Disability and Fashion: A complete look

February 15, 2017 by dccinc

During New York’s Fashion Week in 2015, FTL MODA had models with disabilities go down their runway. FTL MODA had partnered with Fondazione Vertical, an Italian non-profit organization that financially supports spinal cord research, and their runway consisted of models in wheelchairs, amputees, and persons who used crutches and canes for mobility. This is not the first time New York’s Fashion Week had a model with a disability go down their runway. In 2014, Danielle Sheypuk, a psychologist by day, rolled down Carrie Hammer’s runway. Since 2014, Carrie Hammer has had America Horror Story’s actress, Jamie Brewer walk down the runway for her “Role Models Not Runway Models” campaign. Brewer was the first person living with Down syndrome to walk down New York’s Fashion Week.

New York’s Fashion Week is becoming an outlet where inclusivity is becoming the subject of conversation. But is this inclusion for the diversity of people’s bodies being seen in clothing companies that affect people’s daily lives? The short answer is yes. Adaptable clothing is available to be purchased on a variety of websites for people living with disabilities. Adaptable clothing are items created for people who may find it difficult to dress themselves independently due to physical impairments which could affect their mobility and dexterity. However, along with adaptable clothing, the “Medical & healthwear industry” is surging. The healthwear industry combines the practicality of meeting a person’s health needs with fashion. The healthwear industry is discussed largely by Care and Wear. Care and Wear is a company that sells comfortable and fashionable peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line covers and clothing that are accessible for PICC lines People living with a variety of conditions use PICC lines, for example, people living with Cancer, Lyme disease, and Diabetes.

Below are a few companies that contribute to the healthcare industry:

  • Magna Ready makes dress shirts with magnetic-infused buttons for men and women. Magnetic-infused buttons help persons living with impairments that affect their mobility and/or dexterity to get dressed independently. For example, persons living with Parkinson’s disease.
  • IZ Collection designs fashionable wheelchair clothing for women, men, and ungendered persons.  The clothing is designed specifically for wheelchair users so they do not interfere with the mechanics of a wheelchair and are able to be put on independently by the wearer, such as by offering open-back shirts.
  • Independence Day Clothing offers fabrics that are sensory-soft for individuals who have sensory sensitivity, such as people living on the Autism spectrum. Additionally, Independence Day Clothing has items that do not have zippers, buttons, or non-essential devices that could be an obstacle for persons with mobility or dexterity impairments.

Instead of creating a clothing line for adaptive clothing, like the companies mentioned above, Runway of Dreams alters mainstream clothing to make it adaptive. For example, the Runway of Dreams has partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to make an adaptive clothing collection for children. The Runway of Dreams ensures their collections are accessible to people living with a variety of abilities by conducting focus groups to determine the needs and desires of the disabled community. Runway of Dreams came to being after the founder, Mindy Scheier was unable to find mainstream clothing for her son who is living with muscular dystrophy. The hope for the Runway of Dreams is to expand adaptive clothing collections with lines that are made for adults, including plus-size outlets.

Another dimension of disability fashion is styling. Cur8ble is a disability fashion website. On Cur8ble they showcase their Disability Fashion Styling System. Their Disability Fashion Styling System consists of three elements: Accessible, Smart, and Fashionable. Stephanie Thomas, founder and editor-in-chief of Cur8ble, details what the Disability Fashion Styling System consists of: “Accessible is easy to put on and take off, Smart is medically safe, and Fashionable is desirable to the wearer, and fits the wearer’s body type and lifestyle.” Thomas is a stylist and uses the system to dress actors living with disabilities and she uses it when she teaches fashion management at a local university. Cur8ble also displays “aspirational figures” on its website. As described by Thomas, these aspirational figures are people with disabilities who have a variety of professions and passions in order to demonstrate how people living with disabilities can “live amazing full lives.” Cur8ble also partners with publications to create lookbooks that consist of models with disabilities and also examines how mainstream clothing lines can become more adaptable.

Fashion and disability meet on the catwalk and in people’s daily lives. Clothing can be practical, efficient, and fashionable for all prospective customers. Choosing to make clothing that is adaptive to every body type, no matter their ability, should not be decided due to charity reasons, as Thomas asserts, but rather because it makes business sense. People living with disabilities are a huge market to sell to, since according to the World Bank, approximately 15% of the world population is living with a disability.

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