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Fashion Forward

As a fashion lover with psoriasis, Alisha Bridges knows that looking great and feeling comfortable in the latest styles is completely possible.

Living with psoriasis and wearing the latest fashions can present unique challenges. Dry, cracked skin can bleed, and many topical treatments can leave stains on clothing.

“You could get a closet full of red [clothes], but that would not be practical!” joked Alisha Bridges on a recording of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) Healthier Together Community Conference last fall, where she presented on style and fashion along with fellow NPF volunteer Sabrina Skiles.

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Bridges is a writer, public speaker, media consultant, health advocate, comedian, and fashionista. She was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 7, which was also when the dread, fear, and embarrassment of being seen in public kicked in. For a long time, fashion was a way for Bridges to hide and to distract society from the psoriasis lesions that covered almost 90% of her body. Getting dressed for the day was a mixture of tricks and torture that seemed necessary for her to survive out in the world.

“I was the kid that wore long sleeves in the summer,” Bridges says. “My self-expression through fashion was hampered when I was younger.

“So many of my fashion choices growing up were contingent on my skin and how much I wanted to reveal to the world,” she recalls. She describes a time when she had to wear a skirt and skin-toned tights, but her lesions still showed through the sheer tights. She ended up wearing four pairs of tights over each other, cutting the toes off so she could walk in her shoes.

Rude comments and disgusted stares can be a common occurrence for people living with psoriasis. Bridges believes this reflects the struggle some people have trying to relate to someone different, reducing their empathy and compassion.

“I don’t take it personally,” Bridges says. “Those people will be faced with adversity someday. Life is the biggest teacher.”

It wasn’t until she was 23 that Bridges became more comfortable in her skin and her fashion choices, declaring on social media that she was saying goodbye to the self-hate she associated with her skin, lesions and all. The post quickly racked up 150,000 views, and comments flooded in. This was the beginning of Bridge’s psoriasis advocacy.

Tips and Tricks

With all her experience balancing her love of fashion and living with psoriatic disease, Bridges has gotten it down to an art. Right off the bat, she recommends stain remover pens for blood stains and lint rollers for flakes.

Layering is a key part of Bridges’s fashion strategy, making the colder months better for psoriasis-friendly fashion choices. “Fall and winter are my favorite fashion seasons because they allow for more coverage, and you can layer. I feel like you can express yourself more than in the summer,” she says. “It’s definitely easier to hide your spots.”

Some clothing materials can be more troublesome with flakes, she says, and the type of fabric is important when trying to stay comfortable. Bridges suggests cotton because it is lightweight, breathes, and doesn’t stain as easily. Polyester, rayon, and chiffon are also on her list of go-to fabrics. A long-sleeve chiffon shirt in the hot summer wouldn’t be stifling, for example, because it is so light.

Laundry and Psoriasis

As Bridges shares, fabric choice is essential. Remember, laundering your clothes with products that have earned the NPF Seal of Recognition can help you avoid irritation and itch too.

Sort by Laundry to see your options

Maxi skirts are another good option because of their trendiness and how they maximize coverage. Bridges also likes lace for camouflaging psoriasis, distracting from the plaques with the shadows the material makes on them.

Shirts that have “busy” prints make it harder to see flakes when they fall and catch on the fabric, she says.

Layering also can be your best option if you have a reaction to certain materials, such as wool. Bridges suggests wearing cotton underneath so there is a barrier between the wool and your skin.

The fit of your clothes is an important consideration too. This was something Bridges realized when her crew socks fit tightly against her ankles and made her skin itch uncontrollably, bleed, crack, or all three.

Today, Bridges has been an advocate with NPF for well over a decade, even winning the Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2015, and she no longer feels the need to wear four pairs of tights to cover up.

“I love fashion,” Bridges says. “I feel good expressing myself through fashion. It’s a form of therapy – it helps your mental health, heals emotions.

“I hope that my advocacy will help the next ‘Alisha’ with this disease,” she says, so that others can be “striving and thriving, not struggling.”

Cover photo by Candace Ledbetter 

Additional photo by Barrington Howell 

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