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Adaptive clothing that's functional and fashionable

As you navigate life in the care space you will constantly look for ways to improve the daily routine. From saving time and money to elevating the quality of life of your loved one, many questions will swirl through your head. Which healthy dinners I can make in the least amount of time? How can I make the room more comfortable? Which incontinence products are most effective and affordable?

One area in which you can gain a few “quick wins” is in the realm of adaptive clothing. Think beyond expandable waist pants and back-button shirts. Think dresses and shawls, sleepwear, shower robes, underwear, bras and socks. Think arm and hand protectors that keep hands and arms warm; foot snugglers that keep skin protected from knee to toe. (Check out these from Buck and Buck.)

Specialized clothing isn’t just about ease of putting on and taking off. Many options can make life easier for someone with arthritis, limited mobility, incontinence, or other special needs.

Common clothing challenges may include: not being able to fasten buttons and zippers, repeatedly undressing themselves (a common Alzheimer’s and dementia behavior), swollen feet or ankles making normal shoes and slippers too tight, having a hard time tying shoes or difficulty coordinating colors. Individuals will limited mobility (or paraplegia / quadriplegia) will have unique needs as well.

I love this infograph and article on “Tips for Dressing Arthritis or Disability”.

Now, I’m going to be straight with you here. While current adaptive clothing lines address mobility and usability concerns, most of them have a long way to go in terms of fashion. Just because someone is elderly with physical or mental limitations doesn’t mean they can’t dress well, in clothes that make them feel good.

The Valuable 500, a global CEO community revolutionizing disability inclusion through business leadership and opportunity, cites Stephanie Thomas* of Cur8able in that there are more clothing lines for dogs than for people with disabilities. This can and will change in the coming years as the population rapidly ages. In fact the actress Selma Blair, who has become a spokeswoman on life with Multiple Sclerosis, is investing in adaptive clothing lines. And designer Mindy Scheier founded Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit that promotes and supports inclusive clothing design. She was inspired to create this organization by her son who has multiple dystrophy and who wanted to wear jeans instead of wearing sweatpants all the time. Since she couldn’t find any pair of jeans that’d fit over his leg brace, she designed one herself! We can expect other investors to follow suit.

Clothing Lines and Accessories

Functional and fashionable options

Cur8able is a fantastic place to familiarize yourself with fashionable adaptive options. A disability fashion and lifestyle blog-turned-company in 2015, founder Stephanie Thomas pulls together disability-friendly clothing, disseminates advice and offers discount lists.

(Check out Stephanie Thomas’ amazing TedxYYC talk on Fashion Styling for People with Disabilities here!)

Zappos Adaptive, features a wide range of products, from Seven7 able jeans adaptive denim to slip-on shoes, medical wear and even adaptive intimates and underwear.

Tommy Adaptive features fashionable and adaptive sportswear, from jeans that fit over prosthetic legs to shirts with easy-open buttons.

Nike Fly Ease features easy-on zippered sneakers, which were launched as a response to a letter from a teenager with cerebral palsy who struggled with regular sneakers.

Functional options

Alium Adaptive Apparel provides smart clothing for seniors who need help dressing, making it more comfortable for the senior to receive the best care.

Buck and Buck, founded in 1978, provides a wide range of adaptive clothing options browsable by need. Customers can search by categories such as ALS, arthritis, Parkinson’s, stroke, and incontinence solutions. You can also find some great wheelchair accessory options on this site!

Silvert’s has proudly served dressing solutions for over 10 million elderly and disabled folks since 1930. Browsers can shop by need for a wide range of clothing and accessories.

Adaptive clothing has the potential to improve the daily routine for both you and your loved one. Most importantly, finding the right solutions for their biggest challenges will make them more comfortable and you less anxious—a win-win all around.

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