Fashion + Disability

Disabilities Dictating Fashion Choices:

Living with a disability can affect someone’s everyday life. But we may not realise it can dictate every aspect, including right down to fashion choices. 11 million people in the UK are living with a disability, but how many clothes do you see on the high street that cater for them? We see sections catering for tall, petite, plus sized and maternity. Imagine being denied the variety of clothing that we now have. Or not being able to wear your favourite pair on jeans because you are in to much pain. Why should we let disability dictate someone else’s fashion choices?

Wheelchair access but nothing to try on…

Firstly the problem lies with access. Only a fifth of UK shops cater to those in a wheelchair. How is it possible for people with disabilities to go shopping, if they can’t get into the shop to try on the clothes in the first place? Then imagine you are able to get into the shop and can finally browse what they have to offer, to find nothing is tailored to your specific need, so you cant even try clothes on.

For example if you have a seated disability you may need pockets to be positioned in a different place in, order to access them. You will need the back of trousers to be higher in order to stay covered. What if your trousers have caused you irritation, but don’t have the option of wearing a skirt or a dress that day? This is one of many issues that people with disabilities suffer from on a day to day basis.

The truth is mainstream fashion doesn’t cater these needs, and this is only one example of many disabilities. This leaves people with little choice, allowing their disability to dictate fashion choices. By catering for people in wheel chairs alone, mainstream fashion chains can target a whole new demographic of people. This means the industry can gain more customers and more money. Which seems like a win win business venture, so why are we not seeing accessible clothing on the high street?

Dose online shopping make fashion choices easier?

Due to the decline of the high street, are online retailers making fashion more accessible for people with disabilities? For example ASOS has been known to include diversity and represent groups that haven’t necessarily been included in fashion. They have become one of the first mainstream retailers to include disability friendly clothing. They have done this through collaborating with GB Paralympian Chloe Ball-Hopkins, who also modelled for the site. Together they created a piece of clothing catered for a seated model. Through this project ASOS has given hope and inclusivity for all customers. This also gives more visibility to the cause, by seeing Chloe modelling the jumpsuit others with similar disabilities can finally picture themselves in the outfit to.

Is online shopping the way forward for people with disabilities? Although this is one isolated example maybe its something online retailers should take into account when designing new lines?

Not every disability is the same…

It’s important to understand that Only 8 per cent of disabled people in the UK use a wheelchair. This means there’s over 10 million people with other disabilities and very specific needs. Not all disabilities are the same, some require button up tops due to lack of mobility in their arms, or find zips and fastenings impossible all together. Some people have hidden disabilities, and fabrics may be triggering. This can all dictate and determine what someone wears.

For example YouTuber Annie Elainey shares how her disability can dictate what she wears. She also gives us an insight to how she has to wear sunglasses to battle with her chronic migraines.

What can we do?

There are already a few models with disabilities who have broken barriers of fashion. Although it is important moving forward that people with a range disabilities are represented. This can be done starting at the top with making disabilities more visible on the cat walk, in ad campaigns and on social media. Through raising awareness and understanding the issues people with disabilities go through when trying to shop for normal clothes, we can really make a difference. By using our consumer power we can support mainstream fashion companies that tailor and represent people with disabilities. Therefore this will encourage other fashion companies to follow suit.

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