About the writer

My photo
I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Conference Begins

At last the doors open and slowly people start to wander into the exhibitor’s hall.  Finally, people began to stop by our table.  We would explain about our clothing line and show them our jeans and shirts.  We explained that we were here only for testing purposes and that we were not selling our jeans at this point.  The response was overwhelming.  Parents were so excited and couldn’t wait for us to have our jeans available.   
Our first jeans and shirts were strictly for adults.  Most of our conversations were with the parents but many of the adults with Down syndrome were also excited to hear about our clothes.   The parents would tell us about their struggles to find clothes for their children and we explained that, in time, we would eventually have a full line.
We finally started to get some volunteers to try on our jeans and some even tried on a shirt.  Sometimes we were met with resistance and a little stubbornness and the parents would have to talk a few of their children into trying on our jeans.  But after they changed their clothes, I would ask if I could take their pictures and they immediately turned into America’s Next Top Model.  They posed for me every time like a pro.
We were amazed at the transformations.  Some of the parents wanted to take our samples home and were ready to order from us right there.  But, at this point, we were not prepared to sell anything.  This trip was only an opportunity for us to see how our jeans and shirts fit.  Not everyone tried on the shirts, but our main focus was on the jeans.  Our sizing was very successful for almost everyone, although there were a few that the fit was just not good.   
We listened to the comments by the parents; we heard what they had to say about the challenges of finding clothes.  We listened to what they didn’t like about our jeans, too.  The one thing we noticed a lot was how some of our volunteers pushed the waistbands down under their bellies when they put on the jeans and their parents told us that they wore all their pants like that.
Seeing how often this happened, we thought this might be a sensory issue, that some of these people didn’t like having anything around their waists.  So Jillian and I decided to try to create a style just for them.  We decided to call them our “Dip Downs”.  We thought we could design a pair of jeans with a full elastic waistband that would cover the hips in the back but come done slightly under the belly in the front.  When we got home, we would have to see how we could create this style.
The other major change we decided to make was the waistband itself.  The ribbed band that we originally used just didn’t make the jeans look like jeans.  It made them appear more childish.  Even though they were comfortable, we wanted our jeans to look like every other pair of jeans you buy in the store, accept that ours would fit a person with Down syndrome.
The next changes we would have to make were some adjustments to the T shirts.  We decided we couldn’t have a man’s and woman’s shirt.  We saw a need to create a shirt just for the ladies with a fuller figure and make a unisex shirt for men of all sizes and for smaller ladies who did not need the extra width across the bottom.  Other small changes also needed to be made as well.
After three days of spending time with so many wonderful people, it was time to pack up and head home.  We knew we had more work to do on our adult sizes once we got back but we even found a little time to relax by the pool.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The NDSC Conference – our first event

At last Jillian and I are ready to leave for the conference.  I am so relieved that our last shipment arrived in the nick of time and the weather is perfect.  We leave Cleveland without a hitch and arrive in Orlando as scheduled.  A short ride to the hotel and we’re ready to check in.

After we settle in and unpack our clothes, we take a walk around the hotel grounds.  It’s a huge resort and there are people everywhere with Down syndrome.  They are every age, size and shape.  I look at all the body shapes and wonder how our jeans and shirts will fit them.  I hope we get lots of people to stop by our booth and try them on.  We’re just here to see how they fit, we have nothing to sell.  This is it, the big test!

We’re a little nervous about the next few days but we’re excited at the same time.  Here we are at last with a year’s worth of work behind us and have we no idea what the outcome will be.  We head to the registration booth and find out what the procedure is for the exhibitors.  I’ve never done anything like this before, so I must learn the “ropes”.  We get our instructions and pray that the package with our dressing room and half our clothes arrived here safe and sound.

Finally, we’re allowed into the exhibitors’ hall to prepare our booth.  There it is, the huge box containing our dressing room.  We breathe a sigh of relief.  We start unpacking and realize we’ve forgotten the instructions on how to assemble all the pieces.  Well, Jillian and I make a great team.  In no time at all (and lots of laughs) it’s assembled, we figured it out!  We hang the curtains, unpack all our jeans and shirts and prepare our display table.  We’re ready to go.

The room is filled with all kinds of displays.  We wander around the room for a while and meet some of the other exhibitors.  There is such a variety of vendors such as educational material for new parents, special toys, jewelry made by people with Down syndrome who have started their own small business, books, even special glasses frames made for people with Down syndrome; there must be more than one hundred exhibitors.

Just across from us, there is a young man with Down syndrome setting up an unusual display.  We watch with interest as he and another man, who appears to be his father, put up a huge net.  We also see a set of golf clubs sitting there that look like they may be for children.  The young man looks like he may be in his twenties and is dressed in shorts and a golf shirt.  His stature is not like a person with Down syndrome at all.  He’s very tall and looks like an athlete.  When they are done setting up their display, I finally ask the father about what they do.  He tells me his son is a golf pro for people with Down syndrome and they sell specially made golf clubs as well.  His son travels the country giving lectures and teaching golf.  I was so impressed by this young man’s special gift.  He was also one of the speakers at the conference. 
There are no limits that I can see for people who have Down syndrome.  Being at this conference and seeing all the people in attendance made me realize how much opportunity and support there is available and the endless possibilities for people with Down syndrome.