College Students Make a Fashion Difference for the Disabled

College Students Make a Fashion Difference for the Disabled
  • Opening Intro -

    People with disabilities face challenges including what to shop for in new clothing.

    Finding clothing that looks and feels right for an amputee and for others with specialized needs can be daunting.

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And what they do find simply may not look or fit right.

University of Missouri Students

At the University of Missouri, textile and apparel management students have been working to develop and design an adaptive clothing line to help disabled people. Under the guidance of Kerri McBee-Black, an instructor in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management at the university, and Allison Kabel, an assistant professor at MU, the students are learning how to conduct market research and attend focus groups to uncover the design needs best suited for individuals with disabilities.

Elena Ibarra, one of the MU students involved with the project, explained that her group has worked with children, including those physically disabled or in wheelchairs. Said Ibarra, “We tried to design clothes that would help young girls with everyday activities that have access points discretely placed on the clothing to allow easy access to places where medical devices might be placed. We also designed clothes made out of light, breathable, and comfortable fabrics for individuals who might be sitting in wheelchairs.” Ibarra noted that the students developed trendy clothes with an eye toward helping the disabled “…to be the best version of themselves.”

Marketable Clothing Line

The instructors are pleased with what their students have been doing with McBee-Black pointing out that what they’re doing goes far below developing clothing lines. “Designing clothes for individuals with disabilities might not be as glamorous as designing couture bridal gowns, but the adaptive clothing has the capability to directly benefit individuals’ lives, and a huge need exists for adaptive attire,” said McBee-Black. She also noted that it is also an overlooked, but needful area of fashion design.

Professor Ibarra believes that further development of the students’ clothing line could make it marketable and sold in a business setting. Said Ibarra, “A large market of individuals who are in need of this type of clothing exists, and where a market exists, you have room for success.”

Products and Published Research

The design project was launched in 2012 and has involved more than 80 University of Missouri students. The instructors recently received the Richard Wallace Faculty Incentive Research Grant to keep the project going, leading to what they hope will be both products and published research.

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