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Design Studies PhD student awarded Smithsonian fellowship to study history of clothing made for disabled people

PhD candidate Natalie Wright gives a talk at the Parsons / Cooper Hewitt Graduate Student Symposium in April 2023. Photo by Liz Jackson.

Natalie Wright, a PhD student in Design Studies, was recently awarded a Smithsonian fellowship for study of clothing made for people with disabilities in the post-war U.S.

Wright’s research focuses on the history of disability and dress in the U.S. between 1950 and 1975, using case studies of clothing designed for disabled people and the stories of designers, many of whom were disabled themselves.

She will have the opportunity this fall to further explore these ideas as the 2023-24 George Gurney Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her principal advisor will be visual culture expert and historian of the body Robin Veder, editor of the journal American Art, with whom she plans to explore 20th-century American artwork that might illustrate the answers to the questions she asks in her research. Wright’s co-advisor at the Smithsonian will be historian of disability and material culture Katherine Ott at the National Museum of American History.

“People tend to think that what we call now adaptive clothing is a recent phenomenon, but it’s existed for such a long time,” Wright said in a UW–Madison Graduate Programs & Services story. “The post-war timeframe is just one important moment on this longer timeline.”

Read more about Wright’s research and goals for her upcoming fellowship in the Graduate Programs & Services story.