Including, Engaging, and Empowering Women with Dwarfism on International Women’s Day
What is the importance of International Women’s Day?
Lauren: International Women’s Day on March 8 is a significant day to recognize, celebrate, and amplify the stories and voices of women who are creating positive changes in the world through their individual and collective actions.
We can draw inspiration from the trailblazing women who have shattered stereotypes and glass ceilings and from the current influencers who are driving important conversations and changing the narratives around fashion and disability.
As we reflect on these achievements and discuss the collective progress that we’ve made, it’s essential that we keep the tremendous amount of work we still have to do at the forefront of the conversation to ensure that girls and women are equal everywhere.
We need to ask who isn’t represented in our fight for equality? Who isn’t included? Whose voice isn’t heard? And what can we do, individually and collectively, to focus the lens on those marginalized women?
In your POV, who hasn’t been included or represented in this progress?
Lauren: On a global scale, women and men with dwarfism have been excluded from a world that wasn’t designed with them in mind. The challenges and limitations imposed upon people with dwarfism by society aren’t exclusive to architectural design. They also exist in another universal area of design: fashion.
Dwarfism is short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition. Dwarfism is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (150 centimeters) or less. The average adult height among people with dwarfism is 4 feet (122 cm).
Dwarfism is a recognized condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are over 400 types of dwarfism, some of which can cause issues that can be impairing. Broadly, dwarfism can be considered a disability because most people with dwarfism will require some kind of physical accommodations throughout their lives to navigate the world.
According to the U.N., »girls and women of all ages with any form of disability are generally among the more vulnerable and marginalized of society.«
How have people with dwarfism been marginalized?
Lauren: When groups are marginalized in society, they are rarely the ones telling their own stories. Due to the rarity of the genetic condition that causes dwarfism, media content often shapes societal perceptions of people with dwarfism. Throughout history, in art, literature, television, and film, people with dwarfism are often presented in character stereotypes or typecast categories rather than more diverse roles that reflect realistic depictions of their actual lifestyles and experiences.
How are women with dwarfism marginalized in the fashion industry?
Lauren: The fashion industry is not known for its inclusivity of people in marginalized groups. While we’ve made some progress, thanks to the diligent work of a vast number of trailblazers and advocates, we're starting to see more diversity reflected on runways, in magazines, and in advertising. However, representation of people with dwarfism in fashion is still extremely limited.
Are women with dwarfism excluded from the fashion industry?
Lauren: Representation is only part of the inclusion issue. Women with dwarfism are excluded from the fashion industry in nearly every aspect – as designers, as models, and as consumers.
»Representation is only part of the inclusion issue. Women with dwarfism are excluded from the fashion industry in nearly every aspect – as designers, as models, and as consumers.«
Not only do women with dwarfism and other disabilities need to be able to see themselves reflected positively and realistically in the media and in the fashion industry, but they also need to be embedded at every level of the fashion industry to shape the decisions.
Clothing is a basic human need. However, since people with dwarfism do not fit in conventional sizes, it can be extremely difficult to find clothing that is ready-to-wear. Customizations and alterations can be both costly and time-consuming. Additionally, the shopping experience typically isn’t fully accessible for people with dwarfism.
That is why the work AUF AUGENHOEHE is doing to address these issues and make the fashion industry more accessible and inclusive for people with dwarfism is critically important.
From your POV, how is AAH changing the fashion industry?
Lauren: Through extensive research and measurement, we developed the first size chart for people with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. In pursuit of our goal to create a fit for everyone, we also create made to order pieces for people with all dwarfism types.
Our commitment to shaping a more inclusive fashion industry extends beyond ready-to-wear clothing. Women with dwarfism and other disabilities are part of our Founders team, our creative team, our social media team, and our Advisory Board. It is critically important to us that all of our decisions are informed by the personal experiences and input of people with dwarfism.
Together, we are working to build and sustain a community in which people with dwarfism and other disabilities, along with their friends and families, can meaningfully engage and connect. By sharing authentic stories and experiences, amplifying each other’s voices, and celebrating the trailblazers, we can raise positive awareness around the issues that impact our community and work together to drive the changes we all want to see in the fashion industry and beyond.
»We need to ask who isn’t represented in our fight for equality? Who isn’t included? Whose voice isn’t heard? And what can we do, individually and collectively, to focus the lens on those marginalized women?«