Latest Issue

Adaptive Fashion

As we close out March, I wanted to take a moment to recognize that this month hosts various awareness days such as World Hearing Day, International Wheelchair Day, World Down Syndrome Day, and World Kidney Day, to name a few. Disabilities come in many forms, both visible and invisible, and are more common than you may imagine. Being hard of hearing, visual impairment, and arthritis are some of the most prevalent disabilities. I mention this because I’ve started noticing more and more brands offering Adaptive Fashion to serve the needs of those with disabilities and the elderly. Adaptive clothing is specifically designed for ease of dress and to meet the functional needs of differently-abled people. Some examples include shoes that allow the wearer to step into them without forcing them on, or skirts that open at the sides with magnets instead of buttons, or pants cut higher in the back and lower in the front for wheelchair users. The best adaptive fashion allows a person to better navigate in the world and gives them a chance to express their personal style while doing so. Here’s a rundown of some adaptive clothing brands and their products.

Good old JCPenney has adaptive options for men, women, and children. When searching online, at first glance, the results don’t seem any different than non-adaptive offerings. T-shirts, button-downs, shorts, jeans, hoodies. But clicking on the details and looking more closely at the product images, that t-shirt is tag-less and made from stretchy cotton for ease in getting on and off, and the material combats any sensory irritants. The button-downs have Velcro closures, as do the jeans that are made to look like the standard button and zipper fly. The shorts and capris have hidden Velcro down the side seams to aid in dressing while sitting. The hoodies have hidden abdominal access openings for feeding tubes or monitors. Again, you wouldn’t notice these features unless you zoom in and read the descriptions. The overall feel of JCPenney’s adaptive fashion is that of everyday basics.

For a sportier yet sophisticated take on adaptable clothing, there is Tommy Hilfiger. Their patchwork sweatshirt for women comes with a Velcro closure at the shoulders to widen the neck for easy pullover dressing that is designed to appear as traditional seams. The dresses on offer are designed with the zipper in the front with an O-ring zipper pull and D-Ring ribbon belt. Men’s shirts have magnetic snaps along what appears as a standard button placket and magnets at the cuffs. Jeans and cargo shorts feature a Velcro-closure and magnetic fly, as well as internal pull-up loops for more ease in getting dressed. Girls’ leggings also feature pull-up loops in the same signature print as their standard kid leggings. Boys’ polo shirts also have a magnetic front closure that appears as a traditional button polo front.

For more kid apparel, check out Target’s adoptive children’s line for functional, sensory-friendly, and easy-to-access clothing. They have a line of diaper-friendly jeans and joggers that will give kids the confidence to go about their day in clothes that are just as cute and cool and non-adaptive garments. I really love the Cat & Jack Adaptive Abdominal Tutu Dress; it’s as fun and whimsical as any princess dress should be but features a hidden opening for abdominal access and wider neckline and armholes for easy on-and-off. And all the t-shirts in this line are flat-seamed with no tags for a sensory-friendly design.

Jeans can be tricky, no matter your ability or mobility level. For folks who require/utilize a wheelchair to access the world, jeans can be particularly difficult. Seven7 Adaptive is a denim brand designed in America available on that specializes in jeans for wheelchair users. With Velcro closures along the side and reinforced belt loops, these jeans allow for a more put-together look than standard pull-on pants like joggers and sweats.

I love a good slip-on shoe, but even slip-on footwear can be a challenge for those with compromised balance and mobility. Billy Footwear offers a wide range of colors and styles of shoe that incorporates a zipper that goes along the side of the shoe and around the toe allowing the upper to open and fold over. Hence, the wearer can place their foot onto the footbed unobstructed. This accessible design comes in sneakers, moccasins, and boots for toddlers, kids, and adults.

These are just a few of the brands and labels offering adaptable clothing. The thing I like about these companies is that they aren’t specialty or medical stores; they are familiar places you probably already shop. And the best part is, you can’t really tell if a style of clothing is adaptive; they just appear as clothes that meet functional needs and give folks the dignity to go out into the world and live their lives.