Fashion Design Student Conquers Disability to Pursue Dreams

Sophomore Fashion Design student Kaycee Marshall was born with a paralyzing condition named Sacral Agenesis, which hinders her ability to walk or move the lower portion of her body. From the time Kaycee was a little girl dressing her dolls up in miniature sized clothes, she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. After years of overcoming obstacles in an effort to pursue this dream, Kaycee is now preparing to study abroad in Florence, Italy and New York City for her junior year of college.

Flat Pattern and Draping students were challenged to create garments out of unconventional materials. Pictured is fashion merchandising student modeling Kaycee’s design.
“Since the moment I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, I started researching universities from California to New York, even participating in some of their summer design programs. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, so once I heard about the study abroad opportunities here, Kent State was an obvious choice for me,” stated Kaycee.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 60 million Americans have a permanent disability. As for Kaycee, she intends on being a voice to those 60 million who struggle with finding clothing that suits their specific needs.

Kaycee explains, “In the fashion industry, there is a huge lack of models with disabilities. One thing I want to do as a designer is work with models of all abilities, to allow them the opportunity to pursue their dreams just as I am.”

The New York Times dubbed disability fashion’s “new frontier,” with a noticeable amount of designers and students featuring disabled models and clothing designs for the disabled. Simone Lindsey, sophomore fashion design student and one of Kaycee’s peers, shares that she and her classmates have become much more aware of the importance of designing for minorities from spending time with Kaycee in class.

Kaycee Marshall works on her home sewing machine in her personal station in her Flat Pattern and Draping class.

Since deciding she wanted to design clothing, Kaycee has conquered many challenges that come along with the design process. Industrial sewing machines are built with the foot pedal mounted into the floor, but Kaycee did not have enough strength in her feet to press down on the pedal or the height to reach her foot to the ground. To overcome this problem, she started using a home sewing machine with a moveable pedal and placed it in between her knees to control the speed of the machine. Other challenges she faces include the heights of the dress forms and tables in the classroom.

Kaycee and Professor Carr solved the problem of the dress from being too high by taking it off its wheels and putting it in a garbage basket.
“We considered getting the equipment in the room to a level where she would not have to move, she could just come in the door and be right there, her own place. It’s making do with what you have; its not a bad thing, it’s an important part of life,” declared Betsy Carr, Kaycee’s Draping and Flat Pattern professor.
Kaycee Marshall in her element — working on finishing up final projects.
“With a little creative thinking and a good supporting system, you can do anything you set your mind to. I don’t think something little like a foot pedal or a dress form should stop you from going after your dreams,” encourages Kaycee.

This summer, Kaycee is working with Timmy Global Health and Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana to put on a fashion show for children with disabilities. They are going to feature models with disabilities and designs catered to their special needs. Kaycee’s own designs as well as designs from local boutiques will be shown on the runway.

Kaycee Marshall of Danville, Indiana works on designs for the Timmy Global Health and Riley Children’s Hospital fashion show to take place this summer.