With one photo, clothing company ModCloth has done a significant amount to push for more inclusive representation in fashion. On Sunday, the company posted a photo to Instagram of a “real girl” model wearing its Hell Bunny Sculpture Garden Gala Midi Dress. The reason for the cheers? The model, Sally Leadbeater — of the blog Wheeling Along 24 — is in a wheelchair.
Leadbeater posted the photo to her own Instagram feed last week, describing why the dress works so well for her. “It’s a great one for wheelchair users who want a petticoat but don’t want the inconvenience of a cloud of tulle because it gives a touch of fullness to a skirt/dress but it doesn’t get in the way or get caught in mechanisms,” she wrote.
I can’t believe I didn’t post this picture yet, it’s my favourite one from the last blog post. It’s just so soft & pretty. Plus it shows of the zoey petticoat by @malcomodes which is my new favourite petticoat for narrower skirts. It’s a great one for wheelchair users who want a petticoat but don’t want the inconvenience of a cloud of tulle because it gives a touch of fullness to a skirt/dress but it doesn’t get in the way or get caught in mechanisms. It’s going to be hard posting a new blog post on Friday, I’m going to miss this one being the post I’m sharing…. The next post is pretty good too though. Plus I’m totally running out of photos from this post lol. . . . [image description: Sally (plus size wheelchair user with a dark brown pixie cut & glasses) sits in the middle of an area of yellowed grasses & heather. There are rowan bushes & fading clouds of soft purple smoke in the background. She is holding her skirt in her hands & the lace of her petticoat is showing.)
A post shared by Sally ♿️ (@wheelingalong24) on Sep 25, 2017 at 11:03pm PDT
Leadbetter, who has myalgic encephalomyelitis, started her blog after she discovered the lack of fashion inspiration out there for people in wheelchairs. “When I realised I was going to be using the wheelchair for a while I started looking for wheelchair fashion look-books & inspiration, anything. I found basically nothing,” she writes. Now, she posts clothing reviews and fashion photoshoots, all from her perspective as a wheelchair user. Leadbetter tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she wasn’t confident about her blogging skills at first, but “over the years I got better & I always figured something was better than nothing. Plus I’m really ill & mostly housebound. If I didn’t blog about fashion I’d have no excuse to buy nice clothes & go out to pretty places.”
She chose the ModCloth dress for a fall style photoshoot at the U.K.’s Brimham Rocks. “I’m pretty sure I have peaked. Literally these are the best photos I will ever have, I should just retire now,” she wrote of the pictures. The colorful imagery behind her is courtesy of a smoke bomb — which, she explains, was the result of “a WHOLE lot of research.” She included the hashtag #modcloth, and the rest is history.
Autumn, how I love thee. Let me bask in your fall magic. @wheelingalong24 is enjoying fall in our Hell Bunny Sculpture Garden Gala Midi Dress. Share your looks using #mymodcloth for a chance to be featured! // Love this look? Shop via link in bio.
A post shared by ModCloth (@modcloth) on Oct 1, 2017 at 4:32pm PDT
ModCloth fans are writing in with kind words for Sally — and about how great she looks in the vintage clothing-inspired dress. “@wheelingalong24 the dress looks AMAZING on you. What a gorgeous photo. Makes me want to buy the dress too!” wrote one commenter. “Gorgeous dress, figure and gal!” agreed another. One commenter remarked on all the support and kindness in the comments about the photo: “This is the first time I’ve loved a comments section.”
ModCloth has been working towards inclusiveness for years, and it’s refreshing to see that the brand’s recent acquisition by Walmart hasn’t changed its ethos. In 2015, the site dropped the word “plus-size,” replacing it with “Extended Size.” As Racked reports, the brand also signed a pledge to stop retouching, and uses real people — from shoppers to employees — as models. For Leadbetter, the response says something crucial about the fashion industry: “I think the response is indicative of how little representation there is of disabled people in media and how much of a mistake that is.”
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