Well hello

Welcome to the blog of me, Paige Tabone; student, writer, nerd, self-critic, telly-addict and self-confessed Cerebral Palsy-er (or wobbly if you will). It is the latter that has brought me to blogging. Ramming my way through the bullshit stereotypes that surround disability, showing the undiluted truth of someone twenty-two years into living on the often bumpy and unpredictable road against what's seen as 'normal'.

I'm aware you might have just got lost trying to navigate yourself to a hilarious cat video; now you are looking bewildered as you see nether a ominous looking jump or an unwittingly naive cat. Yet whether you find yourself here by purpose, mistake or luck I welcome you and offer you to get yourself comfortable, grab a nice cup of tea or a strong, stiff drink and stay for a bit. You see this isn't a story about some poor, unfortunate girl with a disability; it's simply a story about a girl with a set of tits, a set of tires and a mission to set the disability misconceptions record straight...

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Unrealized Struggles of a Disabled Fashionista

Tomorrow marks my first tentative steps into the world of fashion. I'd be the first to admit that fashion and me have never strictly been best friends. I was that kid at school who rocked a bright pink t-shirt with a bejewelled cat sparkling proudly from my chest and velour tracksuit bottoms; which were obviously purple and clashed hideously. With my pimpled forehead and home bowl cut hair I looked like a bad 'Kevin and Perry' extra. Nevertheless, 12 years down a questionable fashion road I find myself about to begin a placement at Diesel's headquarters. I know, I'm not sure exactly how it happened either. It's not just my complete lack of fashion sense that hinders me; I should add I have got noticeably better than my velour stint of the 90's, just in case any potential employers stumble their way upon this post. We've all had that uncontrollable panic of 'what on Earth am I going to wear?' Be it because you have an important function to look presentable for, a job interview to smash or you just want to look damn hot; finding the right clothes to wear can be a bonafide nightmare. Then imagine your encased a gargantuan metal wheelchair you need to consider or have one arm shorter than the other to take into account and the challenge of finding that perfect outfit shoots into the stratosphere. People come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of disability, but with a fashion industry who, on the whole, don't seem to acknowledge that, still the mission of conquering the murky world of fashion persists. Many times have I seen a dress and imagined myself in it, only to be hit by the sobering reality that I don't look like Cara Delevingne, as the advert may suggest, but my resemblance is more that of a compressed bag of potatoes. I know this problem is greater acknowledged than just in the disabled community but, being one such member, I've noticed that it presents its very own unique clothing challenges.

We are always told to ‘dress for our shape’, but what if 'your shape' doesn't fall into the conventional categories of ‘Pear’, ‘Apple’, ‘Top Heavy’ or ‘Hourglass’? Some of us have more, um, unconventional body shapes. Frankly if you don't have a wonky body part, a disproportionate extremity, no extremities at all, or even the smallest misdirected finger I'd question to your commitment to this whole 'disabled thing'. It's just a fact of disabled life, on a whole, we are a bit wonky and I speak from experience. Then some of us have the issue of sitting down which completely changes your body shape. You could be a sultry hourglass but sit down and you turn into more of a broken pocket watch; bits a pieces popping out from all directions (I'm not sure that metaphor actually works but I'm going with it so forgive me).  Not all of us have legs that lay seductively at the end of our pelvis and sit perfectly straight ready to hold clothes in the correct, streamline position. Let me assure you, 'straight' is not a physical possibility when you have CP, you lucky if at least one part of your body is in the correct position. Some of us have wonky legs, or no legs at all. The effect? Those perfectly sculpting  jeans you saw on the mannequin end up looking like you stuffed them with Kerplunk sticks or you end up having an abundance of material flapping around like you've suddenly grown a pair of denim flippers. It's not cool and it's certainly not sexy. I've said before that regardless of disability we all want to be sexy. That can be really hard to achieve however when you only have a clothing options of 'Gap Kids' or you have to buy clothes seven times bigger than you actually are to negotiate your unforgivably wonky body.

Then sometimes you come with little, extras. A catheter, a gastrostomy, a stoma, a tracheostomy or the ultimate sex appeal of a brace. On the note of body braces I know a lot of people are not a fan of them; they can be bulky and uncomfortable, I had leg braces as a child so I feel your pain. That said nowadays they are like a fashion statement in their own right. If German model Nadja Auermann can rock a leg brace on the catwalk like this...

and Jessie J can bring some style to a leg cast on stage like this...

then other braces can be just as damn well sexy. However, these little additions often require some inventive clothing techniques. I am not able to speak from personal experience, but with many friends who can I know there is nothing more undignified than having to hike your dress above your head in order to access a gastrostomy peg, or be conscious of having an unsightly bulge under your body-con dress because of a stoma. You know what? I say fuck it. Some people have unsightly bulges under their dresses and that's part of their actual flesh. Not to mention I've ended up with my dress around my neck on several nights out and I have no excuse apart from too many unforgiving J├Ągerbombs! Short of cutting a hole in your favourite dress or wearing a shapeless tent these are struggles that seem unavoidable. Fashion just doesn't cater for the masses.

It’s not just about looking good when it comes to the clothes you wear, when you have a disability it comes down to accessibility... not like that, I'll have none of that filth here please; what I mean is practicality. As lovely as an item of clothing may be, it’s got to work around your unconventional way of doing things. There is no use having a killer dress or the newest pair of jeans if you can't do everyday tasks in them. Peeing for example, the biggest negotiator when it comes to clothing selections. A year or so ago playsuits were really in fashion. Now, I want to be at the high of fashion like any other twenty-two year old, but have you ever tried going to the toilet in a playsuit when you have limited movement and hand function? You have to almost pre-empt needing to wee. You end up needing a good half an hour window to tackle the endless stream of buttons or poppers that a playsuit presents. If not you risk getting into one bundled, tangled, material mess while doing that awkward 'I need a wee dance'. They seriously need a wee flap, am I the only one who thinks this? Sometimes though clothing can literally be a physical hindrance. A long sleeved top which one person might take for granted as being a simple piece of clothing on someone with a limb deformity can actually stop them using their arm effectively. The wrong clothes can effectively make you more disabled!

What’s the alternative though, share your five-year-old sister’s wardrobe? Or wear lose fitting, out of dates clothes that your Nan wouldn't be seen dead in? According to some people yes. Disabled people don't have the right to feel good and be sexy, didn't you know? I'm so sick of society’s warped view of what is acceptable; so according to me that's bollocks. Why should we dress like we’ve just been let out of a fashion torture house because there seems to be a distinct lack of ability to cater for all shapes and sizes? I don't just mean whether you’re a size 2 or 22, I mean whether you have one limb missing or two, whether you have curve in your spine or a novel bend to your pelvis, whether your legs point in one direction or five, we all have a right to wear nice clothes and feeling fucking fantastic in them. Yet it comes down to more than the clothes, it comes down to the unrealistic view of beauty. Being a bit physically asymmetrical is not accepted as beautiful, and apparently, according to social conventions, clothes don’t look good on anything other than perceived beauty. I'll tell you what though, my legs may be wobbly but I can rock the LBD as good as the rest of you and with some sizable assets you can be damn sure I'll make a low cut wrap dress look hot. So reconsider your idea of beauty world because you've got a whole lot of unconventional coming your way and we are making sure we are dressed to impress.

With that in mind I better decide on what to wear for my first day at a placement; garish bejewelled animals and shiny synthetic materials firmly off the list of course.