Thinking about women, ‘special’ needs and life change

Be Inspired by Hannah Ensor

Ow, my brain hurts.  This has been a week of harsh realities for me and I am in the process of thinking again about how best to transition my ideas for Plus Black from concept to reality.  I really need to focus on where I’m at which I guess I’d summarise as:

Middle Aged.  Menopausal.  Overweight.  Disabled.  impaired.  Medicated.  Retiring.  Stressed.  Downsized.  Unemployed.  Dependant.  Older.  Invisible.  

Negative words, normal life changes, experienced by all of us at some point in our lives.

Negativity towards these normal – often uncontrollable – lifestyle changes makes us feel ashamed, invisible, ignored and overlooked.

At critical times, when how we look is the least of our priorities, we might not care about wider negativity to our circumstances but, in the longer term, as we resume our lives, accommodating our own challenges, engaging with the world, just like everyone else, then, we care.

A key element of caring is how we look, how we represent ourselves to others.  If we had a style aesthetic, we still want to express that but often find ‘special needs’, arising as a consequence of lifestyle change, demand style adaptation – it’s like being a teenager all over again but more uncomfortably so – yet, looking around, where is this ever referenced other than negatively as we age?

And yet, should normal life change render the terms quality, style and life as oxymoronic?  For most, it wouldn’t, if we were able to source information and products that accommodate both style aspirations and ‘special needs’.

Special needs, did she say that twice?  Oh dear, I feel that frisson of ugh! running through you.  It’s the word association thing again, isn’t it?  No one wants to be ‘special’ in this sense.  We want to be like everyone else, our friends and family; we want to shop with them and look like them, no?

But in this context, ‘special’ needs might simply be a – temporary or permanent – change such as a need for bigger sizes, natural fibres, more comfort, forgiving styles, aids we’ve never sought before, solutions to physical problems not hitherto encountered in response to accident, illness, medication, variation in work/home responsibilities and so many other completely normal life events.

All around us, women, struggling with weight, ageing, minor or major physical impairment or illness, who can’t exercise, do Botox or plastic surgery really don’t have a lot of fun looking or shopping for the things they need either online or in the high street.  As I’ve said before (it bears repeating): it adds insult to injury that those of us forced to deal with unwelcome change ‘au natural’ – those needing the most help – are the least welcome everywhere, it seems.

But there are solutions out there.  Over fifteen years of chronic illness, medicated weight gain and wheelchair use, I’ve found some and am working on others.  Maybe you have something to add on this too?

I believe there are many others like me out there and that’s why I set up Plus Black, hoping it will become a resource for women who are experiencing normal, or abnormal, lifestyle change and want to do so in comfort and style.

Plus Black will be seeking out and sharing information – from me, you, women like us everywhere who want to contribute – that helps us all to access creative, functional and stylish solutions to some of the unexpected, and generally ignored, physical needs that normal, abnormal, life transition brings, always asking: does it come in, or look good with, black?

Time for some positive word association:

Inclusive.  Diverse.  Inspirational.  Creative.  Stylish.  Aspirational.  Elegant.  Witty.  Wise. Curvy.  Sharing.  Feel-good.  Resourceful.  Adaptable.  Flexible.  Caring.  Confident.  Calm.  Individual.

Plus Black: for inspirational women of individual style.

Okay, focussing done.  Time for some more thinking …

Want to help me do more?  Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below or email me direct: to express your interest in this or the following:

  1. Participating in a panel to test some ideas for product development in 2013. Specifically, I am interested in women over 40, plus sizes, with mobility and dexterity problems.
  2. Contributing as a designer/maker if you have ideas for product relevant to this demographic or might be interested in assisting with designing/making of such product.


  1. WDC

    Hi Elle 🙂

    Whenever I have an idea that I may want to do something with, I start working on it in my spare time. Then it either builds up over time to something, or it’s flutters out (as in other people are already doing a competent job/ it’s not my thing).

    If you want to get into to the fashion of the demographic you want to get into, just start. Select some clothes. I think it may be impossible to factor in all the variables in advance.

    Try to find business partners that can help you realize your goal.

    I think it is really cool that you’re working on this by the way. I know exactly what your talking about. 🙂 It can be somewhat overwhelming once you start thinking about accomodating for all the different handicaps and nuances (For example when I first learned about all the different forms of color blindness, still trying to figure that out).

    I like how you turned the negative into positive word association, and how you are describing the process. There isn’t always a lot of info on this out there. Thanx for sharing. 🙂

    1. Elle@plusblack

      Hi there,

      Many thanks for the advice. It’s encouraging to feel that I am moving in a more focussed way and your suggestions are very much in line with activities behind the scenes for me.

      Luckily, I am working in concert with some great people and we had been wanting to source some original product but, this week, it became clear that will be a longer and more uncertain process than it appeared at first sight hence my re-evaluation of direction.

      Hopefully, this will result in a more dynamic element to my blog/website shortly and allow us to keep up with new product ideas alongside, giving them the development time they need.

      I really appreciate your kind words, interest and feedback as I am, as you may have noticed, pretty passionate about it all and keen to improve my project by taking on insights from other perspectives so please don’t hesitate to add more as and when …

      All the best, Elle 😀

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