The fashion industry is not known for embracing body shapes and people who don’t look a certain way, but that’s not how Don’t Dis my Ability ambassador Joanne Hutchins, 36, enjoys it. For her clothes play an important role in how people perceive her and how she feels in the world.
by JOANNE HUTCHINS
When you have a disability people stare at you in public. It comes with the territory. I have Juvenile Dermatomyosis, which is an auto-immune disease that destroys the muscles. It has left me with thin arms and legs and I use a wheel chair due to my lack of strength.
I’m aware that I look different from everyone else but it wasn’t until my twenties that I viewed the attention I attract totally differently. What if people were also looking because you looked great or they were checking out your outfit?
A few years ago when I was out one night with a friend, he asked if it bothered me when people stare at me. I hadn’t noticed anyone was, I guess after so long I tune out to it most of the time. Later that night when I was on the train alone I noticed a guy looking at me.
After my friend’s comment I felt self-conscious so I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the weight of this passenger’s stare. I then heard him say, ‘so beautiful’. I opened my eyes and we were the only two people there. He said to me, ‘you look so beautiful.’ It made me realise that when people look at me it may not always be because of my physical differences or that I am in a wheelchair, but rather at my fashion or just me.
At the time I was going through a music phase which was reflected in the clothes I gravitated towards. My friends and I would go watch bands at pubs around Newtown, and I would wear tight corsets, boots and mini skirts. I would describe my style at that time as ‘rock chick’. Before and during this time I also used to dabble in the goth and hippie look.
What I love about fashion is that you can be different people to suit different moods. I find it a great way to express myself creatively and looking back I think the way I have dressed has also expressed what I was going through at that stage in my life.