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“I’m a blue jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, so this is quite the moment for me,” says Jim LeBrecht, who along with Nicole Newnham co-directed Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for best documentary feature.
An inspiring story of Camp Jened, a Catskills summer camp for the disabled, Crip Camp is also partly LeBrecht’s story; he has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, and first visited Camp Jened as a teenager in 1971. It was there, while meeting other disabled teens, that LeBrecht began to feel like less of an outsider, he says.
When he learned that the film was nominated, LeBrecht’s thoughts naturally went to what he might wear, and his friend, actress and disabled-rights advocate Sinead Burke, offered to help. “She said, ‘Let me see if I can connect you with a fashion house; if they do, it would be such an important statement,’” LeBrecht remembers.
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele quickly agreed, and the result is the navy and black tuxedo, paired with a floral-printed shirt and custom Gucci socks, that LeBrecht wore tonight.
“It’s unbelievable,” he says. “When I first tried on the outfit, it was kind of transformative for me. I’ve never had anything made for my body. I feel comfortable, and I feel transformed.”
To ensure the fit, the Oakland, California-based filmmaker visited a local tailor with instructions detailing the measurements Gucci needed. “I don’t stand up, so I kind of flipped over and put my chest on the pillow of my wheelchair, with my legs extended down to the floor, and we got the job done,” LeBrecht says.
For LeBrecht, who calls himself “a fun person who really identifies with all the happiness and creativity of the 1960s,” the floral-printed shirt was his favorite part of the look, while a pocket square of navy with red polka dots and a pair of custom Gucci socks were also welcome surprises. “I stopped wearing shoes a long time ago, so these socks are just really yummy, and they look really good,” he says.
LeBrecht — who shared the red carpet with Newnham, wearing a vintage 1965 Mr. Blackwell ivory couture gown — hopes that both his moment at the Oscars and his sartorial elegance will inspire others with disabilities to believe anything is possible.
“For us, it’s about being seen in places where we’ve never had a moment in the spotlight. But what this also says is that every body is beautiful, and for every body in the world, it’s possible to be elegant,” he says. “The whole back and forth with Gucci was really lovely. My body is a one-off, so to speak, but we worked it out. And there really has been a transformation in this for me, in feeling comfortable with who I am … I look great.”
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