Disability and fashion: the holy grail of a fashgasm

We’ve all stared longingly at the glossy, perfect images in fashion magazines and wished we could look that stylish. But for us average Joes, and especially if you have a disability, the fashion industry doesn’t always cater for all shapes and sizes…

I’ll assume we are all friends here so I’ll just ask what’s been on my mind all morning – have any of you ever had a Fashgasm? I wasn’t sure this actually existed, but after a quick Google search it would appear that people are having them all over the place!

I woke up this morning to the sound of cellophane being pushed and rustled through my letterbox – my latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine had arrived. Now I’m sure most people are aware of the subject matter of this magazine, but those of you who don’t, I shall elaborate. Vanity Fair is a high-end fashion magazine that blends articles of culture, business and style with an acute awareness of the ebbs and flows of the modern world.

Mix all this with an array of advertisement delights aiming the spotlight towards designer fashion that would lead to most couture conscious ladies to have what I have decided to call a Fashgasm (I’ll let you decipher what that means!). But I promise you I read it for the articles… I just haven’t gotten round to reading them yet!

Now I’m sure most people allow their minds to wander into a fantasy land picturing the endless possibilities life could offer if only we could own the dresses and shoes and have the flawless skin being offered to us on that glossy A4 plate. However, it was during this cerebral escapism that I realised: the food source upon the aforementioned plate is most definitely the stuff of dreams. It just won’t come true, which is maybe the shared reality of many a person who has a disability just as I do.

I am 27 years old and have a neuro muscular condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which means my frame is extremely skinny due to muscles wasting, I have a severe curvature of the spine and I use a wheelchair for mobility.

The nature of my disability has made it near impossible to find fashionable clothes that I both like and that are comfortable enough to accommodate sitting down for long periods of time and do not irritate the skin by means of creases, buttons or ruffles of fabrics.

Catwalk models in wheelchairs

Before writing this article I conducted research into websites that claim to offer adapted clothing for people with disabilities. I have to say that my findings were uninspiring to put it politely! Unless I want to dress like a granny from the Shreddies advert, or suddenly develop an overwhelming desire to wear buttoned underwear, then I am basically screwed!

This then leads me to the high street. I tend to try to keep it simple – I say try – I HAVE to keep it simple because the type of clothes I’d love to buy just aren’t available in my size. For someone who is often reduced to ordering kids sizes in clothes, I want it to be well known that I don’t want to wear giant cat’s faces or One Direction across my tops. It just doesn’t float my boat!

Then changing the subject completely, it proves almost as difficult to find nice underwear that fits and doesn’t look as boring as watching paint dry. I have never been able to find fancy, feminine underwear to fit my frame, however, on the bright side I will never need the use of a pair of Bridget Jones either. I will have to weigh up the pros and cons of this problem carefully and get back to you.

Like I said, simplicity seems to be my only option. I have been told that I have a trademark look of jeans and vest top, which is very often accompanied by a black mesh top underneath. It might not make the feature pages of Vanity Fair, but it works for me. And if I could give you one piece of advice it would be to invest in a pair of jeans that you love and, most importantly, find comfortable.

I should probably point out that the mesh top stems from a Goth phase that has never quite left me – and probably never will much to the amusement of friends and family alike.

There is probably an entire article in the difficulty of trying to buy clothes associated with different sub cultures, but there is not enough room here to include that full rant. And for those of you wondering how someone can be simultaneously interested in Vanity Fair and the Goth sub-culture I say; don’t question it, I just live it.

But anyway, I digress. I still find it hard to believe that the fashion industry has yet to cater for people with disabilities in a time when Danielle Sheypuk is the first disabled model to roll down the catwalk at designer Carrie Hammer’s fashion show at New York Fashion Week in 2014. I hope that the problems we face will soon be eradicated and that one day the pages of my Vanity Fair will reflect these changes.

By Hayleigh Barclay

Check out…

Disability and fashion: the style diary 
Get fit for 2015: Q&A with disabled Zumba instructor
10 of the most wheelchair accessible beaches in the world

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Hayleigh Barclay

Graduated in 2019 with a Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Scottish based, usually plugged into her iPod or watching too many Viking documentaries.
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