Dressing for the Dream (Part 1)


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

You know how they say that women plan their weddings (and particularly the perfect wedding dress) from the time they were little girls?  I am not one of those women.  In fact, as soon as I got engaged, anxiety about the dress began creeping in.  My mind flashed back to the last time I was a bridesmaid.  The wedding was out of state so we had to send our measurements to the bridal shop via phone.  When I gave my measurements to the seamstress, she gasped and told me the measurements couldn’t possibly be correct as they were so disproportional.  I tried explaining that I was in a wheelchair but she still just couldn’t believe it.  I was humiliated and shamed.

People told me to start looking for ideas online.  This confused me even more.  All of the dresses looked fabulous on the models who were standing, but how would they look on me?  I waited as long as I possibly could, and resigned myself to the fact that I would probably end up wearing something non-traditional, loose-fitting, and frumpy.  My friends eventually convinced me to look at a bridal shop, and from there I learned several important lessons about making the dress work with my assistive technology (in this case, my powerchair).  If you’re a bride-to-be, preparing for prom, or just dreaming I hope these tips will be helpful.

1. Make an Appointment and Ask Questions

I found that making an appointment at the bridal store was critical.  I knew I would need extra time, and wanted them to be aware of the fact that I was in a wheelchair ahead of time.  I asked if their shop was accessible, had larger changing rooms, and if they had someone who had worked with brides in wheelchairs before.  When I arrived everything had been pre-arranged.  They ensured that aisles were wide enough, that the larger changing room was available, and my consultant seemed to have a few ideas ready ahead of time.  I also brought along several friends, both with disabilities and without, both to help with dressing and to help me think through any issues with the wheelchair.  It was also great to have support from people I knew would be honest, but also loved me for who I was.

2.  If You Have AT that Would Allow You to Stand – Bring It!

Even though I’m not using my walker in the wedding, I really wish I had brought it just to help get the dress on and fitted properly.  When I went in for alterations, suddenly the undergarments that fit before were not fitting!  I panicked and was sure that I gained 20 pounds in three weeks.   In reality, the clothing just wasn’t pulled down properly…something difficult when you’re sitting.  Once I stood with the help of a friend and got everything situated, things fit perfectly.

3. Alterations Can Work Magic

I was surprised at the creative ideas the tailor came up with to add comfort to the dress and ensure it would work with my powerchair.  For example, because I’m sitting and have supports at my sides, the top of the dress rode up a bit and caused irritation at the neckline and armpits.  He told me that reshaping the neckline and armholes was an easy way to deal with this problem.  In addition, in order to keep the dress from getting caught in my wheels, he is adding buttons and loops (similar to a bustle) behind my legs to pull the sides inward a bit.  That brings me to another point – comfort.  Do you really want to be sitting on a dress with tons of beading on the bottom?  Is it practical for the back to have 100 hook and eye enclosures?  How do you plan to use the bathroom?  Are your feet and legs spastic?  Will those amazing shoes cause welts by the end of the night?  Personally, I’m opting for some bedazzled canvas shoes (no one will be seeing much of my feet anyway).

4. Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize!

Like everyone, I have areas of my body that I’m uncomfortable with, (in my case, it’s the mid-section) and I was worried that sitting would only accentuate this.  I was able to address this simply by adding a sash around this area.  The color really makes the dress “pop” and it has become my favorite part of the dress.  Jewelry and other accessories can also add to the look and draw attention to different areas of the body.  There are some great jewelry aids available to help with donning these important pieces of flair.  Extenders, magnetic clasps, and clip on adapters can make this process much easier as well.

5.  And Finally…..

If you’ve read this far, you probably want to see the dress, right?  Hey fiancee, if you’re reading this….stop now!  

Grooms – I haven’t forgotten you…stay turned for more blog posts about clothing and other ways that assistive technology is influencing my wedding adventure!


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