Deaf School Fashion

adreanaline     February 5, 2019 in ASL 5 Subscribers Subscribe

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How the difference between mainstreamed and Deaf school fashion influences our community perceptions as adults.

Duration - 4:08

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English version:

This morning in the space between sleep and awake, where the brain starts to work ahead of the body, I thought about something that happened in my Deaf school days. There were three schools that I went to — Central North Carolina School for the Deaf, Model Secondary School for the Deaf, and North Carolina School for the Deaf. All three of those schools had this in common.

A little background — Deaf kids in mainstreamed settings often appear to be fine until puberty hit. This is because children usually communicate through physical play, but once their bodies start to change the emphasis turns to communication. Many kids fall out of the loop at that time, often getting labelled as “failures.” Parents tend to place them at the schools for the Deaf. I transferred at 13, which is on the younger end of that phenomenon, so I had the opportunity to observe the differences, especially where it comes to fashion.

Staying at the residential schools for the Deaf was like staying amongst an adopted family. We would come downstairs in our pajamas for breakfast, even. Fashion was not as big a priority as it was in public schools — because when one is amongst family, why would one need to impress others through what one wears?

Many mainstreamed kids who came in stuck out because of their clothing. In the absence of clear communication they had to find ways to visually blend in, hence their way of dressing. Once they arrived, either they learned to blend in or they did not.

Instead of clothing, what really counted at the Deaf school was language. How well did the kids speak ASL, and how did they carry themselves both culturally and linguistically? Those were the most important factors that contributed to popularity, the community values we still see today.

I thought about this in the waking hour — how does this experience impact me as an adult? I realized that my inner responses are different when I encounter interpreters who dress in either of two ways. If they dress in a comfortable style that is clear to the vision, I feel comfortable working with them. But if they are dressing “extra,” my instinct is to distrust them because they appear to be dressed to impress hearing people, like the mainstreamed kids were back in my school days.

These days, Deaf kids are raised in a more varied experience. Fashion changes accordingly, but the constant is — it’s not how one is dressed that is valued in our community. Our language is valued most. There are more thoughts on this, but I’ll save them for another video.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on Deaf school fashion?

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    Title:   Fashion/Makeup as Art
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