On Wednesday evening in the neon blue light of Penn Pavilion, Duke’s chapter of Runway of Dreams held its third annual adaptive fashion show. The show featured models with various intellectual and developmental disabilities wearing adaptive clothing, which is designed for comfort and accessibility as well as for style.
Runway of Dreams aims to raise awareness for the need for adaptive clothing in the fashion industry.
“Going to a store and finding clothes that fit your body is not a privilege that everybody gets to enjoy,” sophomore Anna Goldberg said to the audience before the show started.
On the runway, the models were eager to showcase their personalities. One performed a cartwheel onstage, another tossed her sweater over her shoulder and posed for a photo. A third made finger guns at the audience. As the models showed off their outfits, parents and friends snapped photos and recorded videos from their tables.
Duke Runway of Dreams co-founder and co-president junior Abigail Ullendorff said that her favorite thing about the event “is when the models walk down the runway and they just pull out their biggest smiles.” Of course, she said, they sometimes even cartwheel.
As each model strutted down the runway, senior Bridget Sidwell and junior Jeremy Orriss read a short bio for them, described the model’s outfit and highlighted the adaptive features of their clothing. It was often difficult to hear the announcers above the thunderous applause and cheers from the audience.
The Runway of Dreams crew transformed Penn Pavilion into a gala-like space for the event. An elevated runway spanned the center of the room, surrounded by dozens of circular tables. The event’s slogan, “A rosy future for fashion,” was projected above the runway. Most guests were dressed in cocktail attire.
At each table, every guest was given a printed program that allowed them to “meet the models” through brief autobiographies. These bios included details from the models such as “I am excited to model in the adaptive fashion show as a way to empower myself, be part of a movement I truly believe in and hopefully be the representation for someone like me” and “I am an avid fan of Boston and UNC (sorry not sorry).”
Most of the event’s models were members of the larger Durham community who heard about the fashion show through their schools, jobs and church groups as a result of Runway of Dreams’s outreach program.
The event featured performances from two Duke student groups. The Pitchforks, Duke’s oldest acapella group, performed renditions of hit songs “Wagon Wheel” and “Some Kind of Lovely,” while Defining Movement, Duke's premier multicultural dance group, combined hip hop and lyrical dance elements in their performance.
Before the fashion show started, the audience watched a video produced by Mobility Unlimited Technology Worldwide, an organization whose goal is “to safely adapt spaces for wheelchair users, blind citizens, and mobility aided users.” A video overview of The Runway of Dreams Foundation and its mission played next.
The Runway of Dreams Foundation was founded by Mindy Scheier, a fashion designer and stylist whose son has muscular dystrophy. She was inspired to start the organization when her son expressed that he wanted to wear jeans to school like everyone else in his class. After helping her son adapt a pair of jeans to fit his physical needs, she began advocating for greater awareness and accessibility in the fashion industry.
Adaptive fashion is “something that we don’t often think about when we think of what’s needed in our world,” said sophomore Emily Moore. “Promoting confidence in the models and making them feel like they can be comfortable in what they wear and excited to wear what they wear” is an important goal of the event.
The Duke Runway of Dreams design team worked with two of the models, Gio and Ishan, to create a custom green satin dress and oxford shirt for the show. Other models wore clothes from Zappos Adaptive, a longtime partner of The Runway of Dreams Foundation, as well as smaller adaptive fashion brands including Sparkies, Abilitee, BeFree, and Smart Adaptive Clothing.
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Holly Keegan is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.