After wearing a brace for nine years, our guest writer, Kaisa Virolainen, knows a thing or two about the best types of clothes to feel comfortable throughout the year.
I started to wear a day brace when I was eight years old. When I got dressed with the brace underneath, I realized that the brace widened my core a little bit on all sides. The difference between then and now wasn’t enormous: although I was able to see my wider core from miles away, other people (it turned out later) barely noticed the brace.
With the brace, T-shirts and pants that I was used to wearing fit a little tighter. Luckily, most of my pre-bracing clothes were loose fit so I could continue wearing them even with the brace. Because I wished to keep my brace as unnoticeable as possible, I ruled out crop tops, skinny tops and open-back tops as outfit options.
It was not only that I wanted to hide my brace – I also felt more comfortable with loose clothes. Wearing comfortable clothes allowed me to forget about my brace and how I looked, and focus on my life like before.
After some time with my first day brace, my mom and I noticed small holes in my clothes. They were on the level of the clips and the lower and upper edges of the backside of the brace. We figured they had resulted from the brace rubbing my clothes to my wooden school chair.
We told people at the hospital and my teacher at school about the issue and soon found solutions. My orthotist crafted padding to the edges and flaps over the clips to soften the contact of the brace and the chair. At school, I got to switch to a green desk chair that was cushioned, and thus didn’t cause the same problem as a hard wooden chair had.
I always wore a tube-shaped cotton cloth under the brace. In Finnish, we used to call it “the sock,” maybe because I put it on by slipping into it. It was more comfortable on the skin and helped to keep the brace clean for longer because I would change the sock daily.
Because it added a few additional layers on my skin, the day brace kept me warm. Sometimes unnecessarily warm, when the weather was sunny and hot. When the sun was out, I preferred light colors over dark ones, because they absorbed less heat.
During the four years I wore the day brace, I never had to wear the brace for summer holidays* (which lasted some two and a half months). We made this deal with my doctor, whose idea the arrangement initially was.
Our unwritten rules were the following: if my back was in decent shape at the hospital check-in at the end of May, I could spend the summer wearing only the Providence® brace during the night. When school started in August, I would start the “normal” bracing schedule again. My scoliosis got systematically worse every summer I didn’t wear the day brace, but brace-free summers gave me so much energy I didn’t mind committing to a disciplined schedule in the fall again.
The deal worked as a carrot and a prize at the same time. I think I never was as disciplined with bracing as I was the two weeks before those May appointments. I wanted to do my best to have a good result that would free me for the summer. It also saved me from dealing with uncomfortable hot days and dilemmas of whether to go do a beach day with friends or not. And I was able to wear crop tops, skinny tops and open-back tops as much as I wanted.
*This is not normal treatment routine because of the setbacks, however in Kaisa's case her doctor suggested that a break was warranted given specific parameters and her individual situation. We do not advise this without consulting your physician.
Read more about Kaisa's experience in her book "Growing Up in a Brace."