Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Create a Catalog of Your Wardrobe

Growing up with a very fashion conscious mother, I became quite interested in clothing and having a varied wardrobe. While I am partially sighted with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), I am colorblind which can make picking out and matching clothes a frustration. Heaven forbid I should make a fashion "faux pas" as my mother would say.

I tried to remember which colors match which, which shirts go with which skirts and which jewelry looked the best with each of my outfits. Needless to say, I found myself more and more frustrated when standing in front of my closet each morning.

Sure there are tags, labels and other methods the blind can use to mark the color of each item, but because these don't tell me what colors go well with it, my mother and I devised a system that works really well for me--a wardrobe catalog.

I use a small card file box in which I keep 3 x 5-inch index cards. Each card represents one item in my closet. (No, I don't catalog everything, but I cover most of the items that are not basic neutral colors or that have multiple colors in them.) On the top of each card I write a short description of the item including the primary colors in it. For example, I have a card that reads "navy blazer with gold, red, forest green stripes" and one that reads "pink Easter dress."

Fabric textures and styles are also a good way to tell clothes apart. Additionally, I use my remaining vision to differentiate some items by shade or pattern. In some cases, I have multiple types of clothing in different colors, such as turtlenecks and tights. Black and navy are two very commonly confused colors in my sock drawer. To distinguish my navy tights from my black tights, I use a brightly colored thread to sew a little knot on the back of the waistband. I can then feel or see this knot and know I am holding navy tights. Using safety pins or other marking pins would be another way to differentiate colors.

Under the description on the top of the card, I write the word "good" followed by the colors that go well with a given item. On the card for my navy floral skirt, I have written: "good: cream, navy, salmon, avocado." Next, I write a list of colors to "avoid." This can be a really important listing. Sometimes an item goes really well with almost all colors except one or two--and it is often easier to note these particular colors. The third listing on the card includes suggested accessory items such as best shoes, earrings, scarves, etc.

Finally, I write prefered outfit suggestions. Often I buy items to go with a particular something in my closet, so this is a good place for writing a couple of these suggestions. This is particularly helpful on mornings when you don't really want to have to think about putting together an outfit. The trick is having everything in the desired outfit clean and ironed!

Every time I buy something new, I ask a friend or my mother to help me fill out a new card for the item. Be forewarned that different people have different perceptions about what colors look good together. My question to my assistants is "Would I wear these two things together?" This seems to help them to think about my fashion style and not just their own taste.

My card file is arranged like a recipe box with the cards divided into item types: skirts, dresses, pants, blouses, sweaters, accessories and so on. I can now often remember commonly paired items, but sometimes I like to vary them. With the wardrobe catalog, I find the skirt or pants I want to wear, pull out the corresponding card, and pick a top from the "good" list.

Having an organized card file is not the only step in reducing the stress of dressing. Keeping my closet in some predictable order is also helpful. I prefer to simply group my clothes according to item type. Going from right to left in my closet, my clothes are grouped as follows: casual short-sleeved shirts, dressy short-sleeved shirts, casual long-sleeved shirts, dressy long-sleeved shirts, vests, blazers, jeans and casual pants, dress pants, short skirts, long skirts and, finally, dresses and pantsuits. I find that using the multiple level hangers (the ones on which you can hang three or more items or the plastic hangers you can link together) really help to create space in my closet.

Another tip is to put out-of-season clothes in a spare closet or in storage. I hate a closet that is so jammed that I can barely get the hangers off the rack. Multiple level hangers allow me to hang three dressy blouses in a vertical row. Reducing the clutter of hangers in your closet will allow you to find a particular item more quickly. You may also choose to label hangers if you have similar items that are hard to differentiate by touch or sight.

I'm happy that I found a system to assist me when putting together my outfits. It's hard enough getting out of bed in the morning without having to dread facing the closet. I hope you find a system that works for you. It is a great feeling to be able to be independent and fashionable!

This article by Robin Smithtro first appeared in Dialogue 36 (Summer 1997) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Dialogue magazine is published in braille, large print, 4-track cassette and IBM-compatible 3.5-inch diskette.

Sherlock Talking Label Identifier


The Sherlock Talking Label Identifier is a hand-held digital voice recorder with each recorded message keyed to an adhesive label or plastic disk tag. Labels or tags can be attached to clothing, medications, packaged products, frozen foods, documents, books, CDs, anything you wish to identify. Includes 25 labels, 10 tags and carrying case.

Sherlock Talking Label Identifier: Catalog Number: 1-07410-00

Extra Adhesive Labels (pack of 25):
Catalog Number: 1-07411-00

Extra Plastic Tags (pack of 10):
Catalog Number: 1-07412-00
Click this link to purchase the Sherlock Talking Label Identifier, now ON SALE!

MagneTachers: Magnetic Labels from APH

MagneTachers are magnetic labels that attach to metal objects, are easily removable, and re-attachable! You can create labels in large print, braille, and for the Sherlock Talking Label Identifier (sold separately).

Uses include:

  • Create, use, store, and reuse labels for canned goods
  • Read, write, order and re-order sets of words or numbers on a classroom magnet board
  • Make labels on metal desks and file drawers that everyone can read

MagneTachers for Making Large Print Labels

can of soup with a large print MagneTacher label affixed
  • Includes two MagneTacher rolls, each 120 inches long, and instructions in print and braille
  • Select from two heights -- half inch or inch, depending on the print size you need
  • Write directly on the paper side of the MagneTacher, which provides a smear-resistant surface for a bold line pen or marker
  • Cut label from the roll and place on metal surface

MagneTachers for Making Braille Labels

can of soup with a braille MagneTacher label affixed
  • Includes two MagneTacher rolls, half inch tall and 120 inches long, with instructions in print and braille
  • Emboss MagneTachers with braille labelers and slates with half-inch wide alignment guides
  • Braille on the non-magnetic side of the label; its white vinyl coating helps braille dots stay firm
  • Cut label from the roll and place on metal surface

MagneTachers for Making Small Braillable Labels

File storage box with a braillable MagneTacher label affixed
  • Includes two MagneTachers sheets, each holding 18 MagneTachers and instructions in print and braille
  • These MagneTachers are magnetic strips only. You can make them braille labels by adhering APH's Braillable Labels: Small Braillable Labels to them (labels sold separately Small Label Pack, 1-08872-00 and Assorted Label Pack, 1-08871-00)
  • Small Braillable Labels hold two lines and fifteen braille cells
  • Press a completed label onto the non-magnetic side of the MagneTacher and place on metal surface

MagneTachers for Use with Sherlock Labels

File storage drawer with a Sherlock MagneTacher label affixed
  • Includes two MagneTachers sheets, each holding 12 MagneTachers and instructions in print and braille
  • MagneTachers for use with Sherlock labels include an additional pack of 25 Sherlock labels
  • NOTE: You must have the Sherlock Talking Label Identifier (sold separately), 1-07410-00, to use these MagneTachers
  • Use, remove, and re-use Sherlock labels on metal objects as often as you like
For Making Large Print Labels (0.5 inch high, includes two 120 inch rolls):
Catalog Number: 1-07417-00

For Making Larger Print Labels: (1 inch high, two 120 inch rolls):
Catalog Number: 1-07418-00
Click this link to purchase the MagneTachers Magnetic Labels: For Making Large Print Labels.

For Making Braille Labels (0.5 inch high, two 120 inch rolls):
Catalog Number: 1-07416-00

For Making Small Braillable Labels (includes two sheets, 18 labels per sheet):
Catalog Number: 1-07415-00
Click this link to purchase the MagneTachers Magnetic Labels: For Making Braille Labels.

For Making Sherlock Labels (two sheets, 12 labels per sheet):
Catalog Number: 1-07413-00

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
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