Unique Fashion Show Featured Adaptive Clothing for People with Disabilities - Penn-Mar

Unique Fashion Show Featured Adaptive Clothing for People with Disabilities

Posted on March 28, 2024

On March 22, The Jemicy School in Owings Mills once again partnered with Penn-Mar to present the 2nd Annual Inclusive Fashion Show, featuring the adaptive clothing designs of eight AP Arts Program students and 17 Penn-Mar models with intellectual disabilities.

This unique collaboration showcased the creativity and skills of the designers who attend Jemicy, which educates students with dyslexia and related language-based learning differences. Tina Chan Sweenie, Penn-Mar‘s Associate Director of Development, Volunteer and Donor Engagement, whose daughter Leila is a design student at the school, recognized the potential of such an event and worked in tandem with Jennifer Hisey, Community Supports Day Program Manager at Penn-Mar Central, and Pauline Savage, US Visual Arts Department Chair and College Counselor for the Arts at the Jemicy School, to see the show become a reality last May.

The first event took place at Penn-Mar with a hallway for a runway. This year, the Fashion Show was held at The Jemicy Upper School auditorium and featured a larger audience watching Penn-Mar models strut down an elevated catwalk wearing a collection designed and made specially for their sensory and practical clothing needs. The event was also livestreamed on Penn-Mar’s Facebook page.

“It’s an interesting challenge in a couple of ways to make inclusive fashion,” said Pauline Savage. “There’s inclusiveness on both sides…to make sure that the clients at Penn-Mar come away with outfits that they feel awesome in…but we also need to make it accessible to people to learn how to make those garments.”

With the success of yet another Fashion Show, Jennifer Hisey is hopeful the event will continue year after year. She described the show as “controlled chaos” and attributed its success to the help of “awesome staff and volunteers” who managed to pull it together to make it work.

“It’s about making clothes that are fashionable but that also make sense for the people we support,” she said. “Some people with disabilities may struggle with zippers, with buttons, with being able to put clothes on and take them off on their own. So adaptive fashion means giving them a little more independence and allowing them to dress on their own without needing the support of staff.”

Jemicy design students visited Penn-Mar in January to measure the models and learn about the styles and colors of clothing that most interested them. Each student was assigned to two to three models, developing a personal relationship with their clients that evolved into a unique creative partnership.

The students went back to their classrooms with specific style ideas that they could adapt with fewer seams, stretchy fabrics, fun patterned designs, and easy closures to accommodate people with disabilities.

“With experience, and actually less preparation time, we were much more seasoned about the process this year,” said Tina. “Things went very smoothly, and it was nice to have all of the designers and models in one place.”

Last year, Jemicy’s videography students filmed and produced a 12-minute video that debuted at this year’s event, called “Fashion with a Purpose.” It described all that went into designing, fabricating, and presenting the fashions. The people Penn-Mar supports were filmed collaborating with the students and modeling their custom creations, mixed in with student and Jemicy and Penn-Mar staff interviews describing the intent of the program and the excitement it generated for both parties.

Pauline is proud of this year’s design students who worked feverishly to deliver another successful Fashion Show for their Penn-Mar models. “It’s exciting because I think that our students are really inspired by working for others, sometimes more than being inspired by working for themselves,” she said. “I feel like empathy and generosity of spirit are hallmarks of Jemicy students.”

And deliver, they did! Leila Chan Sweenie, “enjoyed it a lot! It had me wishing there was more. It was really, really fun and I’m just excited to do it again next year!”. Other students from the Jemicy School found the project to be “inspiring, sweet, and everybody enjoyed it!”, while a parent at the school, who didn’t have any expectations, “was blown away by the people that Penn-Mar supports, the skillsets of the students, and the obvious relationships that were built!”

Tina expressed her gratitude for the partnership with The Jemicy School, thanking them “for once again folding Penn-Mar into their world and curriculum. It was a remarkable evening that truly touched each person there, leaving them feeling deeply satisfied and beaming with genuine happiness.”

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