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Dressing Deviant Bodies:
Fashion’s Duty to Accommodate
No matter their age, shape, or physical abilities, people want to feel good and look good in their clothing. Ready-made clothing is the result of an attempt to dress every body, but it rarely caters to the needs of those who deviate from the ideal. Young physiques are commonly viewed as the ideal, and yet our physiology changes as we age. Because of transformations to posture, fat distribution, and/or mobility, ready-made garments do not typically fit deviant bodies.
From start to finish—and even morning to night—our figures change. People with disabilities or impairments who want stylish clothing have not been well served by the fashion industry. Poorly-designed, unattractive clothing can limit a person’s comfort and independence, hinder one’s ability to live a fully-engaged life, and may reduce overall well-being. Beyond a few exceptions, designers have overlooked the needs of people with mobility issues. Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri is among those who have begun to address this problem by creating award-winning designs for seated people. Pregnancy requires that clothing adapt to a shapeshifting body. Until recently, the pregnant body hid behind looser-fitting gowns made with front closures to accommodate the needs of mother and infant. In recent years, the “bump” is often a source of pride, making much of today’s maternity wear extremely form fitting and reliant on elastic fibres. Issues of sustainability and economy may also be relevant when pregnant women choose to invest in maternity wear that is fashionable both during pregnancy and after delivery.
Due to issues of higher production costs and the stigmatization associated with non-standard clothing sizes, clothing producers have been reluctant to provide apparel for all body types. However, designers and manufacturers can benefit significantly if they respond to consumer demands. Meeting the needs of all consumers remains a vast, unrealized opportunity. Employing multiple guidelines that go beyond the current orthodoxy can help accommodate the unfulfilled needs of a multitude of individuals, because all bodies are deviant in their own unique way.
 Susan P. Ashdown, and Hyunshin Na, “Comparison of 3-D Body Scan Data to Quantify Upper-Body Postural Variation in Older and Younger Women,” Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 26, no. 4 (October 2008): 293.
 Allison Kabel, Jessica Dimka, and Kerri McBee-Black, “Clothing-related Barriers Experienced with Mobility Disabilities and Impairments,” Applies Ergonomics 59 (March 2017): 165-166.
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Misfits: Bodies, Dress and Sustainability
April 12 to September 13, 2017
Dr. Anne Bissonnette, Josée Chartrand, Meg Furler, Yara Sayegh and Patricia Siferd co-curators as part of the graduate course “Material Culture and Curatorship” (HECOL 668).
Cite this page (bibliography):
Bissonnette, Anne, and Josée Chartrand, Meg Furler, Yara Sayegh, Patricia Siferd. “Deviant Bodies.” Misfits: Bodies, Dress and Sustainability, Exhibitions, Clothing and Textiles Collection Web site, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, April 12, 2017. [INSERT URL].