OWN
04/28/2017 10:50 am ET

What It's Like Getting Dressed When You're Blind

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Polly Becker

I’ve always enjoyed putting together dramatic, even outrageous, outfits in a style that’s half renaissance, half punk rock. When I was younger, I spent long hours gazing at images in fashion magazines for inspiration. I just couldn’t read the articles: Due to a degenerative eye disease, I’ve been going blind since I was 10.

Mine is a slow-moving calamity. Instead of hitting me all at once, it would startle me every few years, requiring me to adapt: going from reading regular print to large print to relying on audiobooks, from moving through the world without assistance to needing a cane, from seeing normally to distinguishing only light and shadow. Through all these challenges, I’ve always loved fashion. Where choosing outfits is concerned, I can no longer tell whether a shirt is white or black, so I distinguish pieces by touching their intricate lace or plush velvet textures, or by details like tiny Victorian buttons or flapper fringe. (Because some of my clothes feel similar, my boyfriend occasionally has to straighten me out.) And once I discovered sewing needles specially created for the blind, I started transforming items I’d gathered over decades with and without sight—from aunties’ hand-me-downs to impulse buys that never fit quite right—into pieces I love.

Wearing what I’ve made feels incredibly powerful. Though I can’t check myself out in the mirror, when I walk down the street in my blue leather jacket, big lace-up boots, deconstructed 18th-century gown or ‘70s brocade vest—sporting my white cane and mirrored sunglasses—I can see myself in my mind’s eye, and I like the way I look. Now fashion is the emblem by which I say to the world, “I may be blind, but I still have vision.”

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