Disability and fashion: fashion is for every body

Alicia Searcy, also known as Nashville’s disabled style blogger extraordinaire, the Spashionista (short for Spastic Fashionista), is set on changing the fashion industry for good. Alicia’s our latest DH Guru who will be sharing all her fashion tips and ideas with you. Enjoy!

For the last four years on my blog, I’ve shared my passion for fashion, style, trends, and a glimpse at life in Nashville while advocating for social awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and am wheelchair or walker dependent, but that hasn’t stopped me from being fashionable. In fact, I think being stylish and caring about one’s appearance is a sign of self-respect and approachability.

But, it’s not always easy, and the message isn’t always well-received. Those of us that advocate for inclusion in fashion still have few contemporaries to cite as references. Jillian Mercado has done a lot to lend gravitas to the idea of a disabled fashion model, as has Danielle Sheypuk and a handful of others, but it’s still an uphill battle. As of this writing, if you Google “Cerebral Palsy fashion” Spashionista is the first adult search result not affiliated with United Cerebral Palsy or a similar group – and the only blogger to be listed. There is an abundance of “fashion shows” that raise funds for organizations or charities that feature children with disabilities. But truly inclusive, adult runway shows have been virtually non-existent; until now.

Maggie Stuhrenberg & Alicia Searcy at a ’70’s themed photoshoot

It’s time to change things, and I decided to be the change in Nashville. I have met so many of Nashville’s talented fashion designers, boutique owners, artisans and creatives that fully support the idea of inclusion and body positivity. When I wear their clothing and accessories I am raising awareness that fashion isn’t just for young, able-bodied supermodels. It’s for all of us.

Krystle Ramos & Alicia Searcy at Nashville Fashion Week 2016 Gala

To that end, I’ve partnered with Krystle Ramos, who owns vintage clothing boutique Pura Vida Vintage, to co-produce Music City’s very first evening of inclusive runway segments featuring male and female models of all ages, sizes and abilities. Fashion is for Every Body will take place on Saturday, September 10th at 6pm at abrasiveMedia in Nashville. Local designers Evan Gray, Catland Forever Couture, Amanda Valentine, Eric Adler, Ola Mai, Black by Maria Silver and more will show some of their iconic Nashville clothing. Clothing from Pura Vida Vintage will also be featured, and John Thielman, Andrés Bustamante and adaptive jeans designer ALTER UR EGO are presenting their debut collections.

Pro model Maggie Stuhrenberg is our modeling coach

Likewise, we have twenty models, some professionals, some first-timers, age 18 to 55, tiny to voluptuous. About a third use mobility aids, and they will participate in five runway segments along with their able-bodied peers. The disabilities represented include Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Fibromyalgia, Paraplegia and Trigeminal neuralgia. We made every effort to assemble as diverse a group of models as possible, because none of us live segregated lives. The goal was to represent a group of designers and models that typify what you’d see on any given day in Nashville. At first, we were nervous that we wouldn’t be able to find enough people to represent our idea of inclusive diversity. As it happens, we are now having to turn people away because we have maxed out the venue’s capacity!

Kimmie Jones of That Girl in the Wheelchair is one of our models

We expect an audience of 100+, and are also filming a documentary which will play during changing breaks about how the show’s participants view their contribution to fashion and inclusion in today’s Nashville. The evening will conclude with a pop-up shopping event featuring clothing by the show’s designers and boutiques and any artwork displayed on the walls of abrasiveMedia. The inaugural Fashion is for Every Body will pay tribute to David Bowie’s iconic influence on fashion, style, and self-acceptance.

This is a serious, not-for-profit event. Fashion shows are costly endeavors and, even though everyone connected with the project is volunteering their time for free, we still have to pay for things like venue, food and drink, and media materials. We have set up an Indiegogo campaign so that our local supporters, and anyone else nationally or globally that believes our mission has value, can help us meet our expenses. If the project meets with such exuberant validation from supporters that donations exceed expenses those funds will be held in reserve for next year’s show.

All of our models are encouraged to be themselves, but we are striving for a high production standard and are fortunate in that sense to have the example of Nashville Fashion Week to follow. I believe that we owe it to our models, especially those with disabilities, to present them as equal, valuable members of society who can be just as stylish and fashionable as any other runway model. Inclusiveness and acceptance can only happen if we call attention to our right to both, and I believe if we can do that during an entertaining, engaging event that message will endure.

How many of you are ready to “be the change” with me?

By Alicia Searcy

We’d love to hear your fashion tips and to see you’re fashion pictures. Get in touch by messaging us on Facebook or tweeting us @DHorizons and @Spashionista .

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