More than just fashion: Styleability session held to raise self-esteem and promote social inclusion for disabled adults and young people

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Local disabled adults and young people got a crash course in the latest fashions and how to adapt clothing to suit their needs last week at a special ‘Styleability’ session held at Freedom Day Centre in Evesham, which supports adults with learning disabilities.

The session, which was sponsored by The Valley Evesham, was attended by regular attendees at the centre and young people from Vale of Evesham School, a local special school.

With the help of a professional stylist, those taking part in the session learned how to make simple adjustments to the latest on-trend clothing – such as replacing fiddly buttons with velcro so those with fine motor skill difficulties can dress themselves. They also had the opportunity to explore what sorts of styles of clothing would make them feel good about themselves, and how they can use fashion to boost their confidence.

With only 6% of adults with a learning disability in paid employment, despite over 60% being able and willing to work the session also importantly gave the participants a boost in confidence and self-esteem when preparing for interviews. They were guided through how to choose and adapt clothing suitable for interviews and work.

Tracey Hemming, Freedom Day Centre Manager, commented: “We absolutely loved hosting the Styleability session. We all know that when you look good, you feel better about yourself but often people assume that fashion isn’t something disabled people are interested in. They definitely are! So initiatives like this, which also help disabled people find ways to adapt clothing to their needs are so important.

“There were some great moments in the session and the confidence boost that good clothing can give was immediately apparent. One lady who is normally painfully shy not only dressed up but also danced unprompted in front of an audience. And one child, who struggles with her motor skills, was so amazed by how easy putting on a shirt with Velcro fastenings was that not only did she want to try it one there and then, she didn’t want to take it off.

“All those who attended got so much out of the sessions and what’s more, had a great time too!”

Paul James, Centre Manager at The Valley added: “This is such a worthwhile project. Participants always leave not only with a better understanding of the sort of clothing that makes them feel good, but also with an understanding of how clothes can be adapted to suit their particular needs. This isn’t just about clothing, it helps with everything from self-esteem to social inclusion, so we’re delighted that we could support Styleability in making this session happen.”

phil maclean