Fashion and disability aren’t generally words we see in the same sentence. In 2008 I was part of a BBC3 show called Britain’s Missing Top Model, which aimed to redress the lack of diversity in the modelling world… yes, 2008. The fashion world has made strides forwards in the years since when it comes to size and the industry. This is largely thanks to bloggers and plus sized women being able to share their own stories and take control of the message. Yet there are definitely still gaps in the market.
The way we look isn’t just important in terms of our own identity, it also impacts on how others see us. I continued to curl my hair whilst I was living in hospital- even when I barely had energy to read. Or eat.
It was not only a refusal to give up on who I am (technically a girl with straight hair but that’s never felt very ‘me’!) but a realisation that taking care of one’s outside also affects the way people treat you. Although before becoming ill I liked vintage fashion and bright colours, they took on a special meaning for me afterwards. I didn’t have to be the girl people stared at when she walked in because she was shuffling or had to be helped. Instead I could be the girl in the beautiful dress with a fancy headband- so they didn’t even notice those other things!
When you’re in a wheelchair, or walking with a stick or looking slightly like a fool because you can’t hear what on earth’s going on and all you have left is the blank smile- people are going to look at you anyway. You might as well give them something to look at. Something that is your choice.
I don’t choose a specific era, I just wear what I like and what makes me happy.
I’m a big believer in not giving in to negativity. If I feel sad, I want to watch a happy film, do fun things and wear bright colours. My style is feminine but not girlie- I don’t own many pink things or paint my nails but… I also don’t own a pair of trousers! It’s easy to wear but looks difficult: comfortable, beautiful dresses that look complex from the outside.
I don’t wear my hair to cover my hearing aids. Even when I wore hideous NHS beige wrist splints all day, every day for a year I didn’t cover them. My splints were amazingly helpful and covering them wouldn’t be for me.
It would have been to make other people feel better.
Yes, covering up would have taken away the momentary awkwardness for others. But I’m proud of my aids, I’m proud of me and I’m proud of the way I dress. It’s flouncy, colourful, and… occasionally freakily eccentric.