Fashion Friday 8/2/13

This week’s installment of Fashion Friday comes to us from Alanna McAuley, who is actually a former student of mine.  (Long former.  She’s graduated from college now.)  She recently stumbled upon a really wonderful advancement in fashion geared toward a highly specific and selective group of people…

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This week’s Fashion Friday accessory isn’t for everyone. It’s just…you have to have the body for it. There’s this new designer—really up and coming—and her work is so fabulous, but she really only designs for amputees.

You heard me. Sophie de Oliveira Barata’s Alternative Limb Project is changing the way we think about people who are missing limbs by asking the most obvious question about prosthetics, but one that for some reason hasn’t yet been asked: who said prosthetics have to look like human limbs?

De Oliveira garnered attention recently when she was featured in this article on CNN.com. De Oliveira designs and crafts “bespoke” (British for “custom-made”) prosthetic limbs and appendages, some of which go beyond what is possible for a natural human limb.

The designer’s work falls into three categories: Real (limbs that look frighteningly lifelike), Surreal (a category that includes the Snake Arm, a prosthetic arm with a snake coiled around the elbow and through—that’s right, through—the wrist), and Unreal (think Inspector Gadget; one of de Oliveira’s pieces, designed for the model Viktoria Modesta, is a bejeweled leg that incorporates a stereo). De Oliveira works with the wearer at every stage of production, and even involves the wearer in design decisions. The results are simply stunning. I’d like to direct you to the Alternative Limb Project’s website, where you will find many beautiful photographs of beautiful, imaginative limbs that, alas, cannot be reproduced here.

For me, this project helps articulate exactly what about fashion I find so appealing. It’s no secret that many women feel in some way or to some degree self-conscious about their bodies. Neither is it a secret that the fashion industry, with its stick-thin models and oppressive message that beauty only looks like this, doesn’t always help. But the Alternative Limb Project cuts out all that nastiness to remind us why we care about fashion at all: it’s an expression of individuality, of creativity, of an appreciation for art.

Wearing these limbs has the same effect a really great dress or pair of shoes or hat does: a confidence boost, a chance to say, I’m wearing this because I want to attract positive attention. I look awesome.

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