Patients from Birmingham Children’s Hospital have unleashed their inner supermodel at an adaptive clothing fashion show, in clothes specially designed to meet their needs by students from South and City College Birmingham. 

People with physical disabilities often find themselves at a disadvantage when shopping for clothes, with mainstream high street stores not catering for their needs, and only a limited number of specialist retailers around. Altogether, it makes for a very frustrating and often costly experience for disabled people and one which Ms. Andrea Jester, consultant plastic surgeon at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, has heard about time and time again from her patients and their families.  

That’s why she has teamed up with the School of Fashion at South and City College Birmingham for a special fashion show, to uplift and empower her patients, as well as raise awareness of the need for more adaptive clothing within the fashion community.  

Ms. Andrea Jester said: “I care for patients with a whole range of physical disabilities. Each disability comes with a unique set of challenges when it comes to clothing. As the world becomes more and more inclusive, we must not forget about fashion industry and the massive impact having good clothes, that fit, has on disabled people.”  

The young patients from Birmingham Children’s Hospital were paired with students of all levels and ages from the School of Fashion at South and City Birmingham College. Over the last few months, they have been working together on their designs in anticipation of the fashion show, which took place at the college’s Digbeth campus. Their creations included a casual outfit and an eveningwear piece, which the patients proudly wore down the catwalk. 

One of the patients who took to the runway is 11-year-old Cara Sanford-Ward, from Bromsgrove. Soon after Cara was born, her parents, Amy and Ashley noticed something wasn’t right with her movements. Her right hand was always clenched, and her right leg would click when moving. Following a series of tests, doctors determined that Cara had experienced a congenital stroke whilst in the womb or during birth, which had affected her whole right side. 


Cara then began physiotherapy and eventually had an MRI which laid out the extent of the damage the stroke had caused. She had Right Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy and was unlikely to walk or talk. Her parents were devastated. 

Cara has been a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital ever since, seeing a number of different specialists, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and Ms. Jester at her hand and upper limb clinic, where Cara has serial casting every six months – a cast to correct the position of her right hand. 

Over the years, Cara has shown real resilience and thanks to the support of the specialists has defied the odds. She not only talks, but she can walk too, albeit with a limited vocabulary, and only short distances.  

She’s been so excited to take part in the adaptive fashion show, as Amy explains: “Being involved in the fashion show has done wonders for Cara’s confidence. She’s at that age now, where she really notices her differences, and clothes play a big part in a young girl’s life, so I wholeheartedly support what Ms. Jester and the college are doing.  

“In Cara’s case, she has limited movement on the right side of her body, and often experiences stiffness, which can be a nightmare when trying to put jumpers and tops on her. At the moment, I adapt her clothing myself, but I look forward to the day when I could simply walk into a shop and buy something ready-made for her. The best part about the whole experience is Cara’s been inspired to work in the fashion industry when she’s older, to make adaptive clothing ‘cool’.”        

Carmen Burkett, Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles, said: “We have enjoyed each stage of meeting the children through to watching their designs come to life. With students of all levels supporting the fashion show, it’s been a great experience for all our learners, but especially the ones just starting their journey in fashion.” 

Surbjit Singh, Head of School for Art, Design and Fashion, added: “This is our second adaptive fashion show and has been another extraordinary experience for our learners and all staff involved. We are proud to be able to give back to the community through this project and our students have really gained insight into new ways of constructing garments for this customer group.”  

Funds raised from ticket sales and a charity raffle at the event will be going to support the work of the Hand and Reconstructive Limb Department at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.