Dressed to Inject – by Helen May

Every so often, I read about what shoes someone with diabetes should wear: comfortable, broad fitting, having a deep and rounded toe area and are flat or low-heeled. Whilst I don’t wear towering stilettos, I consider looks as well as comfort when buying foot wear. So my shoes are not always broad and I do have some open-toe sandals.

But my biggest sartorial problem is clothes.

With Type 1 diabetes, I need to inject insulin in a fatty area whenever I eat. Usually, I inject around my waist area and I usually surreptiously inject wherever I happen to be rather than disappear off to a private room. So I need to be able to easily access bare flesh in this area without exposing too much flesh. This is not too difficult when I’m wearing a jumper over a pair of trousers: lift the jumper a little, inject and return the jumper to its original position. All over in a few seconds whilst sitting at my desk.

Ok, so I’m not the most feminine woman in the world (I do not wear pink frills) but it would be nice to wear a dress every now and then. Unfortunately, if I find a dress in a colour that does not clash with my ginger hair, that fits me, and that I like, how am I going to surruptiously lift the dress up to my waist at the end of a meal to inject insulin? It’s not going to happen. But I’m not happy with the alternatives: thanks to exercising, my thighs don’t have enough fat so I bruise too easily if I inject there and I’ve never worked out how I’m supposed to inject in my upper arms (pinch arm with other hand and inject with your third hand??). The other option is to hide: disappear into the bathroom after every meal: which I refuse to do because, like the other blogging Helen, I am not hiding my diabetes.

When I was younger, my Mum used to make a lot of my clothes and, as I’ve grown up, I’ve modeled a number of my own creations. So perhaps I need to go back to the drawing board and design myself a dress: a dress for a woman with diabetes. This needs to be a dress with a small waist level opening. I could make a feature out of the opening with some delicate edging or make it look like a pocket with a pretty button or go for the more subtle approach and fashion a “secret needle hatch”.

Maybe I’m just getting carried away and should be satisfied looking pretty in a nice skirt and blouse. Or, if I must insist on a dress, I have to find the quiet corner to inject and leave the fashion design to Orla Keily, Betty Jackson, Vivienne Westwood and their friends.

On second thoughts, any suggestions how we could get some fashion designers interested in creating a dress for me and my injections?

Ok, so the last sentence was only written in jest but, I’d love it if this was a project for some young fashion designers.

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Helen – just looking back at your blog and wondered if you’d had a reply from your local university? I emailed my local one a few weeks ago but no reply yet…

What a fantastic blog! I too am a long termer diabetic like NattyG and have always {in my adult years} injected through my clothes if necessary, with no side effects. Maybe the occassional odd look though!!
@Helen Im using 5mm needles so I think the HCPs are telling you fibs!!

@Sarah and NattyG, I am very jealous. Unfortunately, I bruise very easily and have to avoid anything which may blunt my needles such as injecting through clothes or reusing a needle. I have asked healthcare professsionals many times for advice on avoiding bruising but they are not able to suggest anything except to make sure I pinch to inject into fat (which I do otherwise it hurts ) or smaller needles. Unfortunately, they always come back to tell me I already use the smallest needles available (6mm).
I welcome any suggestions anyone may have to avoid bruises in time for summer, swimming and wearing swimsuits (when I am more likely to expose the bruised injection areas).

Just wondering if there’s a problem with injecting through clothes – is it a germ thing? During these horrible cold days, the last thing I want to do is bare my skin (even a tiny bit) to the elements so I don’t think twice about injecting through thin clothes. And when I do my final injection of the day, it’s always in my thigh through my jammy trousers.

As for injections into your arm, why not try straight into the flesh without pinching it – works for me.

I have been a type 1 diabetic for 59 years and have always injected through my `clean’ clothes and fortunately have had no infections and very little bruising. When I started I used surgical spirit religiously but as the years have gone by, the Nurses tell us that if our skin is clean we don’t need to take such precautions, so if your skin and clothes are `clean’, what’s the problem. I know medics will frown on this, but it’s done me no harm in 59 years.

Wow! Great to get so much feedback. I never realised my weird ramblings would attract som much comment. Thank you everyone for making me realise I am not wittering to myself.
@Alex – you have inspired me to drop an email to the Head of the Fashioin Textiles Department at my local University. Let’s see if she responds.

@Scott – have you looked at walking tousers. They are not always suitable but I have seen some with side vents which could open the opportunity for injection. Alternatively there are the trousers which can be zipped off to shorts. There is no need to zip all the way to expose a little flesh.

@Sarah – I agree dresses with buttons up the front certain helps. I would like more flexibility in design (yes, I always want more). I do not have a pump (these blogs are opening my eyes to them more amd more). Bluetooth ones sound like a great idea.

Once again, thanks for all the feedback.


This is such a good blog! I often have this dilemma and oddly it’s often one of the aspects of diabetes that annoys me the most! Like Helen I find I bruise easily if I inject in my thigh. Nobody ever mentions the fashion issues that come with diabetes!!

Loved this Helen. My problem is that having recently split my Levemir I now need to inject in my leg at around 7.30pm. Fine when at home but when I’m out in a pub it’s a problem. Can’t inject through jeans, can’t slip them down at the table! So I end up in the toilet juggling everything so it stays sterile. Summer might be better, I can wear a skirt and maybe inject through tights if wearing them.

How about dresses that button up at the front? Or change to an insulin pump with bluetooth which is what I use? That way you can bolus via bluetooth without the need to fiddle about with the pump as you just use the blood glucose meter.

From a male point of view – I have been looking at this issue for a while. I tend to inject in my leg and whilst it’s frowned up to drop trousers in a restaurant or wherever really – I wanted to investigate the use of zips or false pockets on the side of trousers to make access subtle, easy and fashionable.

Does anyone else think that we should have some clothing for both men and women which is aimed at those requiring injections. This might not just be Diabetics as my father, a cancer suffer needs injections too so it could benefit many more! I’d like to hear any comments, thoughts or suggestions too.

I think your right!! I hate the thought of having to go off to the toilet to inject and also find my waist the easiest!! it would be great if dresses had little well disguised openings! it would make summer and functions that i would like to wear dresses to a breeze!!

Dragons Den for you as i think there is a niche market for it!! :-)

Helen, this is great, and it’s so refreshing to know I’m not alone in the little things that bother me… I recently set up a support group with my friend for type 1s in Nottingham for the very reason that it’s good to share our experiences…your specially designed clothes ideas has really captured my imagination – I’m going to ask the fashion students at the university if they’re interested in designing something and see if we can generate publicity for the group in the process! I have a pump now and on the rare occasion I wear a dress I stick it in one of those ipod things you put on your arm when you go running, but I put it round my leg – and it nearly cuts off the circulation to my knee, it’s so tight :oD and I still have to ferret round under my skirt to do the bolus, which is not very elegant..

Lovely blog made me really think and chuckle, dresses will always be a problem but I see a dress with a ruffle going diagnolly across which would allow a popper feature where needed which could be just opened discreetly and closed again seeing it in my eyes mind now and in alovely purple colour (my fave) lol shall we start creating

That would be such a brilliant project. Like you, I have difficulties when it comes to dresses…but that’s because I now use a pump and find that it’s difficult to conceal it under a dress, and it’s also a bit of a nightmare when it comes to bolusing because if I’m in public, I don’t think people would react too well to me hitching up my dress and rumaging around to take my pump out. The world just isn’t ready for a sight like that :P

Brilliant, light-hearted and fun blog Helen! Having a son with diabetes, this dress code issue hasnt really effected us as jeans and t’s are his staple wardrobe but as a woman who likes to dress up, I sympathise with you enormously and I think it would make a great project for a budding student fashion designer!

Keep up the brilliant blogs!

Fellow blogger – Jenny x

Good idea clothing to make injecting eaiser you could also include clothing for those with pumps lol