September 5, 2002, Thursday
The Southland Times (New Zealand)
WHATEVER did we do before there was velcro? Special-care-wear designer Victoria Hill says people managed but only just, with elastic, ribbon ties, big button-holes and the like.
But years of working in residential homes for the elderly and with people of all ages coping with a disability showed her the frustration people suffer over getting dressed and undressed.
So, easy-on, easy-off became her motto.
In the six months since she settled in the south, Ms Hill has developed a design wear business that is meeting some of those needs -- with velcro fastenings. We're not talking the teeth -clenching, tearing velcro here.
This line, used for intimate wear, presses soft as a kiss, lets go gentle like a sigh.
Most of the designs are made up as one-offs built round the needs and size of a client.
But a whole range of soft bed slippers are on hand in different sizes, from premature babies to old, cold people -- all of them made with soft sheepskin wrapped on with velcro.
Velcro is used for nighties that do up down the back or knickers that undo at the side or bras that fit at the front or leg warmers made to protect fine shin skin.
The easy-on easy-off theme is used for garments for anyone who needs careful handling.
"Nurses try to deal with people with respect and dignity, and helping them dress and undress is an important part of that.
"Clothing that goes on easily and can be removed easily makes light of a daily chore and gives peace to the person being helped," Ms Hill said.
She has been a carer and has managed a nursing home so has gauged the needs.
Her soft-sole bed slippers guarantee warmth in bed and a sure footing when the person gets out.
All the garments she makes allow for the problems that come about through arthritis, strokes and disabilities accruing through multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons and the like.
One client, suffering from a stroke, was bothered by an arm that flopped away from her body outside her wheelchair.
Ms Hill designed a warm wool-lined tartan muff into which the arm is tucked. It looks smart and its practicality is not obvious.
That's the aim -- to design clothes that still look good while they feel right, Ms Hill said.
Her tartan wheelchair vests are wool-lined at the back providing warmth and support, comfort where needed.
Her warm padded-leg protectors tuck under track pants, long skirts or a chair rug and ensure snugness and safety.
Warmth dictates much of the design but Ms Hill also accommodates fashion needs.
She caters for younger people, too, and some not affected by a disability like her designs.
One design has a bra fitted into a long camisole top, the whole thing pulled easily over the head, boobs tucked into place and no doing-up called for.
This design can be worn to provide shape under a sun dress but was initially made for an elderly woman who could not do up bra hooks and suggested her bra could be part of a long warm, soft singlet.
"That took some doing, starting with getting the bra right. But it worked and has gone on working in different ways and lengths and fabrics for other people," Ms Hill said.
Specialised care wear is run from her home in Milton Park Road.
Ms Hill takes her range out to homes to show people and help with individual
needs but hopes soon to set up in the Disability Resource Centre in Spey
© Copyright 2002 The Southland Times Company Limited