Tag Archives: Disability

Designer Ann Oliver to Engage Other Designers in New Project

10 Dec

Pants outfit by Ann Oliver. Part of her Xeni Collection, xenicollection.com.

UK designer Ann Oliver, a pioneer in couture for disabled women, is engaging in a new kind of outreach: she plans to gather talented designers from Not Just a Label and have them design one piece for her Xeni Collection  each season. Doing so, Mrs. Oliver reasons, gives up-and-coming designers greater exposure to the market as well as expanded horizons composing garments for a particular niche.

“The time is right, now, when we have a unique opportunity, established with such guts and determination by sportsmen and women from across the globe. It is time to bring designing for [disabled women] into the mainstream. I have a dream that every designer at London Fashion Week would include one outfit in every collection for women facing our challenges,”  Mrs. Oliver comments in her blog.

Stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, Ann Oliver learned firsthand the challenges of battling with buttons, hooks, and other conventional fastenings. She also discovered that standard clothing options were not properly cut for seated wearers: the garments provided neither comfort nor coverage, let alone style. An architect, she enrolled in a London college to learn clothing design, and Xeni took root.


As disabled women, we are well aware of the difficulties our conditions impose on us, whether we are able to work or not. Ann Oliver is one of us, who changed careers in mid-life to work for us: as I commented in an October post, this is a daunting task. This holiday season, give yourself a treat and visit her site at xenicollection.com. It is inspiring to see what Mrs. Oliver does, and you’ll want to add an outfit or two to your wish list.  Spread the word!


Stephanie Thomas and Luvwhatuwear.com: Answers for Disabled Women

7 Dec

Media personality Stephanie Thomas has been advising disabled women on fashion for 20 years. Disabled herself, she has been a beauty pageant contestant as well as a dancer for the Chicago Bulls. Like many of us, she became frustrated with clothing choices that failed to address the needs of disabled consumers, and she decided to do something about it. Her site, luvwhatuwear.com, is replete with ideas for people with specific conditions as well as a “Make Some Noise” section featuring stories of disabled consumers who spoke out about their needs and got results. Her site also has forums categorized by disability. Stephanie’s APOSH philosophy of personal style encourages women to make smart fashion choices, with her help; the site has an “Ask Stephanie” button for those seeking advice.   But enough: I’ll let Stephanie introduce herself.

We have an articulate, intelligent advocate speaking for us in the fashion world–something we disabled women need if we are to be heard and have our needs met. As Stephanie said in her video, other niches, such as maternity and plus-size, have the ear of designers and retailers and have clothing options now. It’s our turn. We are fortunate to have Stephanie Thomas out there clearing a path for us. Do visit her site at luvwhatuwear.com and “make some noise!”

Expert Style Advice: My BODS Profile from the Spashionista

5 Dec
disabled fashion, Spashionista, wefly2, sweater, dress, jeans, low-heeled shoes, mary janes, Old Navy, Payless

The Spashionista’s recommendations for outfits for me. The occasion was a happy-hour meeting. I sent her specs on my figure and foot needs as well.

Fellow fashion blogger Alicia of spashionistareport has developed her own spot-on system of personal shopping for disabled women. She calls it BODS, for Budget, Occasion, Disability, and Shape (or figure type). Provide her with the necessary information, and she researches an outfit for you–including purse and footwear! With her subjects’ permission, she includes her findings in her Friday Fashion posts. On a recent Friday, she completed a BODS profile for me.  Above are the outfit options she came up with, for a happy-hour meeting to discuss disabled fashion. I requested she follow a budget of $100 or less.  Her analysis and commentary appear below:

The Spashionista’s Analysis

” I’ve given Laura two options here. Both share a very similar upper body shape and focus bold, solid color near her face….

Let’s start with option one. The cardinal purple medium weight cotton blend cowl neck sweater dress is from Old Navy. It has an empire waist, hits just above the knee, and is priced at $39.

Because she has to wear orthotics in her shoes they must have a rounded toe and an athletic shoe style heel. These Lower East Side Alex side bow Mary Janes from Payless have a slight heel that mimics athletic shoes,  a rounded toe, and hidden elastic in the strap. These shoes are very comfy – I know this because I own them – and they are a steal at $17.

Laura has expressed a preference for fanny packs but I thought I’d show her a different option. The small Mossimo Supply Co. quilted chain crossbody black bag is from Target; it’s also $17.

Finally, stylesforless.com has these black and silver stacked 6-piece bangles for $9.

Option two replaces the dress with a top and pants. The top is also from Old Navy, a fuchsia, medium weight jersey with a natural waist and cowl neckline that sells for $32. The pants are from Amazon.com. They are Lee’s Comfort Waist straight leg pant in an indigo rinse, essentially a crisp-looking, more comfortable version of jeans. They sell for $28.

If you add up the totals you’ll see that option one comes in at $82. Option two is slightly over-budget at $103, but Laura can skip the bracelets and bring the grand total down to $94.”

There you have it! Online personal shopping, tailored to figure, finance, occasion, and disability. How uplifting is that? Without going into details about my figure, I’ll just say that the Spashionista has nailed it. From the comments her readers make on Fashion Friday, she has an eye for this endeavor. Also, she is always looking for subjects who want BODS profiles. Check her out at spashionistareport.wordpress.com!

Adaptive Clothing: Comfort, Fit, and Utility

15 Oct

Blouse from Silverts.com.

It’s a matter of self-respect: you may not be venturing out in public on a particular day, but you still want to feel good about what you wear and how you look. Those who design fashions for nursing-home residents and stay-at-home disabled women are well aware of these needs. By the same token, if you are dressing for work or dinner out, you appreciate well-fitting garments that are easy to put on and do not sag, pull, or bunch unattractively. Herewith, a list of websites that review online stores featuring adaptive clothing–the places that “get” us! Happy shopping!

The Boulevard Disabled Resources blvd.com/Adaptive_Clothing/

Blouse and pants from adaptiveclothing.com.

Adaptive Clothing Links Directory adaptiveclothing.net/

United Spinal’s Tech Guide usatechguide.org

Open Directory: Shopping: Health: Disabilities: Assistive…   dmoz.org/Shopping/Health/Disabilities…

The DRM WebWatcher   disabilityresources.org/CLOTHING

Top Adaptive Clothing Sites  top20sites.com/Top-Adaptive-Clothing-Sites

Home sewers have their own sites, too–more on this later. Until then, take heart: we don’t have to rely on baggy sweats or Whatever We Can Grab anymore!


U.K. Designer Shows the World How It’s Done

9 Oct

Couture represents fashion without limits.” —Nina Garcia, October issue of Marie Claire, p. 92

photo from xenicollection.com, rpt. from ecouterre/inhabitat.

Until now, disabled women have not been privy to the boundless creativity Ms.Garcia praises in her description of Paris Fashion Week. Fortunately for us, UK architect-turned-designer Ann Oliver is changing that.

Stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, Ms. Oliver discovered her disability kept her from going to the theater, which she loved. The problem? Clothing that was both chic and comfortable in a wheelchair was nonexistent. What really inspired her to design, according to an interview with Jenn Viane on trendhunter.com, was her desire for a dress she could slip on by herself, without standing up. So then-architect Ann Oliver enrolled in a design course at a London college, and her new career took root.

Featuring “free seats,” which she described in the Viane interview as portions of garments that “do not go underneath the bottom,” Ms. Oliver’s wheelchair-friendly ensembles draw attention away from the wearer’s lap and up toward the shoulders and face (see accompanying photo). Her Xeni line also employs magnetic closures to make dressing easier for women who have trouble with buttons and hooks.

Ms.Oliver’s collection includes fashions for amputees and ambulatory disabled women as well. Her clothing can be viewed and ordered at xenicollection.com.

Illness, inspiration, and a career switch: this would be a daunting journey for anyone. Ann Oliver not only traveled this road but has brought style and wearability to clothing designed specifically for disabled women, a frequently ignored minority. Will designers in the US follow her lead?