Fashion is something I have never been particularly passionate about because there has always been the struggle to find clothes that fit and that I feel confident in. One thing I have found really frustrating is the sizing of clothes. I have always had to get several sizes bigger just so that I can manoeuvre the clothes around my limbs to get them on. This has caused me to compromise style as I only ever wear baggy clothes because it is so much easier and more comfortable. I’d be lying if I denied that it didn’t cause me body issues when I was younger. Why did my friends get to shop in the kids section while I was having to shop in the adult section? This was also enhanced by the stigma attached around the size number, I was always the one with the biggest number, and I realise that it makes no sense why I cared as I purposely bought bigger clothes, but it still had an effect on my mental health. But I am by no means the only one who experiences these problems when it comes to fashion.
I feel like there needs to be more consistent sizing across shops, and this isn’t just an issue for people with disabilities this is for everyone. However, given that I am a wheelchair user, consistent sizing is even more important because I often don’t have the luxury to try things on before I buy them. Carrying on from this point, there is a massive shortage of accessible changing rooms in clothes stores including many of mainstream highstreet shops, and this needs to improve ASAP. There also needs to be significantly better clothing ranges for people in my position because although there are a few brands that cater for people with disabilities, I am still hugely restricted when it comes to dressing fashionably and brands that do cater to disability and are fashionable are often not affordable. But there are many more issues with the fashion industry that affect people with other disabilities than myself. For example, for people with visual impairments: brail could be put on tags so they are not reliant on shopping with others.
However, the conversation of disability friendly fashion has evolved in recent years, in particular in 2019 when certain mainstream brands started creating adaptive fashion. Companies such as Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and Seasalt have all started to launch clothing and footwear specifically tailored to the needs of people with disabilities such as magnetic closures, hands-free laces and discrete elasticated waists. All these adaptations may appear small but they really do make the biggest difference in people’s lives in terms of independence and giving them more options in fashion. As well as these well-known brands, there are also some new start-ups entering the disability friendly fashion market, I have linked some of these brands down below. These new clothing businesses have the main aim of empowering people with disabilities and creating an inclusive place for them in the fashion world. But also these businesses are not just being moral but they are also entering the untapped market of disabled shoppers, as they are the largest untapped consumer market.
There has been clear progress in the inclusivity of fashion but we are still very behind where we should be. Hopefully, in the coming years more and more brands will place more emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility of fashion as well as on other issues such as sustainability and social consciousness.