Until recently, fashion and disability was pretty much an oxymoron. The clothing available for people with physical challenges called “health wear” was found in home medical supply stores next to other functional items like incontinence supplies and shower seats. The adapted clothing of yesteryear was the antithesis of fashionable; It lacked color, style, and the ability to express one’s individual personality. And is a big reason for DIY adaptive clothing today.
Despite the fact that 40 million people in the U.S have a disability, and more than 14 million of them have difficulty with dressing, adapting clothing didn’t become a newsworthy thing until 2014, when a few regular people (Mindy Scheier of Runway of Dreams & Maura Horton of Magna Ready) inspired by their loved one’s struggles with dressing themselves, collaborated with mainstream designer Tommy Hilfiger on a line of adaptive clothing for people with disabilities.
Like many of you, I have been adapting my own fashion for years. In my post, Skinny Jeans & Leg Braces, I talk about the progression of my inherited neuromuscular disorder, Charcot-Marie-Tooth-Disease, and the traumatic day I received my first set of leg braces (called afos).
I’ll never forget the blank stare and shoulder shrug response I received when I inquired about where I could find fashionable shoes and clothing to fit over the bulky plastic monstrosities I’d been handed. The orthotist didn’t have a clue and shewed me out the door with a two season’s old orthotic shoe catalog in hand.
That was my introductory lesson on how the world valued fashion for people with disabilities; It was seen as unimportant and frivolous. I learned that day that if I wanted to prevent my disabilities from dictating my personal style, it was up to me to find my own shoe and fashion adaptations.
This is a big part of why I created Trend-Able.com.
Although there are now a growing number of brands designing for people with disabilities, (see my complete list of places to buy adaptive fashion) most of what’s out there is geared for children, wheelchair users, and the elderly. Not for me, Lainie Ishbia, an active, young in spirit, 48-year-old blogger mom & wife who happens to wear leg braces and has sucky hands.
And besides, I want to wear what I want to wear.
Until the unlikely day that every single brand offers adaptive fashion options on all their designs, I’ll continue to make my own adaptations. Ok, I know what you’re thinking…Of course, I’m not actually sewing or gluing this stuff myself. I mean, if I could do that, I could probably button a shirt right?
Of course, I outsource the actual sewing and hacking of my clothing to a local seamstress. In exchange for a few dollars (and a ton of referrals), she happily adds velcro, sews up buttons, and tells me I still look 30 … Admittedly, I do pay a tad extra for the ladder part.
Do you want to know some easy fashion hacks and modifications you can outsource too? If yes, welcome to my mini-course called, Adaptive Fashion 101: