Making Bowie Proud (part 2)

by Kristen Chapman Gibbons

Occasionally abrasiveMedia shares stories from our community partners. Kristen sat down with Alicia Searcy (Nashville's disabled style blogger extraordinaire) to discuss Alicia's story, what inspires her about fashion, and the event she's hosting this Friday. Scroll down to the bottom for more details on the event!

"Sometimes you find your voice when you find your clothes."
Alicia Searcy


Alicia has been told she can’t do things her entire life. This has made her very, very determined to see what she can do. She says, “I’m fifty-seven years old. I can’t drive. My mother did not allow me friends until I was twelve. She never wanted me to leave the house. My father committed suicide when I was fourteen. The realization I had in that moment in 1984, was that either I rebel now or I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of my life.” She credits art-making with pushing her forward. “It was my spark, it fueled me. My entire life, I’ve lived in fear or rebellion. These are my two stages. When someone says I can’t and I say, ‘oh, hell no, I’m going to do it or see what happens if I try to do it', because that’s when the interesting things start happening.”

Photo: The beautiful Chelsie wearing @stashnashville with hair and makeup by @pamelahawkmakeup and styled by @spashionista in the photo by @authenticphotosanddesigns.

Picture of Chelsea in her wheelchair with green rims. She's wearing a youthful outfit, seated in front of a wall with colorful graffiti.

Alicia talks about how she works with her limitations:

“It’s the rebel in me that says, can I do this? And sometimes, I learn how to do something and then get bored. I used to be a digital artist. I had to give it up because I couldn’t hold the mouse for hours. You work with what you have. I can’t type. It hurts. It takes me an hour to type a paragraph. Typing for me starts at the base of my neck. I have to control my fingers using the muscles from here. It hurts. You do what you can. The important thing is to show people ‘this is what I can do,’ and then say, ‘by the way, I can’t do this or that and because of that, I need your help to do this or that.’ You have to show people what you can and can’t do. And then, you’re not whining, you are just living.”

She wants her tombstone to read "How Hard Can It Be." A testament to her determination and willingness to both acknowledge and push beyond her limitations.

Alicia Searcy with Brandon Brown at the 2017 Boundless show. Photo credit: Pixel Reflections

Alicia Searcy with Brandon Brown at the 2017 Boundless show. Photo credit: Pixel Reflections.


The Boundless fashion show in September is one-of-a-kind, and not just in Nashville. Alicia told me that there are currently two ways that people with disabilities are involved in the runway. “Either they stick in a cripple at Fashion week, which is just tokenism, or they have runway shows with all disabled people. And it is usually a benefit of some kind.”

Boundless is the only fashion show that is inclusive of all people, of different sizes, different abilities, models over sixty, as well as professional models. Everyone together, at the same show, on the same runway. The impact on participants is profound.

Alicia shared with me several stories of particular models, “from the margins,” whose lives changed significantly after participation. (You'll hear from some of them at the event on Friday, July 27th.)

She calls it “The Moment.” When the model rounds the corner and catches herself in the mirror in an outfit designed specifically for her body.

“Her face lights up, she sees herself in a new way. It makes all the work worth it.”

Designers work from measurements and create clothes to fit each body. Sometimes that includes designing clothes around mobility devices. Last year, they dressed size zero to size twenty-six. Alicia works with Nashville designers such as Poni Silver and Amanda Valentine. The slate of this year’s designers will be announced at the party on Friday.

I asked her what she loved about fashion, she said:

“It’s linguistic. It’s physical. It’s visual. It’s a way to express yourself and help other people express themselves. It’s art. It’s beauty. It changes the way you feel. It’s psychological. It’s emotional. So many levels.”

I think Bowie would be proud.

Event Details

Join Fashion is for Every Body on Friday, July 27th as they kick off the countdown to the Boundless 2018 Inclusive Fashion Runway Show at abrasiveMedia. The event will feature fashion from previous shows and conversations with Fashion is for Every Body alumnae about their experiences. We’ll explore how the language of fashion has changed how they feel about themselves and how others see them. There will also be an announcement about our designers for September's Boundless 2018 and the recipient of the inaugural Kimmie Jones Adaptive Clothing Pattern Award.

Guests will also receive an exclusive discount code for tickets to Boundless 2018 that can be applied for a limited time.

Enjoy light bites including sweets from Dee Dees Cake Pop Shoppe, beverages and a musical performance by Lillie Syracuse.

This event is free of charge, but donations are encouraged.

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