I’ve not always had an interest in fashion, up until I was about 14 years old I would be quite happy in a hoodie and jeans, not really minding if they matched or if colours clashed. I don’t think there was any particular reason for this, I guess shopping and following the trends wasn’t really my thing, not at that time anyway.
But as I started watching fashion related videos on YouTube and as I grew to wanting to make a bit more effort with the way I looked and what my style choices were, I found myself popping to the shops once every couple of weeks to see what was new in. Granted, I still wasn’t very interested in the latest trends but I found myself spending a lot of my pennies there and my wardrobe was slowly building up with things that were slightly more girly and ‘fashionable’.
But of course, shopping, choosing outfits and generally following the latest fashions is slightly more difficult for me as a visually impaired person. People seem to have quite a few questions about the topic of how fashion can be something I love if I can’t see what I’m wearing or what outfit I pick out of my ever-growing wardrobe.
So as one of the goals I’ve set myself in the last few weeks is to create more fashion content for my blog this year, I decided that a good starting point would be to write a post all about how I make fashion and style accessible for me as a blind/VI person.
I think many people consider fashion to be a visual concept, something you can only appreciate if you can see but that’s not necessarily the truth. In my opinion, fashion is something we can all appreciate, whether you’re fully sighted or living with a vision impairment. I believe that fashion is a form of expression and I don’t think it needs to be seen in order for people to do this. We can still have a relationship with fashion and style even if we can’t see so this post is all about how I make fashion accessible to me.
I am an avid online shopper, I find it’s the easiest way for me to shop independently. I have little remaining vision but I try to use it to my advantage as often as I possibly can so when I’m scrolling through websites such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge and ASOS, which are the main retailers I buy from nowadays, I use my remaining vision to look at the items of clothing they have on there by using the zoom feature on my laptop. This doesn’t allow me to see the items clearly in any way but it gives me more of an idea of what is available.
I find that the descriptions of clothing are getting better these days and as a blind/VI person this is so helpful. As my vision deteriorates, the zoom feature isn’t as useful to me as it was so having a good description on an item online is really valuable to me. If there isn’t a good description and if I can’t paint a picture of what an item might look like then I’ll most often than not scroll past it.
As many blind/VI people will tell you, not all websites are accessible, especially when using a screen reader. This can prove to make online shopping quite difficult at times and it can make the whole process quite frustrating. I’ve clicked off a number of sites before today because of the lack of accessibility but I’ve found that the online shops of the retailers I’m loyal to these days are quite good in terms of accessibility and I can navigate them without too much trouble.
When it comes to going to the shops in person, I will always take someone who knows my style well along with me. That person is normally my mum or my nan as they are the ones who know me and my style inside out. They will pick out an item for me and will let me know how it looks and if it suits me when I try it on. I know that I can always trust their opinion and that’s the most important thing for me when buying new items for my wardrobe. I can normally say if I like an item by their descriptions but also by the texture and material of the item, I think I take more interest in these things due to the fact that I can’t see what they look like.
Picking out an outfit
Many people often ask the question of how can I pick out an outfit if I can’t see what the items are and how they look like. Well, as I mentioned before, I give much more attention to the texture of a piece of clothing and how it feels so I can normally recognise an item by touch.
I do have some remaining vision so I can see colours to some extent and this allows me to recognise some items in my wardrobe but as I said, I normally go by touch.
I can differentiate between colours if they’re not too similar so I find that I can normally say if one colour goes with another or not, but I must admit that I’m not very adventurous with the colours I wear so when I do wear a coloured top then I know that a pair of black jeans is a pretty safe bet as something to wear with it.
I used to organise my wardrobe so that all my jumpers were together, dresses were together etc but staying that organised proved to be much more difficult than it sounds so it’s not something I do anymore. However, I do think that it’s a good technique of finding the items you want quicker.
I am normally quite confident in knowing if my outfit looks presentable or not but I will often ask for a second opinion just to make sure. My mum is good at telling me if something looks right or not but if I want yet another opinion then I’ll ask my brother who will normally just say “Yeah, looks fine.” Typical guy. I always feel better after getting that opinion though and I know he would say if something didn’t look right.
Following the trends
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I started watching more YouTube videos when I was about 14 years old and with this came the discovery of fashion bloggers. Clothing hauls are some of my favourite videos to watch and although I can’t always see the items that are shown, I love hearing what the YouTuber thinks of the item, what their descriptions are of it etc. I find that the world of YouTube and blogging is where I learn the most about the latest trends, what the colours of the seasons are etc. It’s how I enjoy learning about fashion and I don’t let the fact that I’m visually impaired stop me from watching the fashion related videos and reading the style related blog posts.
I try to use technology to my advantage as much as I possibly can. I use my screen reader to read through the posts of my favourite fashion bloggers and when my eyes aren’t suffering from too much strain, I will zoom in on photos in order to have an idea of how a certain piece of clothing is being styled or how it looks. Sadly, this isn’t something that works as well for me anymore but I can still explore fashion and styles and express them in my own way.
I wouldn’t say I am one for keeping up with the latest trends, as much as I love reading and learning about them, I wouldn’t go out and buy them just because they are the latest hype on the high street. If a particular trend appeals to me then I might follow it but I much prefer to buy items that compliment me and my style in the best possible way.
What I’m wearing:
Jumper – Miss Selfridge
Bag – J by Jasper Conran
I believe that fashion can be made accessible to anyone, disability or not. No one should be deprived from the opportunity to express themselves through sense of style.
I would love to know what you think of the accessibility of fashion. Do you decide to express yourself through what you wear or do you prefer to do so in another way? I’m really interested to know if any of you who are also blind/VI love fashion and if so, how do you go about making it accessible to you?