Representation matters, and it matters everywhere — including in fashion. Unfortunately, for people with disabilities, the fashion industry often fails to be welcoming. From a lack of disabled models on runways and in print to non-adaptive clothing styles, there's serious work to be done. Fashion blogger Elsie Tellier, however, is using her platform to call for more inclusivity in the industry — and it's all thanks to one viral tweet and a seriously killer wheelchair.
This month, Tellier took to her Twitter account to let people know that she is actually an ambulatory user of a chair, and showed off her custom set of wheels. Tellier is not paralyzed, but due to other conditions like cystic fibrosis, it's often difficult for her to walk so she uses a chair. In the tweet, she explains that she takes photos in her chair because she used to feel "ugly" while in it.
Now, she's showing people that you can be fashionable while in a wheelchair, and even use that chair as a fashion accessory.
"Disabled people are the world’s largest minority but have the least representation," Tellier said in a recent interview with Teen Vogue. "I have always found that by dressing in a fun way that makes me feel great, people have the opportunity to strike up conversations on the street about what I’m wearing and my style."
Her chair is clearly an example of a conversation piece. Not only is it bright pink, but Tellier has both wheels custom painted. One features a stunning selection of roses and ribbon while the other side is a gorgeous blue and purple galaxy scene. To say it's badass is an understatement.
While Tellier's tweet about her chair did go viral, her platform is actually much larger. The Harvard University student shares her experiences with fashion and disability through each of her social media channels and speaks to others about embracing their disability through fashion.
Her YouTube channel features videos on tips for how to wear clothing that can be made adaptable for those with chronic illnesses. She details things like the usefulness of backpacks and how to make them fashionable, what she does to "jazz up" her canula, and how to hide bloating (a common issues for those with the same chronic illnesses as Tellier).
Tellier is using this platform to make fashion more accessible to those with disabilities, and she's also speaking to a larger culture of seeing disabled people as others.
"We should be seen as beautiful without our illness or disability serving as a caveat to our beauty, and I try to use fashion as a way to break down the barrier that illness and disability creates," she says in a YouTube video.
This, however, doesn't mean that Tellier is trying to conform to non-disabled beauty standards. It's quite the opposite. She's making fashions suit her instead of trying to change her body to suit them.
Unfortunately, adaptable fashions aren't exactly accessible. Major brands often make clothes for marginalize plus bodies but fail to do the same for those with disabilities. While retailer Target is making adaptive clothing with their Cat & Jack line, the items are exclusively made for children and no such pieces exist for adults with disabilities.
It's not even just Tellier's push for inclusive fashion for disabled and chronically ill people that makes her so cool. It's her expressions of self-love. As she explains in her video about fashions for the chronically ill, disabled people are often looked at as less than non-disabled people, and it's a stance that Tellier strongly rejects.
Through her fashion, Tellier is using style as a tool for activism. She's starting conversations, speaking out for more inclusive, adaptable fashions, and sparking conversation about visibility for disabled bodies. Tellier is a fashion blogger, but she's also an activist.
Fashion is political, and Tellier is proof of how it can be used for change.