Fashion and disability with Sitting Pretty’s Rebekah Taussig
Posted by: The personal injury help and advice team
When we stumbled across the very colourful and leopard print clad Instagram profile, @Sitting_Pretty, we knew we had to get in touch with the woman behind the account to talk about fashion. Introducing a woman with great style, Rebekah Taussig…
Personal Truths: Hi Rebekah, we’re so pleased to be featuring you on Personal Truths! We know that you’re a writer and a teacher from Kansas City who has been in a wheelchair for most of your life, so please could you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you acquired your disability?
Rebekah Taussig: I’ve been paralysed since I was about three years old. Doctors found malignant tumours wrapped around my spinal cord when I was just a little over a year old. After two years of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and two invasive surgeries, I was cancer free. I also began to drag my legs and fall; instead of walking upright, I started to crawl more and more.
I didn’t get my first wheelchair until I started school a couple of years later and needed to keep up with a standardised rhythm. It was hot pink. I loved it.
“I’d scour the thrift store racks for clothes I could pretend had cost me a lot of money.”
PT: You’ve got great personal style, have you always been interested in fashion?
RT: When I was very young and just starting to notice the “cool” kids and the “dorky” kids, I became very interested in brands. Wearing the expensive fashion brands was a way to let everyone know you were upper-crust, I guess? So I only wanted to wear shirts with the words “Gap” or “Banana Republic” on them.
I’m the youngest of six; so of course, we never had money for frivolous things like $40 t-shirts with the name of a brand blasted on the front. I’d scour the thrift store racks for clothes I could pretend had cost me a lot of money. I accumulated five, and I’d rotate them for every day of the school week. It didn’t feel great. For one, what a boring outfit. But two, these clothes weren’t a reflection of anything true about me or my taste or even how much money I had to spend on clothes.
When I was about fourteen, I started looking for the clothes that actually reflected what I was and felt and loved. I wanted to find the one item on the rack that I’d never seen before — something I knew no one else would be wearing. The tank-top covered in abstract monkey faces, the turquoise cowgirl boots, the threadbare paint-splattered t-shirt from the Broadway musical Cats.
“In my experience, I’ve come to know the few types of items that work well for my body, and I’m always on the lookout for those.”
PT: What would you say your style says about you?
RT: Clothes are a way for me to assert some amount of control in the way people look at me. My style says that I care more about one-of-kind than conformity and trends. I like clothes that hold stories, clothes you haven’t seen before, or clothes you wouldn’t put together, clothes that make you wonder about the person who chose that print for that cut.
Oh, and clothes that don’t cost too much money!
PT: Have you ever styled your chair, and if so, do you have any tips for our readers?
RT: When I was younger I played with funky colours (hot-pink and shiny purple) and added some stickers. I was a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding, and my mom covered my chair in flowers. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve preferred to leave my chair pretty basic.
I play so much with clothing colour and style that my chair serves more as a neutral background. Although! @izzywheels makes some stunning wheel covers that are pieces of art in their own right. While I haven’t delved into accessorising in the last stretch of years, I love the idea of transforming mobility aids into fashion statements.
“There are plenty of styles of clothes that don’t work with my body, and I know what to avoid or look for.”
PT: Do you face any difficulties when shopping for clothes or fashion accessories for your chair? (For example accessibility or awkward fitting garments)
RT: A lot of places don’t have accessible changing rooms. Or, if they do, non-disabled people with especially giant piles of clothes to try on tend to set up camp in them. Or the store fills the accessible stall with piles of boxes (I’ve only seen this once, but that one has stuck with me).
There are certain shops I know tend to work well (or not work well), and I work around that. There are plenty of styles of clothes that don’t work with my body, and I know what to avoid or look for.
PT: Do you have any advice on combining comfort and style for wheelchair users?
RT: I am always looking for stretchy materials – pants with extra give in the waistband but still hug my scrawny legs, dresses I can easily slip over my head. In my experience, I’ve come to know the few types of items that work well for my body, and I’m always on the lookout for those.
PT: Lastly, who are your fashion role models?
RT: Honestly, it’s really all about the collaboration between the very particular requirements of my body my gut instincts!
To learn more about Rebekah, visit her blog here!