Meet Ashley and Maggie – they both have Down Syndrome and live in the US. Ashley is a bubbly 32-year old and started designing clothes for herself and other women like her that have a different body type than most others. The company that she founded with her mother, Ashley by Design, is based in Alabama, and sells clothes based on Ashley’s own measurements.
“Ashley has a typical Down’s syndrome body. At 5ft tall, Ashley is shorter than most women. She has a stocky, wide build, is short in the torso and is small in the top half”, says her mother Connie DeRamus.
‘Indicators of Down’s syndrome includes smaller femurs and humerus bones, meaning arms and legs aren’t quite as long as average. Typically people with the syndrome are shorter and it’s reported that some can have stomachs which are a little larger, thought by many to be a medical consequence of the condition.’
Karen Bowersox, from Ohio, is Maggie’s grandmother and runs Down’s Designs, a company that that designs fashionable clothes and jeans for kids and adults with Down Syndrome. Karen thought of the innovative idea after having tried very hard to find clothes that could fit Maggie, whose arms and legs are shorter than others her age.
Karen, just like Connie, emphasises that most of her customers are larger round the middle and that their knees are much higher up. She believes that people with Down Syndrome should feel really independent when dressing which boosts their confidence. She says that her company ‘uses lots of stretchy fabrics to create a more appropriate bend’.
“Holding in the tummy is challenging. “Dip-downs” which are of regular fit at the back but sit below the “tummy” at the front, are the solution”, she says. She also notes that many people with the syndrome face every day challenges when putting on clothes. Most of them have fine motor skill problems which really make zips and buttons harder to use.
Mum Linsey Tree Sim welcomes the idea and writes on the Future of Down Syndrome on Facebook: “[My daughter] has short, chubby arms and legs. It’s a struggle finding clothes to fit unless it’s t-shirt and leggings. She also has small feet so onesies that fit her torso flap around her legs and feet. I would definitely shop from a place that had specific designs as long as it wasn’t extortionately expensive.”
However, not all mums of children with Down Syndrome find specialised clothing a necessity. Jane Gordy, whose daughter, Sarah is an actress with Down’s syndrome who has appeared on BBC, isn’t that fond of the idea. She says: “there’s no need to use special shops and, addressing the stomach size in particular. I bet there’s no reason for the majority of people not to have good muscle tone. Sarah works out every day using three exercise tapes and she is a dancer so is pretty fit.”
But does everyone have the time and energy to work out every day? Probably not. Ashley by Design and Down’s Designs are growing and are very positively accepted by many parents, professionals, people with the syndrome and also their communities.
Ashley DeRamus says: “I feel good in my clothes and I feel great seeing other people wearing my clothes.” Ashley and her mum regularly give their clothes away to women who cn’t afford them.
We say well done ladies and keep up the good work!