In this blog post, we’re chatting to Mary Allott, who designs accessible wedding dresses for her website, Mary Elizabeth Bridal. Accessibility in the fashion industry has been tackled frequently by individuals wanting comfier clothes to suit their conditions, or dresses that don’t ride up when using a wheelchair. More fashion brands have been listening and adapting their clothes — but what about feeling comfortable on your wedding day? Mary tells us about her inspiration and views on the fashion industry’s accessibility.
What inspired you to start making accessible wedding dresses?
In my early teens, I used to imagine and doodle all these glamorous dresses being worn to fabulous events. I spoke about it often to a friend of mine who was born with spina bifida and her opinion differed greatly to mine. I later realised this was an issue due to her own experiences in what she was most comfortable in wearing. In 2012 my late partner was diagnosed with a tumour which inevitably caused permanent paralysis, and he eventually needed assistance in many aspects of his day, including assistance in getting dressed, which pained him to ask. I put these daily fashion struggles together and began to research the market. I investigated and considered experiences had by anyone with any limitations when it comes to everyday and occasion wear fashion and how I can innovate practicality and comfort into such lavish wonderful dresses.
Do you think accessible clothes should be more prominent in everyday clothing shops?
I feel accessible clothes should be made more available across a variety of fashion brands, as this would allow so many people to feel more part of society, they can chat with their friends about how they got the latest tropical print dress from M&S or that set of dungarees in Topshop. If it became more of a normality to be seen, it wouldn’t perhaps be stared at or an alienated perception in society.
What features make the dresses accessible?
I have recently made dresses with tiny buttons down the front to allow for feeding tubes or catheterisation. Other alternatives I’ve explored so far is magnetic hidden fastenings, silhouettes that hide physical disabilities and form complimentary shaping elsewhere to divert attention. I’ve also created extensions to the dress which can double up as wheelchair décor.
I’m currently speaking with a charity who deal with breast cancer patients, some of whom have kindly decided to help me with their experiences from having mastectomy surgery.
Do you have a particular design that has proven the most popular?
So far, I have dealt with more simpler alterations and adaptations, namely buttons for feeding tube access. However, once I’ve worked on developing pattern adaptations for single/double mastectomy. I anticipate this may be one of the leading design requests.
What do you think could be done in the fashion industry to make clothes more accessible?
A few years ago, perhaps it was around the time of the London 2012 Olympics, there was huge media for the Paralympics. These superstars were highly thought of and respected, every nation was in awe of these amazing people. I feel if they recreated this media attention but divert it towards affordable and quality fashion, the self-esteem and feeling of worth of the public who require accessible fashion would heighten. Everyone has different needs, so it would perhaps not be on a larger scale, however it is a need that should be looked at and brought into everyday stores, as I’ve said previously, it would perhaps bring people back into society and feel a part of something more.
Thanks again to Mary for her wonderful contribution! Don’t forget to visit her website here.