Adaptive Fashion: How to Find Clothes That Reflect Who You Are

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Adaptive fashion is a subject we’ve wanted to write about for months. The fashion industry constantly seems on the cusp of taking a big leap. We thought we’d soon have a “one size fits all” set of solutions to cover. Unfortunately, it seems the market is still fragmented and complicated. As we wait for the fashion industry to develop more offers, let’s have a look at what’s out there already.

What is Adaptive Fashion?

One of the reasons this one size fits all solution isn’t forthcoming is the sheer number of variations in body types. Are we talking about physically disabled wheelchair users or kids with heightened sensory perception who can’t stand the contact of certain materials on their skin? Elderly people with Parkinson’s who struggle to close shirt buttons? Adults who wear diapers? People in wheelchairs? Blind people, who can’t tell whether their clothes are the right way up or not? People who live with feeding tubes? Adults and children with missing limbs? Small people?

And the answer is: potentially, all of these and more. Recent estimates consider that 15% of the world’s population has a physical or mental disability. That’s 1.2 billion adults and kids. So next time you’re looking for adaptive clothing, remember, you are NOT alone. Combined, all these people have $2.1 trillion in spending power. The fashion industry is starting to take note.

Great! Who sells Adaptive Fashion

That being said, very few brands have launched full-blown collections. An online search will pull up mostly medical looking clothes designed by well-meaning professionals who think about convenience before style. But differently-abled kids and adults want more. They want to look and feel good. They want their clothes to express who they are. And they are sick of sweat-pants.

Before giving you a few brands and tips for choosing adapted clothing, we’d like to share Mindy Scheier’s inspiring TED talk about what lead her to research and prototype adaptive clothing, and ultimately founding The Runway of Dreams Foundation. She’s approached the fashion industry with her revolutionary ideas and has already had considerable impact.


Where can I Buy Adaptive Fashion?

If you’re looking for something related to physical differences, one well-established brand with an adaptive fashion collection exists: Tommy Hilfiger. The Spring 2018 Adaptive Collection should cater to your needs. But if you don’t live in the United States, you might have trouble coming by these specific clothes.

Sometimes adaptive clothing is “hidden” in the mainstream sections, like Nike’s FlyEase shoes. The brand designed them after a teenager with cerebral palsy wrote, explaining that shoelaces were a real struggle with his condition.

Tommy Hilfiger is making a colourful splash in the adaptive wear industry (Photo Credit: Tommy Hilfiger)

If your needs are more specifically for issues linked to neurologically atypical kids (and adults), you’ll want to look at a brand like Special Kids Company. They sell body suits (with or without gastric tube access), as well as adapted bibs (for older kids) and special socks with adorable hoops to help pull them up. As for adults with similar needs, ABLDenim has a few trousers and shorts catering to kids and adults with sensory issues.

What About Smaller Brands and One-Off products?

Some of the things to look out for are products that have any of the following features:

  • Clothing with magnetic closures rather than zips and buttons as they are usually easier to manoeuvre. A famous pioneer is MagnaReady, founded by Maura Horton after looking for solutions to her husband’s advancing Parkinson’s disease.
  • Adjusted materials and cuts, especially for wheelchair users. ABLDenim‘s jeans are a good place to start shopping.
  • Waistbands and internal hemming systems that allow for trousers legs to be adjustable to the shape of the body (especially for people with missing limbs or in wheelchairs). This is one of the focus points Mindy Scheier worked on.
  • Alternative ways to put the piece of clothing on (forwards rather than backwards, for example).
  • Slip-on shoes. Many lace-ups can become almost slip-on thanks to add-ons like Quick Shoelace (Hervé, who we spoke to a few months ago, loves them)
  • On a more specific note: if you’re looking to keep hearing devices on kids, here is a previous article we wrote on the subject.
Some last thoughts

While we were researching this subject we came across so many smart, funny and articulate people, here’s another video we wanted to share. Sinéad Burke is a 105 centimetres (or three foot five inches) tall, Dublin-based teacher, PhD student and fashion blogger. She spoke at the 2017 VOICES convention, a yearly fashion industry gathering.

In Conclusion

We tried to keep this article practical and mainstream. There are many designers out there, like Camila Chiriboga and Izzy Camilleri, and Parson’s School of Design has an Open Style Lab specialised in developing trendy fashion for specific adaptive needs. But most of us can’t get a tailored made piece of clothing or don’t aspire to wear high fashion. So let’s hope more options will continue to develop so everyone can shop according to their tastes.

Thanks for reading and keep reaching out with questions and comments.

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Mélie Aboul-Nasr

Mélie is an English and French language writer who has worked in consulting and social entrepreneurship. She helps Irisada develop relevant content for carers and customers.

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1 Response

  1. I do accept as true with all the concepts you’ve offered on your post.
    They’re really convincing and will definitely work.

    Still, the posts are too brief for novices.

    Could you please extend them a bit from next time?
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