Fashion, Disability, Freedom of Choice

Last weekend, I was honored to take part in the “Fashion Accessibility Project” runway event modeling an accessible design concept by local designer Iam Kréyol. It was a glorious customized ensemble that was part regal meets drama from deep shade of burgundy to sparkle and fluff of tulle skirt, a flirty whirlwind of playfulness and power! And I relished every…minute..of sheeting my skin and the boisterous applause and autograph requests from the adoring crowd between claps and flashes from cameras while bestowing accolades as I gave my best pageant wave. OK, well, that last part may or may not have happened and I might’ve embellished a wee bit.

This epic collaboration was nothing short of magical evening of cohesion swaddled in swag, grace, and panache. This labor of love from a marriage of fashion and disability birthed an inclusive affair that a week later I’m still floating high from lofty vibes. The work and meeting of minds from disability community, designers, theater and arts folks, volunteers weighing in to make this all flawless.

As a disabled woman with a physical disability and flair for fashion that is budget-friendly, I’m fond of perusing pages for fashions finds but I’m often left wondering why the disability community does not have more clothing options built into fashion lines. Fashion at first blush may seem frivolous and superficial focus but is actually a bit more politically-charged since it involves self-expression. Self-expression requires freedom of choice and confidence, body autonomy, sense of independence, and a society that supports these elements. In many ways we preach being unique but we more often than not reward conformity. See how that becomes weightier when pondered and not so easily poo-pooed away.

So when we all sat down back in September of last year during a charrette it was a no-brainer for me in terms of attraction to project since it incorporated a mix of many things I love and basically was an extension of my advocacy. Disabled folks like myself were involved in the conversation from the beginning and throughout all phases of project not as add-ons or afterthoughts and our lived experience was listened to and perspectives respected. You might be surprised how often this doesn’t happen and/or our presence tokenized.

This is all particularly relevant at time when so many of our freedoms are being infringed upon and/or in danger of being gutted from healthcare, education, housing to name a few quality of life areas of concern and so much activism happening and disability justice is no exception. Google ADAPT protests and you may gain better appreciation for sense of importance and urgency of our rights on chopping block.

Disabled folks having freedom, of choice, wherever we choose to pursue, patronize, reside, dine, socialize, clothe our bodies, etc should be self-directed even if/when the methodology doesn’t mirror the lived experience of our fellow members (disability community is composed of many communities and is quite diverse) and non-disabled counterparts.

That’s why projects like this are this are so meaningful; they embody elements of advocacy and showcase freedom of choice. When you feel comfortable you often feel more peace of mind and your quality of life is elevated. I’m encouraged to stay motivated and focus my energy in areas that range from inciting my ire to my playful side; fashion falls within that criteria.

We need to always be part of projects and leading conversations that concern our health, well-being, and quality of life. Activism extends from front lines to parenting mindfully and all points in between however we individually set metrics for “success” and what that may “look” like. This is what it looked like to me last Saturday. This is how I showed up and out!

FAPresize[image description: light complected Black woman sitting in manual wheelchair facing view of camera, she is smiling, wearing shiny stud crystal earrings, full makeup with deep red lipstick, large shiny black choker necklace, burgundy colored (though it appears a bright red in pic) and sleeveless on one side, skirt is layered tulle and very full and exposes leg, few attendees are in background in front of brick wall.]

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