U.K. Bridal Boutique Celebrates Wedding Dresses And Wheelchairs | Connecticut Public Radio
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U.K. Bridal Boutique Celebrates Wedding Dresses And Wheelchairs

Jan 13, 2019
Originally published on January 13, 2019 4:22 pm

Bridal shop co-owner Laura Allen didn't think it was a big deal when she had the idea to put a window display mannequin in a wheelchair.

The mannequin, affectionately named Prunella, sits in one of the two storefront displays for The White Collection, a small bridal shop in Portishead, England. Prunella wears a beautiful white wedding dress with a flowery boat neckline and a fabulous pair of Louboutin shoes.

The display caught the eye of artist Beth Wilson — who uses a wheelchair. In a tweet she wrote, "it shouldn't be exciting but it's the first time I've ever seen disability portrayed in a shop window."

The tweet went viral, putting Prunella on even larger display as people around the world starting vocalizing their support and appreciation for the inclusive display.

"That's created this absolute frenzy and this outpouring of messages on this debate that more shops should follow suit," said Allen's sister and shop co-owner Sarah Parker. "This shouldn't be an unusual thing to see in a shop window."

Bridal shop co-owners have affectionately named their display mannequin sitting in a wheelchair "Prunella."
Courtesy of Sarah Parker

A stream of visitors has come to take pictures of the the display, including little girls in wheelchairs. Allen and Parker have been overwhelmed by how much their display has meant to people, including U.K. resident Maria Coehlo.

Coehlo has had to constantly advocate for her daughter ever since juvenile arthritis put her in a wheelchair at age 17. She and her daughter, now 21-years-old, are used to meeting barriers.

"People's perception of her is changed because the mobility aid is what they perceive," Coehlo said. "They don't see the vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, incredible human being that uses the tool as a way of getting around. They just see the condition or the disability."

With the window display, Coehlo said they had something to celebrate for once. After she learned of the display, she called the shop to thank them.

"I just thought how incredible, how amazing, at last," she said. "Someone has just normalized that wheelchair and that normalizes my daughter."

Allen and Parker change their window display every month. They're not sure what they'll put up for February, but they're taking suggestions.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In the town of Portishead, England, a small bridal shop made a big statement with their window display.

SARAH PARKER: We didn't feel we were doing anything that was really outside of the norm. But obviously, it is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sarah Parker is the co-owner of a boutique called The White Collection. Earlier this month, Sarah and her sister Laura Allen rearranged the mannequins.

PARKER: One side, a model stood in quite a big, traditional wedding dress. And the other window, we have a mannequin sat down in a wheel chair.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They didn't think it was that big a deal. That's until artist Beth Wilson, who uses a wheelchair, tweeted a photo of the display she wrote. It shouldn't be exciting, but it's the first time I've ever seen disability portrayed in a shop window. Her post got a lot of attention.

PARKER: That's created this absolute frenzy and this outpouring of messages on this debate that this shouldn't be an unusual thing to see in a shop window.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Maria Coehlo called the store to tell them how much it meant to her.

MARIA COEHLO: I thought, good grief. Someone has just normalized that wheelchair, and that normalizes my daughter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Coehlo's daughter has juvenile arthritis and at 17 began using a wheelchair.

COEHLO: People's perception of her has changed because the mobility aid is what they perceive. They don't see the vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, incredible human being that uses the tool as a way of getting around.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Coehlo hopes that stores everywhere follow suit. In the meantime, shop owner Sarah Parker says a stream of visitors have taken pictures with the display, including at least one little girl who also uses a wheelchair. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.