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Articles by Stephanie Thomas

Life October 1, 2013

Ironside, You Need Better Clothes

On Wednesday, Ironside, starring Blair Underwood, debuts on NBC. Although Underwood does not have a spinal cord injury, the character he plays, Robert T. Ironside, does. NBC didn’t fit Mr. Underwood with clothing designed for a seated body type. After all, Mr. Underwood can stand up and go home at the end of the day. Still, if Ironside truly had a physical disability, he would want specially designed clothing for use in his wheelchair. Here are five reasons why this matters—and yes, wooing the ladies is on the list. 1. Rubbing the wrong way. Most likely, all of Ironside’s pants have thick center seams and possibly metal detailing that can cause horrendous pressure sores, whereas clothing for the seated body type does not. Seams can act like sandpaper, rubbing away the layers of the skin. If this goes undetected because you don’t have feeling in your legs to recognize a sore, the skin can erode all the ... keep reading »
design March 1, 2013

Join My Latest Accessible Fashion Crusade

When I was a radio host in Norfork, Va., five years ago, I began a campaign to raise awareness of the difficulty people with disabilities have finding comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing. I dubbed myself the PJ Deejay and vowed to wear pajamas every day for a year. I bought 60 pairs of Target sleepwear, had them embroidered with a PJ Deejay logo and packed away my regular wardrobe. It was hard work; I went to the radio station, to church, and even on dates in my pajamas. All along, I knew it was for a good cause, to advocate for a more inclusive American fashion industry. Accessible fashion is an issue of utmost importance to me, personally and professionally. I was born without a right thumb and without toes, and doctors had to move bones around to allow me to walk. I’ve been a successful DJ, dancer, professional cheerleader and voice-over actress, but ... keep reading »
work June 4, 2012

How to Dress for Success in a Wheelchair

­Alright, you’ve taken the time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% complete. You’ve made a concerted effort to keep all questionable photos and comments off of your Facebook page. You’re even following and networking with all of the right people on Twitter. You are truly a social media rock star. But now that you have to sit in front of an actual human, you’re petrified. You have no idea what to wear or how to wear it. Well, don’t fret, I’m here to help. Here are five of the most asked questions I receive about dressing for interviews when you have a seated body type. 1. When does the interview begin? The interview begins the moment the interviewer sees you. Like it or not your interviewer consults your appearance to get clues into your work ethic. Your hair, nails, and shoes tell the interviewer if you’re detail oriented. If your clothing ... keep reading »
design October 14, 2011

Inclusive Designs: Could the Answer be in a Capsule?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the time we reflect on the contributions of workers with disabilities. The focus of the awareness campaign this year is “Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities.” This awareness campaign is often overlooked even though it’s been around since 1988. As I contemplated NDEAM and what it means to me, I immediately thought about clothing. How great it will be to someday be able to discuss new mainstream designers who have started designing and selling clothing for people with physical disabilities. And that’s when it hit me, why wait for someday when this problem can be solved today with pre-sold, crowd sourced designer capsule collections! The designer capsule collection is to the fashion industry what the fast acting gel capsule is to pain. It’s a way to quickly normalize designing for and marketing to the fashion consumer with physical disabilities. Earlier this year Derek ... keep reading »
design September 1, 2011

Can Kohl’s Dress Oprah’s New Wheelchair Travel Star?

Recently, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), the Queen of talk shows crowned not one, but two winners in her reality-show competition, “Your Own TV Show.” The winners are Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco and Zach Anner. Anner is a comedian and writer who has cerebral palsy, a condition involving the brain and nervous system.. His show, “Rollin’ Around the World with Zach Anner,” which will premiere this summer, will be a game-changer in the fight for equality among people with disabilities. Having lived with cerebral palsy for his whole life, the 26-year-old Anner, who uses a power wheelchair for mobility, will focus his show on how he manages unexpected challenges when traveling. Sparse selections for wheelchair users As part of their prize, Kuzmic-Crocco and Anner each received $100,00 from Kohl’s, which sponsored the contest. I’m hoping that this “prize” will bring attention to the plight of fashion consumers with disabilities. While Kuzmic-Crocco, who is ... keep reading »
design September 1, 2011

How Izzy Makes Dressing Easy for Chair Users

As a stylist it’s my job to follow trends in fashion for people with disabilities, but in this segment of the fashion industry rarely do I get a chance to highlight trendsetters. Izzy Camilleri is the trailblazer behind the industry altering designs of IZ Adaptive. IZ Adaptive is the most appealing line of clothing for wheelchair users I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve followed this industry. Her attention to design detail, merchandising, and pricing, partnered with the classic look of her line, truly sets her apart. In my opinion IZ Adaptive has changed the landscape of fashion, as we know it. I can say without hesitation that Izzy’s ingenuity has catapulted, fashions for wheelchair users into another stratosphere. There are several reasons why I luv IZ Adaptive: 1. I luv Izzy’s approach to design. She spent time with, listened to, and got to know her consumer. 2. I luv that IZ ... keep reading »
design April 19, 2011

A Wardrobe with Wider Appeal

Dr. Katherine Carroll has a unique philosophy on fashion apparel. She believes “intelligent clothing design” can improve the health and quality of life for all people, including people with disabilities — and has done the research to back it up. An assistant professor at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, Carroll is now advising the fashion industry on cost-effective, practical ways to embrace consumers with physical disabilities. Q: Dr. Carroll, how did you get involved in studying the technological and societal impact behind fashion? A: My research work in textiles during my Master’s Degree work [at Michigan State University] was mainly in the historic area. I was very interested in the types of clothing that women wore to work in the 19th century, when working outside the home first became acceptable. When I started my PhD [at Virginia Tech], I became interested in Universal Design (UD). I was making ... keep reading »
design February 3, 2011

8 Fashion Tips for Women with Paraplegia

If you are a woman with paraplegia determined to look fashionably chic this year, you are not alone! Here are eight tips for dressing with style, and looking slimmer while you’re doing it. 1. Buy a better fitting bra. If you are a woman with paraplegia, a properly fitting bra will not only provide support and comfort, it will help define your waistline. Before going to your favorite lingerie store, call several stores to find a Certified Bra Fitter (CBF). The bra fitting process is the same for women with and without paraplegia. The CBF will measure the band width and cup size of the bra to determine the best fit. It is best to schedule an appointment for uninterrupted personalized customer service. Note: Take your favorite bra with you to the appointment, to compare it with the bras pulled by the CBF. Also beware of the ... keep reading »
design November 18, 2010

Fashion That Caters to Seated Clientele

Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri has created haute couture clothing for decades. She has recently taken her talent in a brilliant new direction. Izzy is the brainchild behind IZ Adaptive, the adaptive clothing collection for people with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs. Ultimately, Izzy would like to make dressing easy and enjoyable for all people with physical disabilities. Q: Izzy, what made you transition from designing haute couture to designing adaptive clothing? A: With the downturn of the economy, and the fashion business being very tough in Canada, I had to make some changes. I love fashion and I wanted to continue designing, but I also wanted my future endeavors to be more meaningful. During this time I was asked to design a cape for Barb Turnbull, a journalist at a major Canadian newspaper. Barb has a physical disability, [a type of paralysis known as] quadriplegia. Working with Barb ... keep reading »
Life October 7, 2010

Cute Shoes, But Are they Inclusive?

Being born with congenital defects, I am well aware of what it feels like to be ignored or treated like a second-class citizen. But since my disability is not apparent at first glance, I live in two worlds. When my surgically altered feet are covered with cute espadrilles, sleek platform pumps, or this season’s military inspired utility booties, people label me ‘normal.’ But when I have the audacity to dance barefoot in an African or modern dance class, practice hot yoga without socks, or wear flip flops on a sweltering Virginia summer day, people immediately replace the normal label with an ‘abnormal’ one. My experience with people labeling me ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ is a snapshot of a much larger issue facing other fashion consumers with disabilities. Right now, this group is a blip on the radar of the mainstream fashion industry. But I am eternal optimist, and I truly believe things ... keep reading »