Shopping for a wedding dress can be an overwhelming experience for many women, let alone wheelchair-using brides.
So when Beth Wilson, an artist from Portishead, North Somerset in the UK, saw a bridal shop displaying one of its wedding gowns on a mannequin seated on a wheelchair, she felt excited.
A wheelchair-user herself, Wilson said the felt represented after seeing the store window display at The White Collection in January 2019. She knew the world needed to see this beautiful show of inclusivity, so she took a photo and shared it on Twitter, where it quickly went viral.
“The new wedding shop in town has a wheelchair using mannequin and it shouldn’t be exciting but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen disability portrayed in a shop window,” she wrote in the caption.
Wilson had been using a wheelchair for five years when she spotted the display. Although she didn’t need a wedding dress at the time, she knew that many brides would love to know that there is a bridal boutique in the UK that can accommodate them.
Laura Allen, who owns the shop with her sister Sarah Parker, said she felt sad knowing it was a rare sight.
“It’s been great having such a positive response, but in a way it’s quite sad people have done a double take, it shows how rare it is to see a wheelchair in a shop window,” she said.
Allen said they “didn’t think much about it” when they first arranged the display.
She believes they weren’t the first bridal shop to represent disability in this manner but hoped other stores would follow suit, especially since the bridal industry isn’t that inclusive. To this day, many bridal shops display the typical skinny mannequin.
“But everyone gets married, it doesn’t matter what you look like or how you are, your day is going to be special,” she said.
Wilson said that disabled people often “feel invisible” because they don’t see themselves in the media.
“I don’t need a wedding dress, but if I did, I’d definitely be far happier about going to a shop where I knew that I’d be accepted, wheelchair and all,” she said.
The shop owners also decorated the chair with vines instead of hiding it away.
“Mobility aids are often portrayed as negative things people want to hide, when actually mobility aids like wheelchairs give us freedom,” Wilson continued.
The display received positive reactions from many people online, and The White Collection responded to their praises in a lengthy Instagram post.
“It has been a very full on but incredible couple of days here at TWC. When setting up this window display, we didn’t even think to share on our social media pages or ‘put it out there’ but it seems to have done just that all by itself! We would like to thank everyone for your kind comments about our window- we have been surrounded by so much love and positivity, which is what this industry is all about, right?!”
“If this window has done anything, it’s shown us how much of an impact having a wheelchair user in the window has caused, and hopefully as time goes by, things like this will not cause so much of a big response, because there will be a lot more of it around,” they continued.
“We didn’t think that our window would get this much attention, but what it really has done is it has opened up a (worldwide!) discussion about inclusivity in this industry, which can only be a good thing!! Thank you so much again for all of your support- Sarah, Laura and the team at TWC.”
Since Wilson tweeted the photo, women who use wheelchairs have been sharing their own wedding day photos and stories.
Other users shared pictures of similar displays in other parts of the world. Once shared a photo of a suit shop in Tokyo featuring a male mannequin seated in a wheelchair.
Thank you, The White Collection, for making all types of brides feel welcome at your store!
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