Tobie Roberts, an up-and-coming fashion designer with a passion for bridal, pageant and prom gowns, knows the importance of creating garments that make women feel confident and beautiful. Equally as important, Tobie, who lives with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), knows the importance of making these designs accessible, inclusive and easy to wear.
“I started sewing at 10 years old and made my first garment in eighth grade. In college I discovered my love for bridal wear and haute couture,” shares Tobie.
Tobie’s undeniable talent and love for high fashion even landed her a spot in an elite design program in France, where she visited the workshops that create the clothing for designer powerhouse labels Dior and Chanel.
Now in her senior year at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, Tobie is not only working on finishing her degree but also designing wedding gowns for her own line, Tobie Marie, an inclusive bridal wear company that caters to women of all sizes, shapes, and abilities.
“My sister’s wedding dress was the first thing I designed for someone with LGMD,” says Tobie, whose mother, grandmother and sister all live with different forms of the disease.
“My sister has a weak back and weak calves so I had the challenge of designing her the big beautiful ball gown she had always wanted but making it light and easy enough for her to move in,” shares Tobie.
Prior to creating her sister’s wedding dress, Tobie had already designed an accessible collection for a scholarship she earned through the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA). The project was based around inclusive clothing, and she focused on garments that were functional, comfortable and geared toward seated positions.
As a part of her senior collection, Tobie is currently designing two wedding dresses, both for women with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
“I want to give these women exactly what they want. I want them to feel amazing on their wedding days but I also want to meet their expectations throughout the fitting process,” shares Tobie.
“I’ve been interviewing people with disabilities across the country on what they did and didn’t like about shopping for wedding dresses and so far I’ve found out these women have felt unwanted and underappreciated at the bridal stores they went to. They did, however, appreciate shops that were accessible and where staff really listened to them during their fitting experience,” says Tobie.
Tobie hopes to one day open her own bridal store and focus on dresses for women with disabilities, since it’s difficult to find places that do cater to those different needs.
Until then, Tobie will remain busy with an invitation to share her designs at New York Children’s Fashion Week and preparing for The Collections, Stephens College’s annual fashion show, this spring.
“Fashion is an outlet for change. Designers need to work through their fashion to create a better society through inclusion, diversity and understanding. Love, beauty and happiness is open for everyone, and I hope through my fashion, we can make a change in the current stigma,” shares Tobie.
Help kids and adults like Tobie continue to live longer and grow stronger.