USW Fashion team create ‘dream clothes’ for conjoined twins

Marieme and Ndeye conjoined twins

Marieme and Ndeye Ndiaye

The Fashion department at the University of South Wales (USW) has created outfits for conjoined twin girls from Cardiff, as part of a documentary on their lives which is being broadcast tonight (21 February) at 8pm on BBC One Wales and 10.40pm on BBC One:

Inseparable Sisters, which gives an uplifting insight into the lives of seven year-olds Marieme and Ndeye Ndiaye, who were born in Senegal, explains how the girls weren’t expected to live more than a few days.

After their devoted dad, Ibrahima, brought them to the UK in 2017 for medical treatment, Marieme and Ndeye have defied all odds and now attend mainstream primary school.

Among regular hospital visits and physio appointments, one of the challenges they face in their everyday lives is finding clothes that they enjoy wearing – and that’s where the team at USW came in.

Sue James, Technical Instructor in Fashion; Gwyneth Moore, Course Leader for Fashion Design and Fashion Business & Marketing; and Fashion Design student Hannah Ludovico worked with the girls and their dad to develop several outfits for the girls, after selecting pieces of clothing in their favourite colours and patterns and adapting them to fit their body shape.

Inseparable Sisters USW Fashion 2

The twins, who are joined at the pelvis, share one pair of legs and one torso.

The way their circulation system works also means that Marieme is very often cold, whereas Ndeye feels warm, so the team took this into account when making some of the items, ensuring that they would suit them both.

Hannah used specialist software CLO 3D to create a digital model of the girls’ body, so that garment ideas could be tested in a virtual space before creating the bespoke clothing.

The avatar created was the first time that the girls had seen anyone else that looked like them, and the team now hopes that the software can be more widely used in the future curriculum to help students to create adapted clothing.

Sue said: “This was such a lovely project to be involved with.

"After buying lots of garments from a high street store, we set up a shop environment on campus where the girls could choose exactly what they wanted – something that they’d never been able to experience before, in a store.”

“It was so interesting to hear from Ibrahima about how difficult he found getting the simplest of items for them, such as coats and tops, so it really was an honour to be able to create things for them that were exactly what they needed.”

Gwyneth added: “To be able to start thinking about how the clothes would fit the girls, we had to consider their physical needs but also how two little girls would want their clothes to be fun and suit their different personalities.

“They didn’t want to be dressed exactly the same – they very much wanted to embrace their own identities, so we were able to create garments that were connected but also had very different elements that worked together.”

BBC presenter Lucy Owen, who has spent a lot of time with the family during their time in Cardiff and is the narrator for the documentary, contacted USW and asked for the Fashion team’s help.

She said: “It was wonderful to see and to be able to film Marieme and Ndeye‘s excitement choosing clothes that could be made especially for them by the fashion department at USW.

“The skill of ‘Sue the Sew’ and the team allowed the girls, for the first time, to have items which expressed their individual tastes. Each twin has a different favourite colour, each has a different favourite motif, and single tops were made to reflect that. On a practical level, clothing was adapted to suit the girls’ individual needs too, and ensure that they were both comfortable.

“Their sheer joy showing off their new outfits to their teachers and support network, was beautiful to see and one of the highlights of the programme for me.

“We’re very grateful to USW for allowing our cameras to film, and I know their ongoing support for the family is a big relief to their dad, who faces a continuing struggle to suitable clothing for two budding fashionistas!”

Inseparable Sisters USW Fashion 1

Ibrahima added: “I’ve always believed that it’s not because you are physically different that you shouldn’t have access to one of the basic human rights – the right to decent and dignified clothing. Nobody should be ostracised in the fashion industry because of their disability.

“USW’s Fashion team has proved me right, by investing their expertise and resources to make sure that Ndeye and Marieme will no longer struggle in finding clothing that suits them.

"Thank you so much to Sue and the entire team who made this happen. You all are making our lives easier. Please keep on making history.”