Mom Creating Adaptive Clothing Line For Kids

By Leslee Bassman 
Austin American-Statesman

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shelley Carter is creating an adaptive clothing line called “BerkBloom.” The goal behind “BerkBloom” is to make life easier for parents of immobilized children.


With the start of fall, family holiday photos — completed by matching outfits — are just around the corner.

While the season is generally a time for laughter and joy, for young mom Shelley Carter, the process is challenged by a special needs daughter who can’t accommodate the same clothing as her two other girls and, generally, is difficult to dress and fit given retail choices.

“When we do Christmas pictures, I want her to wear what her sisters wear,” she said of her middle child, Berkeley Fincher.

So Carter, a 2002 Westlake High School graduate, is creating an adaptive clothing line, BerkBloom, to make life easier for parents of immobilized children.

After her daughter’s nonfatal drowning on Dec. 30, 2017, Carter’s world forever changed. The toddler was brought back to life twice and taken by Travis County STARFlight to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.

Despite Carter being told Berkeley had only a 1% chance to live, she pulled through but remains with a severe anoxic brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen.

The accident — occurring only two days before she turned 3 — left the now 5-year-old unable to walk, sit up, swallow or speak, although she communicates with her eyes using technology.

“She is the sweetest, strongest little girl,” Carter said of Berkeley. “She smiles. She makes noises. She’ll tell you when she’s upset.”

After the accident, she went through a divorce, with two daughters living with their father and Berkeley with Carter.

“It was a very hard two and a half years to get to where we are now,” Carter said. “It definitely broke up our family. Being a single mom with such a special needs kid has been such a challenge, for everything.”

At 4 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing only 32 pounds, Berkeley is difficult to dress. Wheelchair-bound and requiring a feeding tube for nutrition, she has no control over her movements and her muscles are very tight, eliminating the possibility of wearing long sleeves or jackets.

When Carter removes a T-shirt from Berkeley, she has to pull it around her daughter’s bent arms and over her head, stretching the garment at the neck and maneuvering it over her taut hands. By the time Carter’s finished, she’s sweating, with the process uncomfortable for both mother and child. Carter has also tried stretching Berkeley’s clothes, or tying or cutting them to fit her needs. As a result, she’s limited to wearing stretchy pants or pajamas.

Additionally, Berkeley’s water therapy requires her to put on a bathing suit, a one-piece that covers her stomach’s gastrostomy tube needed for feeding. But the current market choices don’t allow for a way for Carter to get to the tube nor provisions to access Berkeley’s diaper should the need arise.

Carter’s experience with Berkeley forced her to become more savvy about the needs of children with severe disabilities.

“Shopping for her is impossible, so this is why I want to do this line,” Carter said. “Regular clothing just does not work for Berkeley.”

Her initial line includes bathing suits with snaps on the bottom for easy entry to change a diaper and a flap to access a feeding tube. All prototypes have been drafted with that tube in mind.

“So many parents have kids with (gastrostomy) tubes and it’s a very sensitive area,” Carter said.

Her line accommodates children with irritable skin and avoids velcro, seams or tags that could scratch or mark. Carter fashioned a diaper that resembles underwear, aiming to preserve the self- respect of older children.

Buttons adorn the shoulders on shirts, allowing the article to be pulled down instead of over a child’s head. The line’s jackets and long sleeves are made with magnets so they can be removed without much effort and Carter is designing a blanket with snaps to accommodate a wheelchair.

Adaptive Halloween costumes are also on her drawing board, as are cute rompers with snaps, a design that’s currently only available in baby sizes.

With Berkeley joined by other special needs children in her therapy sessions, Carter said she’s seen “how much these parents struggle to get these kids in and out of clothes, and how (the clothing is) uncomfortable for them and how they don’t have a variety.”

Although some stores offer online clothing options for children like Berkeley, she said those choices are basic, limited, plain and lacking in individuality. Employed as a stylist by an online bridesmaid fashion maker, Carter said fashion is how she expresses herself.

“Just because these kiddos are disabled, doesn’t mean fashion doesn’t matter to them,” she said. “I want all the inclusivity for these kids that other kids have. The options are way too limited and the market is huge for it.”

Throughout the process, Carter has been inspired by other women entrepreneurs, including her employer, Revelry founder Michelle DeLoach, and Lakeway resident Angel Coe, who started several businesses while working for a law firm.

“When I heard about Shelley’s story, I knew, somehow, I wanted to be involved,” said Coe, adding that she was drawn to Carter’s creativity and need to help others. “We messaged and we connected and I said, ‘Here’s what you have to do.'”

Carter’s innovation of making adaptive clothing accessible has recently been brought to the forefront by actress Selma Blair, who advocated for fashion designers to include the line. Blair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a couple of years ago.

With the help of Robyn Bagley of Spicewood, Carter is raising funds to see her project to fruition through a GoFundMe page. Bagley met Carter following her daughter’s accident and attended a fundraising event in early 2018 to help with the family’s medical expenses. Bagley’s daughter is a month older than Berkeley and, since their meeting, has sent the family books and care packages filled with pajamas for the youngster.

“Looking at my baby girl’s eyes every single day when I knew that (Carter) couldn’t do the same, it was just impactful for me,” she said.

Bagley posted Carter’s fundraising efforts on a local social media page at the end of August.

“I remembered in Lakeway Swap a few years ago, everyone was so supportive in the original initiative,” she said. “My hope was that some of those people who were touched, like myself, would see it again and feel compelled to contribute.”

Carter already has a following of mothers with special needs children and has identified a market for the products, receiving positive feedback in the process, she said.

“A lot of fashion designers who want to add adaptive lines, they just don’t know,” Carter said. “They would have to do the research for it — get with occupational therapists and different therapists to see what would work. I already know.”

For more information, visit and search for Peace Love & Berk.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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