Nermin Hassan on Wheelchairs and the Wedding Dress

Nermin Hassan

Nermin Hassan

Nermin Hassan on Wheelchairs and the Wedding Dress

Nermin Hassan on Wheelchairs and the Wedding Dress

She couldn
She couldn't believe it; he'd finally got down on his knee! Oh what a feeling! The huge rock he put on her finger was reflecting their futures together whenever she gazed at it.
A lot of women will agree on how wedding preparation is one of the most exciting yet tiring events in a female's lifetime.

But for wheelchair brides, this is excruciatingly much more exhausting, especially when having to choose that dazzling wedding dress.
Electric wheelchair user
Electric wheelchair user
As a new wheelchair user due to a deteriorating muscle condition called Muscular Dystrophy, I had never considered that choosing clothing one day would be an issue for me and other wheelchair users.

There are many important questions to think about.

The main examples being:

“How will the wedding dress accompany the bride's wheelchair and not get in the way of movement by getting caught in the wheels?”

And just as importantly:

“How comfortable and complimenting will the dress be for the disabled bride as she sits in her chair for hours?”

Wheelchair user Julie McMillian from the US opens up about how difficult it was to find a suitable wedding dress for someone who is always sitting down due to Muscular Dystrophy.
Julie McMillian trying on various wedding dresses to find her match.
Julie McMillian trying on various wedding dresses to find her match.
“I don't think people associate marriage with people with disabilities” she says.

I think that most people around the world do not associate disabled people with even dating let alone getting married!

Hence, why TV documentaries such as Channel 4's criticised “The Undateables” have been aired.

Some may argue that the “Un” part of the word “Undateables” falling off in the introduction depicts that the show “is not offensive”, but the jokey feel of the circus-themed music used for the entire documentary says otherwise.

Dr Rachael Pickering states that she feels “disturbed at being part of a society that might seek to view disabled people as a source of comedy.

It all seems like fun and games to those who find a disabled person's life humorously entertaining but aren't actually going through a disability themselves.

I'm pleased to say however, that not all people see the disabled community as a laughing stock and instead, are trying to help.

Fashion brands such as the American “Open Style Lab” and “Tommy Hilfiger” are now designing comfortable casual clothing specially for wheelchair users.
Yuchen Zhang designing wheelchair suited clothing for "Open Style Lab"
Yuchen Zhang designing wheelchair suited clothing for "Open Style Lab"
Courtesy Tommy Hilfiger
Courtesy Tommy Hilfiger
Unfortunately, up to date, there are absolutely no existing editorial shoots of wheelchair-suited wedding gowns in either Britain or America.

If it isn't something that's advertised in popular bridal magazines such as “Brides”, “Perfect Wedding” and “Wedding Ideas”, then the public won't even consider believing such dresses exist -or even wheelchair brides.

So how would a woman in a wheelchair understand what kind of wedding dress she needs if she's always presented with tall, able-bodied models that only present the dress whilst standing?

It makes a disabled woman question and think:

“Are disabled women not seen worthy of getting married?”

And other thoughts such as,

“Is being in a wheelchair such a disgusting and taboo image that it would only bring down the quality of the dress if presented in a shiny and glamorous editorial shoot?”

British fashion blogger and wheelchair user Clara Holmes says,

“My whole outfit was bought online. Definitely we need to be represented on there. Why can't you have a wheelchair user?”

Amputee model Kelly Knox interviews Fashion stylist Caroline Baxter about why this lack of disability presentation may be.
Amputee model Kelly Knox
Amputee model Kelly Knox
Baxter answers that it would “throw up questions for the reader on who the disabled person was and stop it being about fashion.””

Knox replies, “why would it become a disability story? Disabled people are human too.”

And indeed we exist. It should not have to be like this.

If fashion brands like ASOS have started showing a diverse race of models representing the categories: short, tall, petite and plus-size, would it really be so difficult to add a wheelchair category?

There are many undiscovered people sharing the same values as one another but feeling alone and abnormal as they have never seen someone they can relate to their selves in the media.

Unfortunately placing a well known able-bodied model in a wheelchair such as Kylie Jenner doesn't count.
Kylie Jenner strikes a pose for Steven Klein for Interview magazine
Kylie Jenner strikes a pose for Steven Klein for Interview magazine
Steven Klein's controversial photo shoot of Jenner for “Interview” magazine back in 2015, had upset a lot of disabled people who don't appreciate their only mean of transport which they solely rely on for mobilizing, being used as a prop by somebody who is capable of getting up from the chair after the shoot ends to hit the gym.

I do admit that a small part of me was happy to even see a wheelchair be featured in a popular magazine and Jenner had at least managed to show that being in a wheelchair is also sexy.

Although, she does have her leg lifted in the air in one photo and obviously, if the pose looks like gymnastics are being done on the wheelchair then we are going to get offended.

Kudos to Fashion Designer Derek Lam, whose fashion show consisted of only genuine disabled models.
Disabled model for Derek Lam
Disabled model for Derek Lam's fashion show runway
Disabled model for Derek Lam
Disabled model for Derek Lam's fashion show runway
This is a huge eye opener for the public.

If this didn't take place then how else was the disabled way of living going to be heard of?

Well unless we inherited fame from celebrity parents like some existing models have had the privilege of doing so out there… Somebody would have had to tell Angelina Jolie to adopt me fast.