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Why Fashion is not Inclusive for People with Disabilities and Why This Needs to Change

Fashion brands are not inclusive of people with disabilities and this needs to change. If clothing is produced at a mass rate for people who do not have disabilities then they should be equally available for people who do without having to settle for less. Adaptive clothing has yet to become mainstream and easily available which is shocking in a society which is supposed to be inclusive. As fashion can be about self-expression it should be without saying that it should cater to those who live with disabilities.

Often, a disability can result in a person being in pain before they even start to put uncomfortable and unsupportive clothing on. People who are in pain may not end up wearing the clothes that they want to wear and clothes that show self-expression and their identity but instead opt for clothes with maximum comfort. Companies should normalise the use of materials and openings on clothing. Those who can’t move unaided or need the support of other people and equipment need to have accessibility to clothing that won’t enhance or create pressure sores on their body and by providing poppers or zips on clothing it would make areas more accessible to get to for everyone without having to fully undress.  Without this, it is as if people who are already struggling with daily life are suffering more because of their lack of choice in their clothing. Clothing is supposed to make you feel good about yourself, make a statement and in the most basic of senses is used to cover up. 

Adaptive clothing needs to be available in shops on the high street as well as online stores so that people who are disabled can have the same shopping experience as non-disabled people. If adaptive clothing was stocked on the high street, it would mean that people who are disabled wouldn’t have to shop weeks in advance if they wanted to purchase a new outfit to make sure that it arrived on time and to try the outfit on. The World Bank states that ‘one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.’(https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability). This is not a small percentage and when looking at this in terms of how quickly fashion trends and new designers appear on the scene it is shameful that more is not being done for disabled people in terms of clothing. 

There should not be a cookie-cutter type of body which fashion brands and designers style their clothing on and for. 

Another aspect of fashion which should change and has been seen to develop in recent years is the inclusion of disabled people on covers of magazines, in the media, modelling and on the catwalk.  It is important to see yourself reflected in the media especially growing up when you often look at social media regularly. 

As technology advances and apps are being created there is room for apps to be created which tailors clothing to people with disabilities. The app could use a template of their body to show an outfit on a person, and take their measurements and disability into account when making the clothing template or sample and using customer feedback and satisfaction. 

The Open Style Lab founded in 2014 is an organization based in Boston, Massachusetts which works with and for people with disabilities to take away the stigma surrounding disabilities by customizing clothing and products especially for them. 

The clothing and product designer Tommy Hilfiger has recently made a new range called Tommy Adaptive which Hilfiger advertises on his website as ‘the stylish clothes you want, with the innovative solutions you need’ (https://uk.tommy.com/tommy-adaptive) for people with disabilities. Hilfiger created this collection for adults and children because of having children of his own with special needs. The collection is ‘the same quality, the same fabric, and the same design as we offer everyone else.’ The collection was released in the Spring of 2018 and appears to be one of the first and leading companies to offer alternative clothing. Hopefully, other companies will follow Hilfiger’s decision to make alternative clothing in the next few years.

As a teenager, I would regularly hear the saying ‘you have got to suffer to be beautiful’ and various other similar notions when trying on clothes in shops which did not fit correctly in the right places. Sayings like this one are dangerous and untrue as suffering does not add to a person’s beauty and neither does clothing. We need to remember that we don’t need to have fashions or look a certain way to be beautiful because we already are.

Fashion and Disability

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