Prosthetic pride: finding your individual style

Areas of interest | Sep 07th

Prosthetic pride: finding your individual style

One of my favourite things to do is people-watch, especially for all of the extra things we do to express our own style, personality or even moods. A popular one in Canberra, where I live, is the downtrodden public servant in a corporate suit who wears funky socks.

It always makes me think how we amputees have the added opportunity to wear a prosthesis that makes us feel good. Whether it’s the shape, the style, the cover – just like colourful socks, our limbs can help us express our own personalities. I like to call this prosthetic pride.

When I first became an amputee, I really wanted a full shape leg so I could ‘blend in’ and also wear tights, so I bought a silicon skin cosmesis with paintable toenails, and I felt marvellous!

A few years down the track, I was inspired by a fellow amputee to be more bold with my choices. I bought some red with white polka dot fabric for my socket. It became my first ever colourful leg, and it was life changing. I felt like I had the most exciting fashion accessory that I could show off, if and when I wanted to.

In the 12 years since my polka dot socket, I’ve had all sorts of legs – full shape, pylon only, and, in more recent years, the best of both worlds with removable covers!

When I first got into removable covers, I wanted something more unique than what was available- something that fit my own style. And, as a below the knee amputee, I wanted something that covered my full socket, which also wasn’t available at the time.

I spoke with my prosthetist, Stuart, at Leading Edge in Brisbane, about printing a chosen artwork on fabric and making a removable cover that would give me the full leg shape. Stuart was able to make my cover dreams come true, and other clients have since commissioned similar works from him.

My tip for using fabric on your socket (or on a full shape or removable cover), is to get the lightest, softest fabric you can. I print artwork onto lycra and it comes out beautifully, but if you are buying fabric, go for lycra, soft cotton, or satin. Steer clear of anything that isn’t floppy. Similarly, you can even use a soft t-shirt you love. Over the years, I’ve also used a few large scarves made from satin or silk. Have a chat with your prosthetist about how much fabric you will need to make your own cosmesis dreams come true. I suggest always buying double the amount necessary- just in case there are any issues and your socket needs to be made a second time.

There are some amazing companies from around the world that you can also buy removable 3D printed covers.

As for the cost, once again, chat with your prosthetist. The NDIS and other funding bodies will often assist with the cost of cosmetic covers.

Prosthetic pride isn’t just about colour and being bold. It’s about finding your own style and what works for you. We have choice and control about what we buy and how we look. There are so many options available, including many types of silicon skin cosmesis with tattoos and paintable nails. If you go down that path, my tip is to always check your colour match outside in the sunshine- because no one needs to look part-vampire. You can also get foam covers and stockings, which are a lighter option, with various skin tones available to choose from - or you can always buy colourful knee-high tights to go over them.

When you get your next prosthesis, ask your clinic about options and remember to share the images on the Limb 4 Life Facebook page.