• Thu, Mar 25 2010

Ask a Beauty Writer Who Uses a Wheelchair How to Look Good Sitting Down

Tiffiny Carlson is a Minneapolis-based beauty and dating writer who has written for Playgirl and Nerve.com, has been running her own website, BeautyAbility, for over a decade, and can tell you how to do a shot when you can’t move your fingers. Tiffiny broke her neck at age 14 by diving into a lake.

I first discovered Tiffiny on the internet in the late ’90s, when she wrote about how much trouble she had finding a plastic surgeon willing to perform a breast augmentation on a C5-6 quadriplegic. “This girl is awesome,” I thought. (I also had some less than charitable thoughts about lakes in Minnesota).

I discovered recently that Tiff is reviewing ModCloth clothes for disability resources megasite Disaboom. When I read “Fitted dresses with a flat front, meaning there’s no extra bulk in the front of the dress (near the waistline area), is the only way to go if you’re sitting all day,” I realized that, spinal cord injury or no, that truly is advice for all ladykind.

Having put a great deal of thought into how to look good sitting down, Tiffiny possesses an expertise is not limited to wheelchair users. Who among us has not dressed in a totally cute outfit, only to be photographed sitting on a couch, skirt hiked up to reveal thighs that look as though they have suddenly doubled in girth? Have you dared to wear the dreaded pants-with-socks combo, only to discover that when you sat down, the pants hiked up and three full inches of unshaven leg suddenly became visible? This doesn’t happen to Tiffiny Carlson.

I emailed Tiffiny to ask.

Jen: Having many years of experience in fashion for wheelchair users, do you have any beauty advice that translates to able-bodied people who, for instance, get photographed sitting down or appear seated on television? (Or maybe people who just have to sit in their office chairs all day?)

Tiffiny: I wasn’t always hip to this stuff. The pictures from when I was first injured show a fashion train wreck, and reveal a clueless girl with no idea how to dress for her seated frame. I had high waders, pants riding up too high on the waist; I looked like a shapeless puddle, only wearing what was comfortable. I’m 5’10 and 106lbs, with hips and a waist, and soon enough I fiercely desired to show off what God gave me, broken neck be damned. Some say necessity is the mother of invention, but I say it’s vanity .

Advice: If you’re over 5’5, long inseams are critical if you’re wearing pants. Most pant hems rise a couple inches when you sit, ruining the lean look that a proper-fitting pair of pants can give.
It’s all about creating the longest, leanest look you can while sitting. That means wearing tops that extend below the waist, or the extreme opposite, cropped sweaters and the like, or even dresses with an Empire waist, all which help create the long lean look that looks great in the seated position. And don’t forget about accentuating your waist. A belt is the easiest way to define your waist while sitting or to create the illusion of a waist if yours isn’t naturally obvious.

And a quick note on dresses and skirts: They too rise when you sit. If you know you’ll be sitting all day, opt for a hem that hits right above the knee, no higher, no longer. If it’s longer, unless it’s form- fitting, you risk looking like a blanket-laden Dr. Scott from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. If it’s shorter, you better be wearing some dark hose to deflect the hoochie mama label.

I was also curious about Tiffiny’s relationship with ModCloth.com, which seems to have developed brand ambassadors all over the internet (and which frequently lures me away from my Facebook newsfeed with ads featuring adorable dresses). I was somehow not at all surprised that ModCloth has made its way onto Disaboom (and, I’m sure, into Tiffiny’s closet).

Tiffiny: Working for ModCloth has been phenomenal so far. Everyone there is so excited about this new venture with Disaboom, as am I.  Disaboom approached ModCloth, and a couple other bigger name stores, asking if any of them would be interested in marketing their clothes to women with disabilities, and ModCloth was the only store who believed in our mission. ModCloth is a fresh company with no fear is making their clothes accessible to everyone. How can you not help but love them?

And now, in case you were feeling like your own beauty routine was a bit arduous, here is a video of Tiffiny putting on full makeup, from primer to eyeliner, without being able to move her fingers. Be impressed. Be very, very impressed.

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  • Sharonica

    Can you tell me how to hide a muffin top without hunching over all the time? (I think thats’ just making it worse).

    • tiffiny

      Ever try a long top shirt to cover the muffin top? Also, tops with draping and ruching help, or try wearing pants that one size larger.

    • Disablibuddy

      High waist jeans :)

  • Damian921

    uhm… can she now tell a non-quad guy a few tips on dating a lady like herself? I dont know whats more of a turn on, her great looks or the admiration of her unbelievable perseveerance. I’ll be waiting for those tips because I’d gladly date her over some of the non-quads walking around with their bitch and moan attitudes here in NY. She’s beautiful.

  • tiffiny

    thanks damien :) lol. to date a girl like me? be confident.

  • Laura

    Great story- really inspiring! Thanks for the tips on how to dress sitting down, all good ideas. Here’s another great article on this topic: http://insite.artinstitutes.edu/fashion-and-disability-blending-style-with-function-23990.aspx

    • Assistant

      I was lucky to find this thegloss.com blog. Thanks for sharing this information. I find it very informational as I have been analysing a lot lately on practical matters such as you talk about.

  • Julia

    hi,
    i’ve been hurt for over two years now an am wanting to get out of sweats.. do you dress yourself?? how do you put your outfit together in the morning?

  • Alan

    Ingenius and beautiful! When I acquire those colours and products for my girlfriend she’s never going to know where I got the inspiration… maybe I should share the video.

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