Establishing and keeping up with a personal style can be hard enough: figuring out what looks good on you, what you like, what you can afford, and making a few mistakes along the way. But what if you had to deal with managing a chronic illness while still trying to maintain the fashion and beauty routine that you really wanted?

Curious about this and eager to show off some of my friends and their personal styles, I sat down to chat with my friend Lillian Cohen-Moore, who alongside being a fantastic writer and helpful newsie has a unique, often spooky style all her own.

Manda: Hi, Lily! It’s so great to chat with you again. Would you mind introducing yourself for those who might be meeting you for the first time?

Lillian Cohen-Moore: Not at all! My name’s Lillian Cohen-Moore, and I’m a freelance writer based on the west coast in beautiful Seattle, Washington.
MC: How would you describe your personal style?
LCM: Honestly, it’s probably a Buffy + Giles mashup, with a garnish of vintage style accessories and formal wear. My day to day style is jeans and a vegan leather jacket with a great top and boots, my work situation outfits are awesome suits, most of which have very vintage lines. My closet could probably stunt as wardrobe for an urban fantasy heroine concerned with layering.
 
MC: Living with a chronic illness, how has this affected your style and beauty routine? Do you find that you have to make adjustments some days, or that it is sometimes more difficult to want to go the whole nine yards?
LCM: It’s definitely shaped my style and beauty routine. On the days where I’m dizzy or in pain, doing half my skin regimen in the shower isn’t an option, I get too tired. So, I do all my skincare stuff at the sink, rest, take a shower, then rest–and that’s every morning. I get tired easily just getting dressed, so I have to be careful about not changing too many times before I leave the house. And there’s days where some outfits simply aren’t wearable, because something about them rests on top of an area that’s sore, or healing from a surgery. Makeup is a fun thing for me, and it makes me feel more human when I have the energy to play with hairstyles and do my nails. But going the whole nine yards has been pretty difficult lately. I’ve started using Tony Moly’s Skin Wink on days I’m too tired for the whole concealer/foundation/powder routine. Between that and a fast dab of lipstick and blush, I can do that as a speedy substitute for the makeup effort I’d put in on a day where I feel great.
 
MC: One of your projects that I have loved following is your series of “Proof of Life” selfies. It’s pretty common these days for people to post a daily self portrait on social media, but yours often depict the use of nebulizers or explain how you were feeling that day. What made you want to start this project? What do you hope people will take away from your photos? 
LCM: Proof of Life was actually originally for my mother! She follows me on all my social media, and she likes to joke that she knows I’m alive (we live in different cities) as long as she sees at least one social media update from me in a day. At first it was just me trying to show my mother I was still alive and kicking, but slowly Proof of Life became really meaningful for friends, and at that point I kept doing it to have…mm, I guess a visual journal I was getting to share with people. It’s hard being that vulnerable, but I keep doing it because I’m still here, I’m still alive, even on the days where I’m hooked up to a nebulizer at home, or monitoring equipment at the hospital. I’m more than my illnesses, and I hope other people who have chronic illness issues can take comfort in my pictures. They’re my tiny proof that I still have a life even when I’m sick; I’m not broken, I’m just different.
16 April, 2014
MC: What would be your advice to others struggling with a chronic illness who still want to embrace a personal style of their own and explore things like fashion and makeup?
LCM: Feel free to experiment, it’s okay to do things slowly, and take whatever joy from your personal style that you can. I deal with hand tremors along with a number of other issues, so it’s taken me years to feel confident about putting my makeup on, or doing my nails. There are days I give up the sixth try at doing something with makeup, but there’s also mornings where I nail the look I want in one go. Accepting that each morning could go either way helped me a lot with crying less about how I couldn’t do things as fast or as neat as someone else might be able to. I do a lot of tests when I start putting base coat down, or dabbing foundation, to see where my hands are that day. That gives me a clue about whether makeup will be a fight today or not to put on. For style, you have to find the way to make it yours. I have a hard time fitting some clothes over knee, ankle or wrist braces, so my wardrobe has a little bit of everything in terms of cut or fabric. There’s always a piece of clothing I can reach for that will still make me feel good to wear, no matter what part of my health that day is making my life harder. Makeup and style are things that are full of choices, and customization. Take what works, modify with ingenuity what doesn’t, and throw the rest behind you.
 
MC: Do you have a favorite outfit? What makes it special to you?
LCM: I think right now my favorite outfit is a pair of boot leg jeans, some sandals that are easy to put on if my feet are swollen, a comfy striped tank top from Gap, blue cardigan, and a necklace with a cameo pendant of a lighthouse. Casual, pretty, comfortable. It reminds me a lot of the outfits I loved wearing in high school when I lived by the sea, but the difficulty rating has been turned down. Back then, I’d  wear bolero sweaters that I can’t get my arms into now without pain, and I wore lots of tall cork shoes that I can’t walk in now because of my joint issues.
 
MC: Since one of the biggest hurdles to building a wardrobe or makeup bag can be accessibility and getting out of the house, do you have any websites you prefer for shopping online? 
LCM: Probably 70% of my makeup shopping is done online, with a stubborn 30% of store shopping even though I know I’ll be exhausted at the end. When it comes to Lush, which is where some of my skin care and soaps come from, I basically use their website for my window shopping. Then I make a list of what I want to buy, and go to a local store. With Sephora and Ulta I’ll do that with too, but I’ll also order from them online during periods when I’m on bedrest. I do have some other sites that I am a regular customer with that I really like. LBCC Historical on etsy is where I get some of my skin care and makeup from. Glamour Doll Eyes has been an amazing site to get eyeshadow from, and they do fantastic sizes for samples, so you don’t have to over commit to a piece of makeup you don’t like. I order indie nail polish from Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Harlow and Co, Cirque Nails and Color4Nails, though I’ve snagged polish on a few other sites. I still primarily shop for clothes in person, but I’ve been really happy shopping online through ModCloth and Pinupgirl Clothing.
 
MC: Time for the best part: what are some of your favorites right now with regard to styles, makeup, nail polish, and so on?
LCM: I’m a sucker for dark reds and vampy purples, so this fall’s lipstick trends really work in my favor. It’s fantastic. I think the flushed cheeks trend is the one doing me the most favors; even on a great day, I look beyond tired. My choices for blush to nix that right now are making my head spin.  The return of flare jeans, statement earrings, and boots does the part of my heart devoted to the 70s a lot of good. That’s probably from me pouring over my mother’s photos from high school when I was a kid. She was the most glamorous person I could imagine when I was little. Beat Barbie hands down.
 
MC: Last but certainly not least as we wrap up, if you were able to have your own makeup line, such as a series of lipstick or nail polish, what would it look like? What would you call it?
LCM: I would call it Lady Grimm, and it would be a series of nail polishes inspired by the kind of architecture and interior details that I dig. Oxblood shimmer in dark golden brown for the leather doors of a historic library, blue shimmer for the trim of a Beacon Hill mansion, plenty of berry colours for forest berries, jewel tone reds like you see in stained glass.

Thank you so much to Lily for chatting with me today, and I hope you all enjoyed reading along! You can find Lillian Cohen-Moore on Twitter as @lilyoritor follow her news account at @newsiemoore. You can also follow along with her writing and beauty posts over on her blog at lilliancohenmoore.com.