These designers and models are turning fashion ‘Inside Out’


People who keep up with fashion trends know all about fashion shows. They feature bone-thin models wearing haute couture designs and expressions of irritated boredom. We’ve seen them on television, prancing down runways in Paris, New York, London, and Milan.

There are the typical fashion shows and then there are Inside Out Fashion Shows. The rules are different. Design the clothes yourself. Sashay down the runway. Strut your stuff as you pose to the music. Be happy. Be glam. Redefine what fashion means and who can make it and wear it.

That’s what artists are doing at Huntsville’s Inside Out Studio, a no-cost art studio for adults who are developmentally disabled. Located in Lowe Mill, the historic factory building that was repurposed as an art center for 152 artists — potters, painters, sculptors, and food creators — the studio works with people who create their art and sometimes sell it to the public.

Inside Out Studio’s Executive Director, Sherry Broyles, says the fund-raiser fashion show had to be canceled for two years due to COVID, but will be held this year on Oct. 22 from 2-4. Sandwich board signs will be placed in the Lowe Mill parking lot at 2211 Seminole Drive to direct people to the runway on the second floor.

This free event is co-sponsored by Phoenix, a non-profit that helps its clients find jobs and keep them.

“Our artists are different. They’re not constrained by the usual conventions of clothing and style and trying to impress people with their wardrobe. They’re free from all that,” Broyles says.

“The studio challenges expectations of what people with disabilities can do. We have one runway for everybody. The Inside Out artists walk down along with other Lowe Mill artists and designers. There’s an idea of blending mainstream artists with Inside Out artists.”

“They’re all in it together.”

The artists decide what to wear. Their imagination triggers their costume design. Katie loves sea creatures and is designing a jellyfish outfit. Maria is a grand Egyptian queen. Cody’s at the work table creating a Walt Disney costume.

The last fashion show featured an artist who walked the runway as the Queen of Hearts, wearing a dress made of cloth and playing cards. Another went as a circus master, painting bold stripes on his jacket and wearing a top hat. Broyles says she’s the assistant who does the hand sewing, but the ideas for the clothing comes from the artists themselves.

“We don’t assume we know more than the artists do about the design they’ve chosen,” Broyles says. “They’re in charge of that.”

They’re also in charge of how they walk. Some of them are already practicing their runway walk in the hallway just outside of the studio. One artist will ride down the runway in her electric wheelchair. Others may walk with Broyles if that’s what they want to do.

Beer and wine will be served and Dragon’s Forge Cafe is creating a non-alcoholic drink for the occasion. Tee shirts will be printed on site.

The beat of the R&B music energized the rows of people who came to see the previous fashion show. When it was over, the audience members stood and clapped for a long time. The artists mingled with the crowd. A few took bows.

“At the end of the day, they know they’ve really done something,” Broyles says. “And they did it their own way.”



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