Inclusive fashion show celebrates diversity and people with disabilities

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It’s not every night that a New York Fashion Week-inspired show takes place in Sioux Falls. And it’s not every night that the show includes every body, ability, and experience.

The “Style Show: A Runway to Empower,” hosted by Rare By Design, brought together Executive Director and Founder Kendra Gottsleben’s one-year vision for people with disabilities to be visible in the community and know they have a place in the community. fashion world.

“At the end of the day, what I hope people take away from this event is what true diversity looks like,” Gottsleben said. “Very often when we talk about diversity it’s always race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and people with disabilities are not often in that conversation. People with disabilities are the largest minority group because it can cross all minorities.”

Kendra Gottsleben, the founder and executive director of Rare by Design, smiles as her fashion show wraps up on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Rare By Design is a Sioux Falls nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness for people with disabilities and people with rare diseases. The fashion show is the first event of the association since its creation by Gottsleben in 2021.

Since the announcement of the fashion show, tickets sold out a few days before the event was held.

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“I never imagined this would ever happen,” Gottsleben said. “I mean, it’s amazing, but I also feel like it shows that people are hungry for inclusion and understanding of diversity.”

Most of the designs, worn by men and women, some able-bodied, some with disabilities, some from the LGBTQIA+ community, were donated by shops and stores in Sioux Falls. Models were also able to go glam for the night with the help of hired makeup artists.

Abby Bischoff smiles while modeling during the Style Show in downtown Sioux Falls on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Models like Abby Bischoff, Adam Jorgensen and Tana Zwart wore clothes from Lauriebelles, Scheels and JuLiana’s Boutique.

Bischoff said it’s really significant that more stores are starting to carry plus-size clothing and that celebrities like Lizzo look like “it girls.”

“We don’t really see fashion as a necessity. Fashion is kind of seen as that, fluffy stuff in life,” the 39-year-old said. “But we all have to wear clothes every day and we all want to feel good about the clothes we wear.”

She also had tears in her eyes during the show’s dress rehearsal.

Tana Zwart models during the Style Show in downtown Sioux Falls on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

“So few of us have had this experience before and not only so few of us as models have experience, but people in the audience to see a truly inclusive fashion show is also a new experience. “, said Bischoff.

Throughout the night, applause, cheers and music were the soundtrack to which the 17 models strutted or rolled down the runway.

But a special inclusion at the fashion show was the adaptive clothing line. Vicki Stewart modeled an adaptive red Tommy Hilfiger dress, which had moguls on the back and soft elastic on the arms.

Audience members cheer during the Style Show in downtown Sioux Falls on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

“It’s really soft, and goes really well with a wheelchair,” the 51-year-old said.

She explained that the adapted dress was designed for people with dexterity or sensitivity issues.

“I think it’s really empowering that people have taken the time to think about it and develop it,” she said. “The more comfortable you are in your clothes, the more you will want to shine.”

Follow Annie Todd on Twitter @AnnieTodd96. Reach her with tips, questions and other community news at [email protected] or call her at 605-215-3757.

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