for women who, like me, live lives that are less than perfect and want to do so in style. Sonia Rykiel who has had Parkinson’s Disease for many years says in her book:

My own style has not changed in 40 years, no matter how tired or ill I feel. I try to wear dark green, dark brown, dark navy, but I prefer black. I hate wasting time getting dressed. I like to put something on and just think: “Yes. That’s it.” When I’m tired I like to dress very simply…

Stylish clothing – and other product – that is easy to wear, comfortable, in natural fabrics, in the right size and in black for the moments when your lifestyle changes and your confidence needs a boost.  Not rocket science is it? Nevertheless, surprisingly hard to find if you don’t fit a young, slim, healthy, fashionable profile.

Plus Black will be about inspiring women – you, me and anyone we know who fits the description – to find their own individual style, with information on, and access to:

  • products that make disruptive lifestyle change, unwelcome or not, easier
  • shopping that makes us feel good about ourselves
  • an ethos of inclusiveness, giving and style

Scary moment: I am thinking about roping some friends into this project to help with designing, sourcing and producing some product – clothing, accessories, aids – that will help us (all either complementing, or made in, black) and getting out there online and selling it.

If you're interested in this, or might like to get involved, follow the +Black blog for updates and to join the conversation on some of the issues raised; maybe, you'd like to complete the (very short) +Black Survey to let me know your initial thoughts.  +Black really is a WIP (work-in-progress) at the moment - open to suggestions and collaborative (and kindly) offers of help.  I’d love to hear any feedback you'd like to give.

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