Fashion For The Many, Not The Few | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Fashion For The Many, Not The Few

Comment writer, Velvet Jones, commends Marks and Spencer's progressive move forward in fashion with their 'Kids Easy Dressing' range

The fashion industry is central to our ability to form identities, feel part of a shared culture and reflect our personalities. Having fashion which makes people feel a part of society is an integral aspect of inclusivity, but it’s only now that the industry is seeing those with disabilities as consumers. How can such an integral part of society be entirely ignored by the fashion industry, and how long can this last?

Marks and Spencer’s have recently launched an inclusive fashion line called ‘Kids Easy Dressing’ for those with physical and sensory disabilities. Now, not only does this range feature functional outfits such as school dresses with Velcro, but it also supplies a range of fashionable everyday clothes. For example, sequin tops and cool cuts, yet without the struggle. This addition to fashion may seem irrelevant to many, but as someone who grew up wishing they could wear glittery t-shirts and sequined skirts, inclusive fashion would have changed my relationship with clothes and my sense of self.

As someone who grew up wishing they could wear glittery t-shirts and sequined skirts, inclusive fashion would have changed my relationship with clothes and my sense of self

Clothing shouldn’t reflect a disability but instead encompass all, as Rebecca Garner the kids-wear designer from Marks and Spencer’s states, ‘Parents passionately told us that disabilities don’t define their children, so the adaptations shouldn’t define their clothes’.

It’s important to remember that not so long ago if you wanted to find accessible clothes you either had to hunt for something which may work, or alter it yourself to suit. This meant you weren’t wearing fashion. Instead, you wore function. No personality was injected into my sense of style as a child, instead comfort had to be prioritized. As the consultant to the project, Dr John Chang states ‘sometimes it’s the little things – like finding a jumper your child will actually wear’.

Trailblazers such as ASOS have also taken up the gauntlet, along with Paralympian Chloe Ball-Hopkins, to try and make functional fashion. Now the adaptations made for children with disabilities can be stretched to encompass adults too, as often it’s forgotten that the child with a disability will soon become an adult with a disability. Often there is too much of a focus on the political, but improvements also need to be made in people’s concepts of being inclusive socially as well. As much as brands such as River Island perpetuate the idea that ‘Labels are for Clothes’ through their adverts, clothing is still very much a label on how society views us. Whether this be your economic label through an inability to afford top brands, or your disability wherein you are unable to wear certain clothes. Breaking down these social barriers means being aware of the labels clothes currently represent, and directly confronting them. Fashion is meant to challenge and make the norm uncomfortable.  Marks and Spencer’s are taking a huge leap by publicly making people aware of a barrier in fashion, making people feel uncomfortable about this will hopefully lead to people wanting to further social inclusivity.

Breaking down these social barriers means being aware of the labels clothes currently represent, and directly confronting them

For both children and adults, clothing is still largely exclusionary. As an adult with a sensory disability I still find clothes shopping horrific, as most of the clothes I and many others force themselves to wear are largely uncomfortable to a variety of disabilities. Yet, due to a lack of choice we either have to choose to be fashionable at the cost of our health, or unfashionable at the cost of our place in society. This is part of a larger exclusionary system still in society, where integral aspects like fashion, shops, or education make people with disabilities incapable of participation.

we either have to choose to be fashionable at the cost of our health, or unfashionable at the cost of our place in society

But, to end on a high note, we should all see this move by such a big brand like Marks and Spencer’s as a move in the right direction. Hopefully, the momentum of accessibility will continue, and retailers will realise the hidden consumer that’s been right under their noses. For now, at least these children will have access to clothing which will help participate in the fashion side of society and help form their identity. But the fight for fashion continues and will continue until true accessibility, where all shops are an option, is a norm of society.

 



Published

17th October 2018 at 7:00 am

Last Updated

18th October 2018 at 1:55 pm



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