You Should Be Reading: Fashioning The Disabled

 Aimee Mullins in Alexander McQueen

For this week’s post, Worn Through would like to highlight recent scholarship that explores fashion and disability from two perspectives: 1. As a high fashion muse; 2. A means of maintaining normalcy and dignity. Enjoy!

1. Vainshtein, Olga. “I Have a Suitcase Just Full of Legs Because I Need Options for Different Clothing:” Accessorizing Bodyscapes.”  Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, Volume 16, Number 2, June 2012 , pp. 139-170.

How can we conceptualize the moveable margins and extended bodyscapes formed by body parts, accessories, and dress? What is the function of accessories in structuring corporeal interspaces? How does fashion negotiate issues around disability? How do we address the missing limbs and prosthetic devices? Drawing on methodologies from fashion studies, body studies, the history of emotions, and visual studies, this article aims to examine these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, analyzing the new trend of “prosthetics with aesthetics,” experimental jewelry, and fashion shows featuring models with disabilities. The article argues that fashion as cultural production successfully generates new visual languages, breaking the barriers of invisibility traditionally associated with disabled bodies and contributing to human well-being. The main case study is about the American actress, model, and athlete Aimee Mullins, who had both legs amputated below the knee in childhood. -Article Abstract

2. Hammer, Gili. “Blind Women’s Appearance Management: Negotiating Normalcy between Discipline and Pleasure.” Gender & Society, June 2012, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 406-432.

This article examines the contradictions inherent in blind women’s appearance management. Based on an anthropological analysis of interviews with 40 blind women in Israel, the article argues that while serving as a valuable tool within stigma management, appearance management operates simultaneously as a site of rigorous discipline of the body in an effort to comply with feminine visual norms, and as a vehicle for the expression and reception of sensory pleasure. It argues for the significant role of blind women’s appearance in negotiating normalcy and rejecting the normative, stigmatizing script written for them as disabled-blind-women. By studying the role of appearance in the lives of women who do not rely on sight as a central mode of perception, the article addresses the complicated position of blind women in visual culture and challenges the traditional ocular focus of the study of feminine identity and gender performance. -Article Abstract

3.  Iltanen-Tähkävuori, Sonja. “Design and Dementia: A case of Garments Designed to Prevent Undressing.” Dementia, January 2012, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 49-59.

This article focuses on garments used in care environments. We investigate a patient overall, developed for the care of people with severe memory problems, severe learning difficulties and brain injuries. The aim of the use of a patient overall is to prevent undressing in socially inappropriate situations and/or to stop the user from removing an incontinence pad. This article is based on interviews of designers of medical textiles and patients and family carers in Finland. Both designers and patients found patient overalls to be infantilizing and stigmatizing for the user but accepted the basic functions of the product. We report results of a design project aimed at designing a new type of garment that takes into account the technical requirements but provides a more dignified look and opportunities for activity. We discuss the ethical issues concerning the use of this kind of product in the care of people with dementia. -Article Abstract

Image Credit: Original Photography by Nick Knight for Dazed and Confused Magazine, image via karenblackerby.wordpress.com


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