Dress is something that individuals may take for granted; yet, those with disabilities may have difficulties shopping for clothes that are fashionable and adapt to their specialized needs, whether it’s formal wear for wheelchair-bound individuals or clothes that fit an amputee victim comfortably.
Now, a class in the University of Missouri Department of Textile and Apparel Management has challenged undergraduate students to design fashionable, adaptive clothing for individuals with disabilities.
Kerri McBee-Black, an instructor in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management at MU, and Allison Kabel, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences at MU, are mentoring textile and apparel management students as they develop and design adaptive clothing lines. While taking the class, students conduct market research and attend focus groups to decide which designs will work best for individuals with disabilities.
“The designs my group developed met the needs of children who are physically disabled or in wheelchairs. We created functional clothing that is still trendy and empowers them to be the best version of themselves,” said Elena Ibarra, one of the MU students involved with the project.
“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.”
McBee-Black says she has been pleased with the designs the students are developing.
“The project is more than teaching students how to develop clothing lines,” McBee-Black said. “The project exposes the students to an area of the design industry that often gets overlooked but is needed. 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.”
Ibarra and other students who work on the project believe that their adaptive clothing designs have the potential to be developed and sold in a business setting.
“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,” Ibarra said.
Since it began in 2012, the project has involved more than 80 MU students. Kabel and McBee-Black recently received the Richard Wallace Faculty Incentive Research Grant to continue working on the project, which they hope will lead to products as well as published research.
The Department of Textile and Apparel Management is housed in the School of Human Environmental Sciences and the Department of Health Sciences is housed in the School of Health Professions at MU.