Fashioning self-esteem through clothing designs

Instead of hiding, I’ve been empowered to show my face and my natural body every time I present a collection.

  • 3 years ago
  • April 21, 2021
11 min read
The first photo that Florencia uploaded on her Instagram showing herself as she is. The first photo that Florencia uploaded on her Instagram showing herself as she is. She titled it 'Me Out of the Closet.' | Florencia Risso
First-person source
Florencia Risso is 25 years old and was born with a congenital malformation, which is why her left forearm is missing. For a long time it was difficult to accept herself. She studied clothing design and today has her own brand.

I was born with a congenital malformation leaving my left forearm missing.

I grew up surrounded by stigma, feeling I was not equal to others, excluded from society.

Buying clothes was always a challenge. I wanted to do something for people like me, to help us feel more accepted. 

My love and passion for clothing design led to the launch of my business. 

Instead of hiding, I’ve been empowered to show my face and my natural body every time I present a collection.

For a long time, I masked my disability.

When I looked in the mirror, I only looked at half of my body. I permanently hide my left arm.

In social networks, I was not encouraged to post a photo showing my disability.

If I could go back in time, everything would be different.

Self-worth was painfully low

Many times I was rejected by men. They didn’t want to go out with me because I was missing an arm. 

I started thinking I was ugly. My self-esteem was not strong. I felt destined to be alone for the rest of my life. 

By that time, I had very negative thoughts about myself and my future. It is a time that I don’t want to revisit.  

Besides, buying clothes was always difficult. I couldn’t find anything that suited me, causing embarrassment.

I wanted to do something for people like me and help others to feel more accepted in society. 

Clothes as the answer

That’s when I decided to start studying clothing design. I felt that I could help people through integration. From that moment on, everything changed. 

It was difficult for me to make the garments due to a lack of mobility. However, I managed to deliver them.

It might take me a little longer than the rest, but nothing would stop me from moving on.

During those five years, I never felt different from the rest of my classmates.

In 2018, I started working as a costume designer. I enjoyed doing it, but it was intermittent. I was always a very active person, and my dream was to help others like me. 

With the arrival of Covid-19, this situation worsened. My income had plummeted. I didn’t have enough to eat. 

I saw how my only dream in life was dying little by little, and I started to feel anxious.

Pandemic and new opportunities

Thankfully, my love and passion for clothes designs were stronger than the anxiety.

I made the hard decision to start my business. I dedicated all of my time to create an autumn-winter collection.

My friends were the first models to test my clothes. 

I wanted to create clothes similar to what I wear, with my style.

Friends and family helped me a lot with the dissemination of my project. 

I started producing something different, something unique. I put a lot of passion into my dream.

Fortunately, I was able to sell everything I made, and that led me to design even more options for the spring-summer line.

Time for introspection

I went through a deep process of introspection during isolation.

I wondered why I punished myself so much for being physically different.

One reason was the world does not react well to people who do not meet the standards of normality.

An essential question arose for me to understand everything: What does it mean to be accepted? Who is ordinary?

Those questions helped me stop punishing myself for missing my forearm.

Born this way

I was born that way. It’s something that I couldn’t choose. What’s the point of punishing myself for something I couldn’t and can’t control?

What I CAN do is constantly challenge myself and show the world that limitations do not condition me. 

Now I see myself, and I like what the mirror gives me back.

I am a woman who stands out for getting around each of the stones that stand in her way. I don’t mind not having a photo taken like everyone else.

According to official statistics, in recent decades, infant mortality due to malformations has decreased in a large part of the world’s countries.

The component of infant mortality that has decreased the most is corresponding to the postneonatal period (from 28 to 365 days of life), thanks to the control of malformation diseases and malnutrition.

Although there is heterogeneity between countries, the neonatal component of infant mortality has been more difficult to reduce. In addition to prematurity and low weight, congenital anomalies have gained a greater relative weight.

Argentina reported 7,093 deaths of children under 1 year of age, with an infant mortality rate of 9.7 per 1,000 live births. Due to congenital anomalies in that period, infant deaths were 1919 and accounted for more than 27% of total infant deaths.

Congenit problems may lead in some cases to long-term disability. They can result from one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional, or environmental factors, or their causes may be unknown. Most congenital anomalies can be prevented with anti-rubella vaccination, adequate folic acid intake through fortification of staple foods, and adequate pre-conception care are just three examples of prevention interventions.

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