What It Means to 'Dress Like a Woman' With a Chronic Illness


In 2017, it was reported that President Donald Trump requires female White House employees to “dress like a woman.”

When one hears this phrase, images of flowing dresses, ruby red lips, and perfectly coiffed hair comes to mind; the ideal woman of the 21st century in all her marketable, feminine glory. She wakes up early and eats fresh fruit and hits the gym in her Victoria’s Secret athletic wear. Her shimmering dye job is never betrayed by her roots, and she never goes more than two weeks without getting her eyebrows waxed.

She is the pinnacle of “woman” in the Trump White House, and surely knows what it means to “dress like a woman.”

But here is the thing: when you are a woman with a chronic illness, it is almost impossible to “dress like a woman” in accordance to our commander-in-chief’s alleged preferences. And, when we are able to do so, we may be uncomfortable, and our energy may be sapped by attempting to maintain perfect posture and walk in heels and reapply lipstick every time we sip our drinks.

So instead of changing our wardrobes, I think we as women with chronic illnesses must change what it means to “dress like a woman.”

I dress like a woman when I pull a hat or wrap over my balding head. I tuck the tufts of my remaining hair behind my pierced ears and am ready to start the day.

I dress like a woman when I slip into my yoga pants for the third day in a row. The waistband is kind to my tummy, bloated from medication and inflammation and God-knows-what else is going on.

I dress like a woman when I pull on my grey sweatshirt, the one that says “Clothe Your Neighbor As Yourself.” It is easy to pull up when it is time to inject Humira into my belly, and its message reminds me that, despite my illness, I am still a humanitarian; I am still me.

When I am in bed in my oversized nightshirt, I am dressed like a woman. When I am picking up my daughter from school in comfy, cotton garb, I am dressed like a woman. When I am in the hospital with a thin white gown protecting me from the icy, sterile cold, I am dressed like a woman.

My illnesses may alter my life, but they do not strip me of my femininity.

We are women, so when we are dressed, we are dressed like women.

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Thinkstock photo by Acnakelsy


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