I Love Fashion and Have a Disability—This Is What I Look for When I Shop

Lindsay Adams loves fashion. A lot. She easily rattles off her preferred fashion girl favorites: Ulla Johnson, Cult Gaia, and Jacquemus. In her professional life, Adams is a talented painter, writer, and marketing strategist. In a word, she is a storyteller. She also has a disability called cerebral palsy that affects her speech, movement, and balance. Her condition has proved to be another conduit for sharing her story, which we are honored to be part of today on Who What Wear. Here, Adams speaks on what it's like to move through the fashion world with a disability, on how her identity has evolved over time, and her vision for a more inclusive industry.

On loving fashion from day one:

"I've always loved fashion. I remember so vividly I was 12 years old and I was at Target, and I got a shirt that said 'Shopping is my therapy.' I went to a prep school, so I wore a uniform. When I got to the University of Richmond, it was nice not to wear a uniform, and there my love of fashion kept growing. I started my blog after I graduated. This was the early days of blogging. I would do an OOTD post like it was nobody's business. My little sister and uncle would take my photos."

On shopping with cerebral palsy:

"I definitely avoid a crazy amount of buttons. Why am I going to buy a blouse that has a hundred buttons when I know it's going to take me 25 minutes to do it by myself? I don't wear earrings because I can't put them on myself. I've put earrings on with a back probably twice in my life. I love jewelry, but I have to find things I can clasp in the front. Imagine a simple gold chain necklace, an option for people with limited mobility might be one that doesn't have a clip, maybe it's a magnet. How many people who don't have a disability also struggle with clasping their necklace?"

With dresses, a lot of them have that one button at the top at the back of the neck. If my boyfriend's not home, I can't wear it. I also need space around my underarms. It takes more energy for me to do simple things, so I want to be comfortable if I'm already exerting more energy. I also lose balance and fall at least once a day. It's not dramatic all the time, but if I have to worry about falling, I don't want to have to worry about taking a hundred hours to get dressed. It's about finding that middle ground of being cute and not being uncomfortable."

On an evolving identity: 

"My journey to understanding my own disability has been a learning [experience]. I have a mild case, so it's not something I necessarily lead with. I'm still coming to terms with being part of the disability community. Before the age of 24, I never said the word cerebral palsy. It wasn't like I was a disability warrior. I was seeking a sense of normalcy. I look back on things, like in college, was I really wearing five-inch heels? I look back on these moments that I've adapted to. Now, I have no problem talking about it. Other people may see me, and think, 'If she is doing it, I can do it.' The authenticity clicks."

On an intersectional identity: 

"And then there's the intersectionality of being Black. I often struggle because I am perceived as a palatable Black girl. One, my name is Lindsay. Two, We like the same things, such as the same fashion brands. That's very comfortable for a lot of white women. I understand that people want things that they can connect with, but it's like I'm just one person. You have to be okay with talking with me, even if my name wasn't Lindsay, and even if I wasn't this agreeable. It's like when women wear long pants when they're going to be around a bunch of men. You really shouldn't have to do that."

On fashion industry inclusion:

"I think people want to see themselves in content. You don't want people to feel forgotten. One billion people have a disability worldwide. Any person can walk outside and become disabled in a second. You can have an accident, and your whole life can change. My case is my case, but my case isn't every case. A lot of fashion brands have been working with disabled models. That's a good place to start. You can visibly see their disability. So many people have invisible disabilities, so we want to talk to them, too."

"It all starts with storytelling. Nobody can tell that story better than that person. I know that my condition isn't always visible or evident, which has sometimes made it challenging for me to both understand and explain to others. This is part of the need to eliminate the stigma associated with discussing disabilities. It isn't something that we need pity for, we want progress. I have a seemingly normal life, but there are hidden struggles."

"And being okay with the fact that the story isn't always pretty. It's hard in the fashion space. We have been held to these ideals of beauty for so long. That standard of this is what femininity is, and this is what beauty is. Maybe it's not. Also having options. I think even about some of the beauty items I have. I can't use them and open the bottle. My boyfriend has to open it for me. What if I want to use a vitamin C serum and it's too difficult for me to open?"

On workplace inclusion:

"Imagine someone with a disability who is feeling a lot of internal ableism and a lot of imposter syndrome that they won't fit in somewhere. That person could be so talented. It would be a missed opportunity because they didn't feel like they had anything to offer, but they could be one of the best talents that a company didn't know they needed. It's about understanding that with a disability it is going to require some patience and some readjustment because people with disabilities may need more time for things. Maybe that 24-hour deadline won't work because they need more time. I went to an all-girl prep school where I had extended time. How can we integrate these things into the fashion and media spaces? Brands have to be willing to talk about it and be willing to change their minds."

Shop Adams's Picks
Lindsay Adams Disability Advocate



"Monochrome might seriously be one of my love languages. The minimalism and easy coordination is fun to dress up or down. This co-ord set gives me room to move around, a comfortable material, and I can wear it across seasons."

"Jeans are definitely a part of my Lindsay Uniform. I prefer a looser fit in the leg area with a nice butt grab! I love these L148 Jeans. I'm petite in size, and they aren't too long. The fit gives me ample space to move around. They're fun to pair with sneakers, boots, or heels."

"Can one have too many black dresses? Of course not! I love this linen dress by Daily Sleeper. It's comfy, stretchy, and the sleeves make me feel like I'm the next Black Disney princess!"

"Jenna Lyons said it best: Leopard is definitely a neutral! I love a leopard-printed skirt. Whether with a tee, a crop top, or an oversize blazer, it makes any outfit instantly chic. I love skirts with elastic waists or one zipper so I can get in and out easily."

"Mom jeans might arguably be my favorite style of jeans right now. They give me plenty of room to move, my legs don't feel like they are fighting for circulation, and you can literally wear them with anything. I definitely am drawn to jeans with just one button and with a little give in the waist to make getting ready in the morning easier!"

"Sneakers are by far the most important part of my wardrobe. Other than my Birkenstocks, which I wear religiously, my AirMaxs are my sneaker go-to's. They are comfortable, chic, and offer great ankle support. Whether going on a walk or running to the store, they never fail me."

"I honestly don't think I've ever worn one pair of shoes so many times. My Birkenstocks have been a crucial part of my wardrobe. Whether I'm working from home all day—which we have been during COVID-19—or heading to grab a bite to eat, I keep my Birks by my side. I have been able to wear them all day without discomfort, and they are super easy to clean."

"Though I often avoid wearing heels, when I do, I totally make it worth it! I love statement boots, and three inches or lower are definitely ones I can work with. Whether paired with a dress or a Canadian tux, I use statement boots to elevate any outfit."

"I love, love, love a solid pair of cargo pants. Who doesn't want to find a way to wear sweats and make it fashion? Cargo pants offer a ton of room for me and are always easy to move in."

"A black blazer. Need I say more? I love the sophistication of a black blazer and especially prefer when they are extra cozy. It's definitely a wardrobe staple that I can't live without."

"I think I've had at least four different camel coats, and each year, I anxiously await for the first chilly day to pull it out! When I buy coats, I definitely go one size up to make sure I am comfortable, and just in case I want to wear a chunky sweater!"

"I love a denim-on-denim look, and what better than when it's all in one? I'm always looking for a jumpsuit that doesn't have a million buttons. I love this little number from Free People."

"Even though monochrome is my first love, a nice printed dress is definitely a mandatory wardrobe item for me. They are fun, pair with just about anything, and are so easy to flow in."

"Any season is made for blazers. I love a houndstooth blazer, and especially love the oversized look. Whether I find one thrifting or this cute, affordable one at Mango, I swear by it as a wardrobe staple. Some of my dresses have buttons or zips in the back that I cant get to with my CP, so throwing on a blazer to cover that has been an ultimate hack for me."

"I love cute boots—especially ones that I can walk in! I tend to avoid super-high heels, so I love small heels that are still quite chic. High heels are super hard for me to walk or stay balanced in unless they are platform."

"Love this midi dress! It can be dressed up with some thigh-high boots or thrown on with my favorite pair of sneakers."