This Style Guide For Disabled Folks Is Incredible & So Is The Plus Size Model Who Put It Together
UK-based brand Yours Clothing has made another push to embrace its diverse customers, teaming up with disabled plus size model Katie Knowles to put together a comprehensive style guide for disabled folks. The guide follows on the heels of the retailer's collab with plus size transgender model Shay Neary; Neary also produced a style guide for the brand that catered to trans shoppers.
A Yours Clothing rep told Bustle the brand reached out to Knowles, who is an ambassador for Models of Diversity, after receiving multiple requests from disabled customers who lamented the lack of useful style advice for folks in their community.
Knowles has spinal stenosis, DDD (disc degenerative disease), hypermobility and failed spinal fusion, which resulted in severe nerve damage to one of her legs. In the photoshoot accompanying her style guide, the crutches she relies on every day are featured prominently, and part of her style guide offers suggestions for other folks who use crutches, such as, "Short sleeve tops and tighter fitting tops ensure nothing catches on the crutch handle and prevents you toppling over!"
Knowles' bits of advice are paired with corresponding clothes available from Yours Clothing, like wide, flat shoes (ideal for those with crutches, Knowles says), maxi dresses (great for those who have leg prosthetics), and zip-front blouses (helpful for wheelchair-users).
Knowles tells Bustle she was stunned when Yours Clothing approached her with an offer to collab. "I cried when I got off the phone," she says. "No brand has done something like this before that I've seen. Actually taken the time to speak to a disabled model and ask what clothes are good for different disabilities."
To make sure her guide also covered disabilities she doesn't have, she reached to disabled friends. And it turned out finding adaptive items on Yours Clothing's shelves wasn't difficult. Knowles says that of what makes Yours Clothing ideal for a collab like this — and part of the reason the brand has so many disabled customers — is due to the inclusivity of its clothes.
"Yours has clothing styles and trends...which are fab for people with disabilities, such as longer tops, which are perfect for wheelchair-users, or the option of wider shoes, which I love as part of my condition is my joints and feet swelling up," she explains.
Knowles also mentions the difficulty of finding clothes as a disabled person increases exponentially because she's plus size, too. "Something like this campaign is so important," she says. "You thought it was bad finding clothes as a plus size woman? Imagine being a plus size woman with disabilities that might restrict what you can wear or physically manage to get on."
Yours Clothing produces a wide range of clothing fitted for plus size bodies, available in sizes up to 30 U.S. Shay Neary also praised Yours Clothing's size range when she created her style guide, saying the fit of many of their clothes is ideal for trans folks, especially those who transition from male to female.
This widespread inclusiveness is not happenstance, says Rosie Middleton, brand communications executive at Yours Clothing. "Yours Clothing is absolutely flying the flag for inclusivity, and we are trying to offer an individualistic approach to our customers," she says. "Our audience is very different to that of a typical clothing brand, as we do not have a specific customer profile."
Middleton says if the brand needs to do more campaigns like this and Neary's to build a closer bond with its diverse customer base, it will "of course do so."
Knowles' closing advice for plus size disabled folks is simple yet powerful: "Know your shape. Find what suits you best and try different colors for a good mood-boosting effect," she says. "I honestly want to say wear what the hell you like, it's your body and Yours has options for every body. It took me time to find my shape because my confidence was low, but do it slowly start from the top. Try different style tops and go from there."
And going from there will be easy with her style guide paving the way. Check out the full guide and shop Knowles' recommendations on Yours Clothing's website.