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Friday 2 September 2011

Fashion that fits!

"Making shapes fit" by Susie Mallett 2011
The second place!
I have been reading the local MS (multiple sclerosis) magazine, the mach mit! This mini-magazine is, as I have written before here on my blog, small enough so that I can fold it and put it in my pocket where it is always readily available for a read in any spare moment.
Those moments can be at the bus-stop, on the tram, waiting at the doctor’s surgery, or even walking down the street.
Last week I did not get mach mit! out of my pocket until I was back at home where I read it out on my balcony. I had found an interesting read in the Time magazine to keep me busy on the tram, all about Simon Baron-Cohen who is described there in the headline as Autism’s Lone Wolf. I will perhaps write more about him another time.

Back to the balcony and mach mit!
In the shade of my balconyit was another article that caught my eye in the MS magazine, called Der zweite Platz!, The second place. This was all about clothes for disabled people, but at the same time about the difficulties encountered while travelling abroad as a wheelchair user. Both subjects that have also caused me much concern in the past and I expect some of my readers too.
The owners of a local Nürnberg company:  travelled to Moscow to show their latest collection of fashion for people with special needs and at the same time to compete for one of the awards up on offer.
Their collection is called: - pure suit of happiness –exclusive-inclusive- fashion that fits-

Making the most of it, enjoying life
Despite stories about long delays, loss of wheelchair, a hotel room that was not suitable for a wheelchair user now with a borrowed wheelchair, the article was rather jolly. The author was as adept, as my partner and I also became over the years, at not letting the hurdles presented to one while travelling in a wheelchair spoil the fun of adventures in foreign lands.
There was more chaos to come for this traveler and fashion designer in Moscow. There was confusion on the catwalk where the models walked to the wrong music and some of the clothes were shown with the wrong accessories, but despite this the company from Nürnberg walked away with the second prize in the International Bezgraniz Couture Award.
This article caught my eye not only because of the dreadful travelling-with-a-wheelchair experiences that were all too familiar to me, and not only because of the making-the-best-of-everything attitude that we all have to adopt to prevent craziness setting in, but also because underneath it all there is the matter of clothes for people with disability.

Where do people with a disability shop for clothes?
The importance of clothes for people with disability, especially, but not solely, for wheelchair users, is a subject that I think gets badly overlooked, even by the people who are closely involved in this field of work. I try my hardest to bring it to the fore and to help clients and friends keep up with fashion and be comfortable despite any disabilities they have. We are continuously on the search for reasonably priced suitable and fashionable clothing.
People who sit in a wheelchair for many hours need a different cut to their clothes not necessarily bigger clothes.People who have fine-motor-movement difficulties may need different fastenings, some people need special fabrics because of allergies others because of warmth. All, or nearly all, also want to look good.
Nearly twenty years ago when I first moved to Germany I knew of one company in the country that supplied clothes especially designed for wheelchair users. It was miles away from us, in the north. It was a long way to travel to buy clothes and mail order although possible was not encouraged. This was long before computers were found in every household in Germany 

This company sold just a few items, amongst them trousers, cut high at the back and shorter at the front, with the legs slightly longer so that they covered the shoes while the wearer was sitting. They also had a selection of jackets that were cut shorter and wider so the shape was still good while sitting in a wheelchair.
These clothes were nice not top of the range as far as fashion goes but OK. Some were made from natural fibres and others from warm, fleece material that is so necessary in the cold winters for someone who is not able to be active, but these clothes were also incredibly expensive.

The expense put them way out of reach, financially, for a great many disabled people including us.

There were few companies supplying such clothes so there was no competition that would lower the prices. Compared to high street stores there were relatively few customers.
Twenty years ago I set about making clothes myself for my partner who was a wheelchair user. I forget now how many fleece trousers I made over the following years, or how many jackets I shortened and reshaped. The first bought pair of trousers cost over one hundred German Marks, and by using this item as my pattern I could make at least four pairs for the same price.
This was the only affordable way that my partner could feel comfortable, stay warm and feel smart. I must admit, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to achieve the look he wanted and finding the right cut to avoid too much material bulging in some places and too little in others.

Now there are a few more companies making clothes for people with disability, this one in Nürnberg being one of them. Although the prices still remains high, the quality is good and the cost is not much higher than good quality off-the-peg, chain-store clothes.  Most importantly the look nice and they fit.
I hope that many people get to hear about Moscow’s second-prize winners and I wish the company every success with their Pure-suit-of-happiness-exclusive-inclusive-fashion that fits-  line of clothes.

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