Get back your self-confidence in ME/CFS - Step into more stylish shoes

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ME/CFS does nothing for one's self-confidence and morale. In fact, it destroys both overnight. Doctors who treat ME/CFS (and know what they are doing) advise patients to "refresh their image". Personal presentation can increase one's credibility as well as one's self-confidence. Self-esteem and improved morale, in turn, boosts T-cell production, immunity and lowers anxiety levels. Good personal presentation can be helpful in several ways in ME/CFS when you are feeling a "nobody". Knowing the presentation "rules", cuts anxiety and stress in social situations.

In ME/CFS, one's appearance seems to have so altered, one seems a "stranger" to oneself. After several years of ME, as I was recovering, I found that my clothes and hair were depressing me. I had not had time to tackle the whole issue of "personal presentation" before I was struck down with ME/CFS and hardly knew what to wear for job interviews and any other events (if ever I was invited). I had to make a real effort to think about clothes. So I went to the local library and researched the whole subject of "dress sense". In fact, my research opened "doors" for me and contributed in the whole healing process from ME. Within three months, without even trying or ever expecting it, I was dining with charming people who also had the time to be kind and sympathetic. That was just the start. I got to meet diplomats, writers, professors, peers, royalty and endless more, some of whom went out of their way to be very kind indeed. Best of all, they had the manners never to express disbelief in ME/CFS!

Male readers with ME/CFS might like to to get some male style advice e.g. on ties for interviews from here. For "smart casual" for men (not women) see

Wardrobe Advice for Women with ME/CFS

There are several "theories" on personal presentation for women. One is based on "testing your colours". This means that you must buy a new wardrobe and spend hours shopping for specific clothes in specific colours. In ME that can be fun but it also rather exhausting. Personally, I think that the best and least expensive way of regaining social confidence is to employ a kind of "uniform" approach, a set of classic "rules" which are basically French. They were used by people like inventive Coco Chanel or chic Audrey Hepburn, The rules are no effort and look automatically stylish, even on a restricted budget. The outfits, accessories and shoes are no more expensive than any others and need not come from designer shops.

The secret of style is design + co-ordination. The design of the garment counts more than quality and knowing what classically looks good with what, is the skill. There are universally tasteful garments, styles of shoes and accessories. One person can buy expensive clothes in a designer shop, and yet look badly dressed, yet another can go to a local "new to me" boutique and look stylish. They are likely to be, unconsciously, using a "dress code". French and Italian women pick this up from their mothers. Of course, if you want to mix with business people, journalists, medics, creative people, country types, academics, sports people or bikers, then dress as they do. The basic tip is: if you dress like those you want to meet you will make them feel comfortable with you. But be aware that running after superficial things like clothes and wealthy friends and lifestyle, for their own sake, is a self-defeating (and this approach will not open doors for you). It will not prove satisfying in the long term. Dressing is only something "to be held lightly".

My advice is "look smart, be yourself, admit you have had ME/CFS - and even that you are on a low budget!". The best people will be very kind and try to heal you with nice experiences. Of course, good relationships are what makes us happy: these have nothing to do with money or clothes or what we wear at all. They are about meeting "kindred" minds and souls. However, harmless activities (dinners, a few parties and my favourite - yachting!) with kind civilised, healthy often older people is very good for one's immune system, It amply makes up for the "lost years of ME/CFS". I know - I did quite a lot of it. I had one whole healing "year of fun" (which included a lot of contact with nature). I have the diary to show for it!

An ME/CFS "Make Over" in 29 Simple Steps - Dress Rules for Interviews and Special Ocasions

The overall 2007-8 fashion style is understated, casual and not ostentatious. To create the modern "casual" look, you should look spontaneous, without looking completely careless or vulgar. Don't respect classic taste too much but employ it underneath. Mix something expensive with something cheap. Mix something feminine with something masculine e.g. man's hat in summer with a feminine casual suit. Mix something casual like well-tailored blue jeans, fitted to the waist (not the hips) if you are size 12 and over, with a good leather belt, and something quite classic and formal, like a classy, structured pure cotton blouse and pullover. Then carry a casual, relaxed leather handbag and wear loafers, which never go out of fashion.

Ignore all TV advice programmes about "what to wear" - the "stylish" outcomes are not "French" enough. The presenters never apply the French "rules". Learn where "the stylish" shops are (for classy white shirts etc) and then go at sale time to buy a good quality basics.

1) Avoid blue jeans, if blue denim does nothing for you. Instead wear khaki or beige or dark grey or black denim or tastefully tailored trousers with, white or striped tailored cotton shirt, blue or black jacket or blazer with interesting buttons, with good quality Italian leather belt and casual bag and leather loafers.
2) If blue jeans suit you, wear designer style jeans with pastels, a belted cardigan or fitted blazer, (also useful in summer too with a black and white full skirt and low shoes), black/blue jacket fitted into the waist and good quality white cotton shirt (if the neck suits you) and accessories. Wear loafers to look casual. T Shirts are not flattering on women over size 12. Instead look at loose waisted "crinkle" cotton tops e.g. western styles in Indian shops with flattering, but not low-cut necklines.
3) If you wear black and white a lot,, have a "wardrobe strategy" about mixing and matching textures etc. "Lift" black with buttons or chains.
4) Spots are stylish. Choose tasteful "spot" patterns (the bigger the spots the less tasteful). Narrow marine or black and white cross stripes are stylish but avoid width - go for narrow blue or black stripes.
5) The working suit (try to get one shaped into waist not shapeless) can be accompanied by a good quality plain white body, or good quality white blouse, Add an Italian stylish leather handbag, animal lapel jewelry, bracelet and good well polished leather shoes.Only wear trainers with sports outfits.
6) The little black dress for social events must be worn with silver, pastel, wool or gold accessories (chain belt, chain bag). Black must be"lifted" by another black texture or colour - except at a funeral!
7) If your face benefits from white, wear it - your complexion needs a lift
8) Treat buttons as brooches - use them to give "weight" to an outfit. They should be high quality (either silver,gold or bone). They are not expensive. Do not thrown them away, when you discard the outfit, but recycle them.
9) Wear silver or gold Celtic,Charles Rennie Mackintosh, insect or animal brooches (in the office they get fun comments).
10) In winter,wear beige or pastels for casual wear (if you are blonde) and pastels,navy blue, red, taupe, black and white (if it suits you) if you are dark. On the whole, avoid wearing brown as a main colour. It does do not suit anyone.
11) Wear low heel black patent, good quality pastel or leather comfortable loafer shoes with some kind of "style" appeal. Avoid trainers: except when doing sport.
12) Wear a (silver or gold) bracelet (you only need one)
13) Learnt to arrange casual ethnic or scarves with classic motifs (like horses) around the neck in a casual fashion over a jacket or coat
14) Wear fake fur in winter
15) Wear rings (don't worry about the value of them!) in multiples, on one or two fingers and never wear red nail varnish - use a colourless one or pale colours.
16) Wear a pastel, "A line" fitted skirt with black fitted jacket and structured bag with some kind of chain or decoration on it, for formal occasions. Shoes with a chain on them or gold band are ultra smart.
17) Wear true pastels (which are flattering to all skin types) in the summer or like chic Audrey Hepburn, black and white, plus white or bright plastic bangles and black sunglasses.
18) Wear full white, cotton, crumpled skirts in summer, with tailored, structured blouses and sunglasses - for a casual summer look
19) Wear well-fitted white trousers or white or blue jeans with good quality Italian leather belt, white body or fitted blouse (not a T shirt), loafers. An Oxford shirt in summer is useful and casual.
20) Look out for maritime/nautical wear in the summer, with pastel plimsoles or loafers. Try to make it look casual.
21) Use black or white summer hats (with Oxford hat bands) to hide the face from the sun.
22) Find a handbag style that suits you and stick to it
23) Wear long-line "drapy" tops for elegance, if you are overweight. Make or buy a stylish long black wool shawl.
24) Buy one good quality suit each year (blue, grey or black) with matching trousers, and mix and match with last year's best buys.
25) Buy small men's T-shirts or small men's collarless shirts if you are size 12 and under. Wear them with jeans!
26) Never buy expensive tights, gloves or sunglasses: you will either ladder or lose them in ME/CFS!
27) Perfect hair is the "crowning glory" of any ME/CFS "make-over". Good condition and a regular cut are basic. A good technique for straight to curly hair, which provides a full, glossy, unruly head of hair in just 3 minutes is this: half blow dry your hair and then to use a Vidal Sassoon VS436 hot air styler which is nearly weightless and easy to lift (after applying a little low allegenic hair gel). Never have a "perm" in ME/CFS (strong chemicals and odours should be avoided at all costs).
28) Never get your hair dyed or bleached for the same reason. Be content with your colour or, if you are going a little grey, use a Health Shop hair rinse (which washes out after six washes). Permanent hair dyes end up in the bloodstream - as toxins. Never use hot hair tongs and irons: they are too hot and tricky to use.
29). Do without perfume in ME/CFS or use a perfume made entirely from fresh flowers, not chemicals. Take care that you test pefumes very carefully in ME/CFS (never close to your nose in ME/CFS). There is nothing more threatening to the immune system than taking chemicals striaight in through the nostrils. The chemicals go straight into the brain and can cause anaphylasix (fatal allergic shock).

If money is no problem in ME/CFS, you can buy French fashion off the peg, at Jaegar (shirts, jackets), Wolford (bodies), M&S (loafers,footglove shoes), Ferragamo and in many regular shops in France and Italy.

Some Gallic quotes from Coco Chanel

  • "Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman."
  • "Fashion changes, style remains."
  • "A woman should be two things: classy and fabulous."
  • "The opposite of luxury is not poverty. The opposite of luxury is vulgarity."
  • “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster—but there is only one Chanel!”
  • "Give a man a stone and he'll throw it. Give a man a shirt and he'll look nice."
  • "Luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it."
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