WHEEL LIFE STORIES PRESENTS
PEOPLE of the WHEEL WORLD
Express yourself! Meet Barbara Beccio, creator of é Ispirante. Barbara makes unique, stylish clothing with adaptive design in mind for wheelchair users and people with other differences. She understands that everyone deserves to look good in what they wear and to feel even better when they wear it. She realized there was a lack of functional but fashionable clothing for people with disabilities so with her years of experience in costume and fashion design, she set out to help make a change.
She's also on Instagram @e_ispirante_adaptiveclothing.
Read the full interview below⬇
Why do you make adaptive clothing?
About 4 years ago, I began making special skirts for my friend, Melissa’s daughter, Sara Ann, who had CP. Sara loved sparkles and fluffy skirts and dresses, but getting Sara in and out of her wheelchair and the car was difficult with fluffy skirts. In conversation with Melissa, we came up with the possibility of a skirt without a back. Thus - è Ispirante was born! I want to be able to zero in on the needs for Adaptive Clothing and find stylish solutions. About the same time as making skirts for Sara, I was asked to make a corset for a woman who had polio. When she showed me the corset to copy, my first reaction (to myself) was “Why does this have to be so bloody ugly?” After perfecting the fit, I trimmed the edges with floral fabric and covered the boning tape with the floral fabric as well. Lace trim was added to all the edges and sewn down securely. She was so happy to have a corset that was not only 100% functional, but pretty as well! I ended up making a second one for her in batik fabrics. There needs to be more fashionable clothing items for people with disabilities that are also functional. It is encouraging to see that designers are now beginning to offer more interesting options. Hopefully, I can aid in this with my clothing designs.
What makes your clothing unique?
I really consider the person’s body and physical needs when designing my garments and what features will make them comfortable, functional, and fashionable. Special Darting, Elasticized Waistlines, Shaped Front Waistlines, Special Closures, Deep Pockets and Special Shaping make the garments easy to put on, remove, and wear, making my clothing comfortable. While on the Design aspect of my clothing is - I LOVE combining fabric patterns and textures in one garment and many people have said that my collection looks “Happy“. I also have T-shirts screened with paintings by Sara Ann and will be opening this up to other artists with disabilities to have their artwork screened on T-shirts in my line and they will receive a percentage of the profits.
When did you start creating your adaptive clothing line?
I began designing and picking fabrics at the beginning of 2015 while teaching a pretty full load of sewing classes. Just as I was about to place my first sample fabric order to start making some samples, a car came across a busy main road that I was driving on, causing me to total my car, did damage to my back and neck that took 3-4 months to completely recover from, and badly burnt my hand - so the collection had to be postponed. By mid 2016, I was ready to make another fabric order - had to re-pick fabrics since many of my previous choices had been discontinued - when the woman who owned the place where I taught sewing told me that they weren’t offering classes anymore as of the end of June. Postponement again as I set up a Sewing Class Studio - a very hectic work time ensued! By January of 2018 - Third time is the charm! I made my fist sample order and began to play around with my fabric choices. I was also learning how to put garments through production and was ready to take part in my first Abilities Expo in LA 2018.
What can we expect from the collection?
Right now I now, I have Children’s Skirts that are very easy to put on and take off, and the first Women’s Skirts in fun printed fabrics. Future plans are for long and short sleeved T-shirts for Children and Adults, Jackets, and Lingerie - OK and maybe some pants! T-shirts that are screened with paintings done by Sara Ann will be printed on T-shirts that I will be designing to be Adaptive. I will be continuing to use Sara Ann's paintings to screen T-shirts as well as skirt fabric.
What does disability inclusion mean to you?
Disability inclusion to me, means, that people with disabilities are given the same opportunities as able-bodied people, in the job market, the athletic arena, and any other arena. Accessibility is a priority in inclusion. Inclusion also means attention to dressing needs, not only in function, but to being fashionable as well. Until recently there were only very basic clothing items available for people with disabilities, happily that is now changing. Why can’t clothing be fashionable and functional? Every aspect of daily life needs to be looked at from both types of bodies in everything!
What more can be done to support the community?
The big thing that I think needs to happen is equality in all kinds of jobs including sports, acting, and modeling. I enjoy watching the Golden Globe and Academy Awards shows, but while there was a lot of emphasis on women and cultural strength and solidarity, there was nothing about having that same drive to include people with disabilities. That really needs to change across the board! We can do this within our own lives, but it needs to be taken to a broader audience and level. It wouldn't hurt to contact influential people to bring this to the forefront.
What’s your favorite garment to create?
Difficult to pick just one! I like to design Skirts, Dresses, Tops, Jackets and Coats.
How do you pick different patterns and designs?
I like to combine textures and patterns together, with color preferences in rich vibrant colors. I will look at many different fabrics and match them up from actual fabric swatches/pieces or printouts from fabric website listings. I love color blocking as well! I take many photos as I travel and will refer to them for inspiration for patterns and colors. I often refer to past time periods for inspiration.
How do you define fashion and style?
Phew! Those could be defined in so many different ways! For me, Fashion is the actual concrete object, be it clothing, sculpture, architecture, painting etc. Style to me, means zeitgeist - the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. Style could also be defining a particular object - such as the style of that jacket is a Pea Coat. It is also something or someone has it. Whoa - then there is the whole discussion of what is good style and bad style!
How has fashion changed over the years?
Fashion is very interesting and repeats silhouettes around every hundred years to start and now sooner than that. What is interesting now, many influences from different time periods are seen all at the time. My favorite time period is the Victorian Period. Although constricting for the female body, the amount of detail and trimmings in addition to the shapes was so creative. I do love the silhouettes and fabrics of the 18th Century for men and women. The fabrics were sumptuous and the detail and trimmings way over the top! The hairdos for both men and women were intricate and one could have - especially men - many wigs. Watch the beginning of "Dangerous Liaisons" for a real feel of the dressing - great opening scene!
In the 20th century, the pleats, tucks and lace of the Edwardian period, teamed with delicate embroidery added beautiful texture and interest to the women's garments. The silhouette was more relaxed than the Victorian period, leading to further relaxation in the middle of the first decade of the 19th century, eventually leading to the loose shapeless dresses of the 1920's. Women could now toss off the corsets that had restricted them for so long! Hemlines were rising with Flapper dresses getting above the knee. The 30's brought garments fitted to the body with beautiful draping and hemlines about mid-calf. Structure became even more defined in the 40's, with tight nipped in waists, wide shoulders, and A-line skirts just below the knee. After the fabric restrictions of WWII were over, near the end of the 40's, skirts became very full - Dior's "New Look". In the 50's we saw full skirts and pencil skirts being worn. Bodices were fitted close to the body. The 60's saw a revolution in clothing, strongly influenced by Mary Quant's Mini Skirt. We began to see wild patterns on fabrics - geometrics and psychedelic and bright fluorescent colors. Fashion was highly influenced by music at this time and people looked to rock stars and art for fashion trends in the 60's and 70's. 80's styles were perhaps the most unattractive styles - Quiana was a popular fabric for men and women in wild prints or solids - a very slimy fabric. It was big hair, big shoulders (from the 40's influence), big shirt collars - think Leisure Suits! Just to quickly finish up here... Clothing from the 90's on became more relaxed in shapes - the fitness clothing influence was a large factor. As we get into the 21st century, the ease in clothing continued and has been paired with the idea of individuality of dressing. Now we see influences from many time periods all at the same time. It is interesting though, to look at historical garments and trace the repeats and influences in the clothing from one time period to another.
“Jean Paul Gaultier. There are so many though it’s difficult to choose 1. There are of course the classics - Erté, Dior, Chanel, YSL, and Valentino - greats like Balenciaga, Versace, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Prada, and Pucci... I could go on... There are many new exciting designers today! The next thing is to have more designers designing for people with disabilities.”