The Power of Adaptive Clothing

Many people don’t even realize how much clothing affects our everyday life. From the first sock you put on in the morning to your pajamas at night, it all affects our brain. Not everyone is as interested in clothing and fashion as others (or me), but I’m willing to bet that everyone in this class has at least one pair of jeans or one T-shirt that when they put on, they feel more confident and happy about themselves. The reason I am so into clothing is just that. Watching other people get joy from getting a new piece of clothing or pair of shoes actually warms my heart. Mindy Scheier, a fashion design expert who now has her own clothing company spoke on a Ted Talk that my Mother sent me the link to. The video is Mindy telling the tear jerking story of her young son and her experiences with trying to make a difference in the fashion industry and for people with disabilities.

Fashion Designer Mindy Scheier sharing an amazing story on the psychology of fashion.

Mindy Scheier has three kids and is married. She has been working in the fashion industry years and was already a fashion design expert after attending fashion design school. A personal connection I share with Mindy is that before she goes to bed every night she catches herself thinking about what she’s going to wear the next day. I laughed out loud in the library when I heard this because it reminded me so much of myself. Her middle child, Oliver, was born with muscular dystrophy which if you aren’t aware of, is a disease that affects your pulmonary system and your physical strength. As a young toddler, Oliver had to eat food out of an eating tube. He also wasn’t able to get up in the morning and dress himself. He already had a rough and isolated life to begin with. His mom and him decided the best thing for him to do was wear sweatpants to school because he wasn’t able to work zippers and buttons. 

One day in 3rd grade Oliver came home from school and told his mom he wanted to wear jeans to school the next day like everyone else in his class. Mindy explained how hard that hit her. This is when she realized her kid had a love for fashion just like she did. After that she started designing adaptive clothing which is defined as clothing designed for people with disabilities, elderly, or anyone necessarily struggling. She did this because she knew that the jeans would make her son feel alive, feel like him again, and have that self esteem to be able to put something on and be happy about it. Mindy saw the negative effects the isolation of simple clothing for the disabled and wanted to make a change. Adaptive clothing had already existed prior to this, however, since it wasn’t stylish it wasn’t making the people who already felt isolated and targeted, confident about the way they looked.

Scientists actually created a name for this. ‘Enclothed Cognition’ is the co-occurrence of two factors: the physical experience while wearing the clothing, and the symbolic meaning of the clothes directly affect how you feel about yourself through your brain. Mindy started talking about how there is a professor from the UK named Karen J. Pine who wrote and published a book on the psychology of fashion. A specific thing that Mindy shared with us during the video was that Karen J. Pine wrote that when you put on clothes you adapt the characteristics of that piece of clothing. Which goes back to Oliver, this is why he was feeling so isolated, because when he got up every morning to only be able to put on the same sweatpants he was mentally damaged already. With around 1 billion people in the world suffering from a disability, Mindy Scheier created Runway of Dreams which is Mindy’s  fashion brand that collaborates with other high fashion brands to make high quality and stylish, adaptive clothing. Mindy managed to be the first designer ever to create a mainstream adaptive clothing collection. I am super inspired by Mindy and loved sharing this.

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