When you first meet someone what do you notice? More than likely their clothing – without knowing it we use this as a marker to make judgement about a person. Clothing shouldn’t matter but it does. The fashion industry is built upon our insecurities about the way we look and how we appear to others.
But the clothing that’s in the shops is designed for people who can stand, walk and have a conventional body shape. Those with disabilities have different body shapes and different requirements of their clothes but they still want to look good. That’s where the problems begin. A quick search online brings up some fairly awful options. Here, Chartwell, the leading insurance broker for those with disabilities, looks at other options for disabled people who want to look fashionable.
Back in 2012, the BBC reported on Ann Oliver who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990. She set up her own fashion business, Xeni, to cater for women, confined to a wheelchair, who want to look fashionable. Some of the areas she addressed werecoats and jackets with magnets as self-propelled fastenings, trousers with extra length at the back of the waist so they hang properly in the legs and evening dresses that accentuate the shoulders to draw attention away from the lap. Unfortunately her blog hasn’t been active since June 2013 and there is little sign of her business on line.
So does that mean the disabled community is constricted to the more conventional offering from the likes of Designed to Care and Able 2 Wear, for example? Both these companies are doing admirable jobs producing functional, ready-to-wear clothing but they won’t win any prizes for styling.
Seenin has a good range of protective clothing and has a particularly good line in stylish kerchiefs, which can double as bibs. These can jazz up an otherwise boring top.
An alternative for those who want to look fashionable is to go down the bespoke route and get clothes made to fit and to their own designs. Unfortunately this can be expensive. Clothing Solutions for Disabled People offers a good interim solution. It’s a registered charity, established in 1990, aimed at understanding and meeting the clothing needs of disabled people. Based in Bradford, Yorkshire it is spreading its services over a wider area.
Another alternative is alterations to off-the-peg designs. Here, Clothing Solutions can help but if you live miles away it may not be feasible to visit. There are dressmakers up and down the country who will make radical modifications to existing garments, such as adding zips, changing openings, altering waistbands etc., as well as making up clothes from scratch. Ask around to find one near you. If you draw a blank then check out dressmakers on free listing sites such as Gumtree and FreeIndex.