The world of adaptive clothing is so vast and so necessary, yet it seems that surprisingly few people know much about it—let alone its importance. Not only is it important for the disabled community to know that these options and resources exist for them, but spreading awareness within the able-bodied majority can only have a positive impact—the more you know, the more you may become a conscious consumer, a more informed ally, and a stronger advocate for inclusion.
This topic is as essential to modern fashion and retail as the cultural shift towards more sustainable and ethical practices. So, we hope that as you read, you know that you are contributing to a more diverse and socially mindful future!
So, What Actually Is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing, or adaptive apparel, includes garments that have been uniquely designed for the interests of people with special needs or a smaller range of dressing abilities. A common misconception is that it is only for individuals with severe physical disabilities, but it really is just for anyone with any limitation that makes conventional clothing inconvenient (ie. the elderly or infirm).
Thankfully, there is a growing supply of these garments for people of all ages and abilities. This post particularly focuses on adaptive clothing for adults. If you’re a loving parent that has a sensory-sensitive or disabled child, please feel free to explore more specific info for them here.
Ok, then What Does it Look Like?
Adaptive clothing encapsulates so many different characteristics that designers have mindfully chosen so that garments may be easier to get in and out of, more suitable to the user’s sensitivities, or are more adjustable and flexible.
Some kinds are more obvious, such as clothing with more accessible fastenings (velcro, hidden magnets) while others are more subtle (material choice, careful design). A lot of the time, adaptive clothing really does not look much different from mainstream clothing.
Do You Have Any Examples?
Gladly! We’ve outlined some common, specific cases where adaptive clothing can be particularly helpful:
Sensory-Friendly Fabric Choice
Often a main consideration for people with sensory differences. These individuals can be more sensitive to the material that is touching their skin, and will interact differently with particular garment textures, weights, and seams.
Sometimes, compact, softer fabrics, and layerable pieces void of tags or protruding seams may be preferred—but, of course, not in every case.
There are so many different ways in which a more easily navigable clasp can help a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. Whether someone is a wheelchair user, arthritic, or has some other physical limitation, changing the type or number of clasps can make things simpler.
Some common substitutes are velcro, snaps, or hidden magnets in place of buttons, zippers, or more intricate fastenings.
Differences in Fundamental Construction
For individuals that must spend a lot of time sitting (due to anything from wheelchair use to chronic fatigue), some pants are designed to be lower rise in the front and higher rise in the back, making sitting more comfortable and adjustments less necessary.
Stretchy fabric and elastic waistbands are also very common and useful. Whether someone has a prosthetic limb, motor difficulties, or fluctuates in size due to swelling or otherwise, there are simply so many benefits to having more flexible clothing. Not only might it feel more comfortable when it’s on, but it is often easier to put on and take off as well.
Some types of clothing have been adjusted to have an open back, or adapted to be able to put on frontwards. This makes getting dressed/undressed significantly easier for many people with movement limitations.
So, Where Can I Get Adaptive or Sensory Friendly Clothing?
Luckily, the number of brands and retail stores that are incorporating these kinds of clothes into their lines and their inventory is steadily growing. For example, in 2018, Tommy Hilfiger launched its Tommy Adaptive line, which steadily introduces new and diverse clothing options. Next week in Part II of Adaptive Clothing 101, we are excited to bring you a bunch of other resources for you to find your perfect fit.
As an adaptive and sensory friendly clothing brand ourselves, this is a topic that we feel is extremely important for a more inclusive future in both the fashion and general world.
We hope you learned something new today—let us know what it was? and please tell us if there is anything important to the topic that you think we have missed!