‘Disabled People Love Clothes Too’

This article is part of a series exploring how the Americans With Disabilities Act has shaped modern life for people with disabilities.

I have always believed that fashion is the window to the soul. As a Black disabled woman with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects movement on the right side of my body, I have gone through what I call the stages of fashion grief.

First, there was denial, which led to pretending fashion did not matter to me. Anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance came when I realized that I was no longer going to deny myself the things that allowed me the opportunity to share myself with the world. Especially when I realized just how much fashion was a part of my story. In “The Pretty One,” my collection of essays published last year, I talk about my journey to see my self-worth and how it led to my Twitter hashtag #disabledandcute, used by like-minded people to share pictures of ourselves and to declare that we are just as cute and worthy as anyone else.

I am not alone in my love for fashion. Disabled people, including the fashion plates among us, have always had to make wardrobe hacks to navigate features like zippers, buttons, shoes and irritable fabric tags. Stylish clothing for disabled people goes by many names: Accessible fashion, functional fashion, universal and inclusive fashion. I use accessible and inclusive fashion interchangeably and sometimes together because they best fit what I believe fashion should be after, not just function but style, too.

We have always known that clothes must function for our bodies. Increasingly, the fashion world is seeing this too. But it’s only a start.

Three decades after the passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, disabled people want to be able to have freedom of self-expression through fashion rather than accepting scraps from an industry that has been very slow to embrace us and our needs.

The clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co. was one of the first major brands to design clothing for disabled people in the mid-1950s with the work of one of its designers, Helen Cookman. She created a pair of jeans with “stretch denim and full-length zippers in the side seams that opened from the top or bottom. Another useful design feature was a special inside half belt buttoning on either side to hold the jeans in place when the seat dropped,” according to the company’s archives.

“For the longest time I’ve had to make time, maybe an hour, to complete an outfit by myself and with accessible clothing it’s maybe 15 minutes,” Ms. Mercado says. “With that said, something that I do not like about functional and accessible fashion has to be that the clothing that is available for people like myself, isn’t really my style of clothing.”

Sahred From Source link Fashion and Style

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