M. Dolores "Dode" Quinn, 92, Drexel University professor

M. Dolores Quinn
M. Dolores Quinn
Posted: August 15, 2012

M. Dolores "Dode" Quinn, 92, of Malvern, a Drexel University professor who was an authority on fashionable, functional clothing designs for the physically disabled, died Wednesday, Aug. 8, at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y., where she was vacationing with family.

For almost 40 years, Miss Quinn taught fashion design and the history of costume at Drexel.

In 1977, she gave students attending a summer course the task of designing for handicapped people.

She later told a New York Times reporter that in addition to talking with nurses, therapists, and disabled people, students taped their fingers together, tried dressing with only one arm, and confined themselves in other ways to understand the dressing limitations of the disabled. The class turned out garments that were not only comfortable and easily donned and doffed, but also stylish.

With funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and other contributors, Miss Quinn expanded the course into a Design Without Limits project at Drexel to create attractive functional prototype clothing for people with physical limitations, including trousers with horizontal zippers that made prosthesis-fitting easier, a wrap skirt for easy access, and a raincoat with a slit from mid-back to hem for those in wheelchairs.

In 1990, Miss Quinn cowrote Design Without Limits: Designing and Sewing for Special Needs with Renee Weiss Chase, a former student who became a colleague on Drexel's faculty.

The book, republished in 2003, addresses the fashion needs of the nine million physically disabled Americans. It offers advice to those in wheelchairs, such as "dressing tall" by using the same color from head to toe and choosing clothes with vertical lines. Tailors are given tips on how to measure disabled people and make appropriate garments.

In the foreword, Miss Quinn and Weiss wrote: "Appearance has a powerful impact on an individual's personal well-being."

Miss Quinn often spoke at professional conferences and was interviewed on local television programs about fashion for the disabled, Weiss said.

""She was an elegant lady who did everything with great finesse," Weiss said. "She also had a twinkle in her eye and cared about your personal life as well as your professional life."

Miss Quinn wanted her students to learn from the top people in the industry, Weiss said, and invited the designers James Galanos, Mary McFadden, Bill Blass, and others to speak to her classes.

She was former chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Fashion Group and was a member of the Association of College Professors of Textiles and Clothing. She was involved with the costume collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and helped organize art and sculpture exhibits at Drexel.

After retiring from Drexel in the mid-1980s, Miss Quinn was a lecturer for Weight Watchers on the Main Line for more than a decade. She drew vast numbers of participants who had significant weight losses, her niece, Lisa Parry Howard, said.

A native of Souderton, Miss Quinn earned a bachelor's degree from what is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She later earned a master's degree in fine arts from Columbia University. She was then in charge of the art program for the Elizabethtown (Pa.) School District until joining Drexel in 1947.

Before moving to Malvern two years ago, Miss Quinn was a resident of Bryn Mawr, where she was a eucharistic minister and lector at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to her niece, Miss Quinn is survived by a nephew, J. Kevin Parry.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, 104 Channing Ave., Malvern. Friends may call from 10 a.m. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Donations may be made to the Dolores Quinn Award Fund, Drexel University, Box 8215, Philadelphia 19101-9684.

Contact Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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