Time to talk about fashion.
In my article about my experience with Tan France of Queer Eye’s Fab Five, I shared my perspective on the lack of awareness about clothing for those in a wheelchair.
Clothing for those with disabilities has always been a struggle. Regular clothes or shoes just don’t meet needs for fit, let alone fashion. When I first got injured, my feet were so swollen that I couldn’t even wear my Jordans that I had in the hospital with me. That was the starting point of the mindset where I thought I could only wear sweatpants, velcro tennis shoes, and t-shirts. And that was my standard outfit for a few years post-injury.
As I started to get fit, I began seeking work out clothes. Even though some were uncomfortable, the majority were great. (But the most important fact was that they were dri-fit!) I began wearing those clothes as my upgrade from sweatpants.
Then the Fab Five from Queer Eye entered my life and really shook things up. Tan France, the Fab Five fashion expert, opened my eyes to a whole new world of fashion. It was a completely new view of what was possible. I gained confidence in myself and in seeking clothing brands that really support the disabled community, especially those in wheelchairs.
Before that, no one had shown me what it meant to bring style to my wheelchair life. The disabled community seriously lacks representation in fashion. But I decided to change that and started modeling.
I chose modeling as a focus because I knew that I could fill that representation gap. I was willing to hear no as many times as I could hear yes. I’m determined to change the narrative in the disabled community, the modeling industry, and any other platform that has excluded those with limitations or immobility.
Then Tommy came along.
Learning about the Tommy Hilfiger company’s ambition to create inclusive clothing for the disabled community blew my mind. Growing up, I’d always been a fan of Tommy Hilfiger. I had vintage Tommy Hilfiger clothes, and really just loved talking about Tommy. I always felt connected to Tommy and the brand.
That connection deepened after I learned about Tommy’s latest efforts to develop an adaptive clothing line. Discovering the company’s investment and commitment to this line was awesome. My personal mission and the mission of Disabled But Not Really are a great match for the Hilfiger vision. I’m glad our paths have crossed.
I want people with disabilities or immobility to have confidence outside of the gym. I wondered how I could represent something different. And that’s where the experience modeling with Tommy has come in. It’s been incredible.
I’ve learned that some individuals with disabilities don’t have the ability to be physically fit or engage in the levels of fitness that DBNR and I encourage among our adaptive athletes. I still want all individuals with disabilities, and the broader community, to know that it’s possible for fashion to be inclusive. The clothes that everyone else wears can be adapted.
Adaptive clothing requires extra design effort, but Tommy Hilfiger has gone all out. For those in wheelchairs, an even waistband all the way around is difficult to find. Our chair cushions and chair positioning usually means that we’re showing a plumber’s crack! LOL. But now Tommy has a high-back, low-front pant design. That’ll give you the confidence to avoid the plumber issue. And that’s a win.
It’s impressive that Hilfiger has worked so hard to be so strategic in tackling a variety of immobility issues in fashion. They have also innovated their dress shirts. For button-down shirts, Tommy has added magnetic buttons for easier fastening. They also have some shirts with magnetic zippers for those with only one mobile arm. And Tommy’s still creating!
I’m honored to be a part of the Tommy Hilfiger adaptive clothing line efforts. It’s a humbling experience to represent them through various social media campaigns, and most recently, as part of their fall and winter campaign, which was pushed out on all of their platforms. I love the opportunity to contribute to Tommy Hilfiger’s mission and highlight their success as they grow and learn more from the disabled community.
It’s up to those of us in the disabled community to be the representation we wish to see in the world. We have to empower people. And fashion is one great way to boost people’s confidence. It allows people to break free.
I believe that fashion should truly be for EVERYONE. Tommy Hilfiger gets that and is continually striving to just be more. We can all learn something from that.
For some of my favorite selections
Check out Tommy Adaptive yourself and don’t forget to let them know your opinion.