TAM department holds symposium to address lack of inclusivity in clothing design

Invited panelists gave insight into an often-overlooked issue.


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MU’s Textile and Apparel Management department hosted a “Design for Disability” adaptive clothing symposium March 19 in collaboration with CottonWorks. This event is the most recent of the department’s efforts to promote inclusivity within their curriculum and within the fashion industry itself.

“Part of what we’re trying to accomplish is show that the fashion industry is more than just one type of consumer,” TAM professor Kerri McBee-Black said. “We are trying to showcase ways to cater to consumers that are typically ignored.”

The event was set up panel-style. The guests included a representative from CottonWorks, representatives from inclusive brand NBZ Apparel and three people who have disabilities or have loved ones who do. The event began with a brief presentation from the CottonWorks representative Wendy Blakinship. Then the mic went to the representatives for NBZ Apparel, who talked about their mission and dedication to clothing adaptivity and inclusivity.

“NBZ started as a brand specifically for people living with down syndrome,” NBZ designer Jillian Jankovsky said. “Figuring out sizing can be difficult because they have different body proportions. It took over a year and a half to get the initial design right. Now we have 18 different styles of jeans and we offer custom hemming and a try-on service.”

After that, the audience heard from Skyler Chadwick, an 11-year-old living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and his mother who is his caretaker. Due to his disability, he has sensory problems and weak joints that require constant support through braces. This often makes finding clothing difficult.

“Solid printed logos bother me because of my sensory issues,” Chadwick said. “It makes the shirt feel different when I move. I also have a hard time finding shoes that fit over my SMOs, [ankle braces], I have to get shoes that are too big for me and they’re still hard to put on.”

Chuck Graham then finished out the panel. Chuck is the associate director of the Great Plains ADA Center. He also serves as chair of the Columbia Disabilities Commission. After being in a car accident as a teenager, he is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair. He has struggled with finding clothing ever since, he said.

“Clothing just isn’t made for people sitting down,” Graham said. “I wear down my clothes differently; certain sleeves and hems can get stuck in my wheels. Even though I know there are some options for me I tend to stay away from anything labeled for disabilities because there is an incredible markup on it, and with other medical expenses I deal with, it’s not worth it.”

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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