Pimp my Ride: The Outfit.

Blurred shot of a manual wheelchair moving towards the left of the camera down a corridor.

If you’ll pardon the expression, there is another way to stand out as a wheelchair user besides decorating the wheelchair itself, and that is the way in which I decorate myself. I have always loved clothes and it is rare that I am able to resist the tempting call of a sale rail or charity shop bargain. You don’t need to be rich to be stylish.

Showing personality can be as simple as wearing a graphic t-shirt, like a band or film t-shirt, immediately showing the world a little bit about yourself and your preferences without having to say a word. It gives people a way of talking to me that doesn’t immediately concern the wheeled contraption beneath my behind, and that can make social situations a great deal less awkward. When I went to see an amateur production of the stage musical American Idiot, no one had to ask why I would want to see the production simply because my beloved Green Day t-shirt spoke for me.

Sat in a local bar as a student. I'm wearing black converse with silver spots on, black & white striped knee socks, black shirts, a Green Day t-shirt, & a denim shirt worn like a cardigan.

Of course I would hardly be able to go to a job in such an outfit, but formal attire doesn’t have to be dull either. One of my favourite items of clothing is a red skirt with black dots all over it, which I have affectionately christened the “ladybird skirt”. It’s bright and cheerful, and when I wear it I frequently receive complements about my sense of style. Paired with a linen blouse covered in large, black swirls, I look as ready as ever for any work situation, even if the blouse did come from a charity sale.

Stood in my room in student accommodation. I'm wearing a red skirt with black dots on, and a white blouse with black swirls embroidered on the front. My hair is in a bun.

Colour coordination is another simple trick I use to draw attention away from the wheelchair. Pairing black jeans with roses on the hips with a plain black top, studded belt, and red scarf is simple but effective. With Jarred following me around like a lost puppy, I knew that was an outfit that I had thought out well.

Slouched in a coffee shop armchair. I'm wearing black knee-high boots, black skinny jeans with red roses embroidered on the hips, a plain black top, & bright red scarf.

Even evening wear does not have to lack personality as a wheelchair user, although admittedly long, flowing gowns would only become entangled around the wheels and motors on my chair. The little black dress is a timeless classic, and is suitable for most occasions too. Paired with a little colour in the tights I manage to give the classic dress a slight twist.

Stood up in my student residence. I'm wearing black heels, plum-coloured tights, & a plain black dress. The dress is made of a velveteen material and is form-fitting. My hair is straightened and loose.

I also own a leopard print dress, and another black dress, this time with silver sequins on the skirt. Both of these always seem to make people smile when I wear them, and I am told that they suit me well.

Taken from a professional photo shoot. I'm wearing a leopard print dress with a fitted top & short sleeves, and a thin black belt at my waist. My hair is loose. On the left I'm looking down, & on the right I'm looking at the camera.
Taken at the same photo shoot. I'm resting my head on my crossed hands, which are placed on the back of the chair. The photo was taken at an angle to make the pose look more natural. I'm wearing a black dress with a skirt of silver sequins, & a purple cardigan.

None of these outfits have ever left me out of pocket, but flamboyance leaves people easily fooled. Before I begin to sound as if this was merely an excuse to show off the few photographs of me in existence that don’t look weird or dorky, I will say that the way I dress does actually have a purpose. It informs people that I am more than a person in a wheelchair. It tells people that I am a human, with likes and dislikes, and that I can make choices for myself. I find that a little character goes a long way as a social outsider, and anything that helps others to feel less awkward towards disability can only be a good thing as we move towards equality.

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