Adaptive Clothing

For people who spend a lot of time sitting, or if someone has difficulty getting clothes on/off, there are a number of solutions to make getting dressed easier.

There are lots of dressing aids, such as button hooks, dressing sticks, and sock aids. But, this article is focusing on ways that clothing can be adapted to help people with disabilities.

For women, skirts or dresses will make it easier to go to the bathroom. But, if you prefer to wear pants, you can have the side seam adapted with Velcro, zipper, or snap closure to make them easier to take on/off.

There are pants called “breakaway pants” that are used in basketball that can be found in most stores that sell sportswear that have snaps all along the side.

There are pants that are especially designed for those who spend a majority of time sitting. They have extra room in the back that helps the pants to not cut along the front when sitting.

Picture of pants with extra room in the back

For some people, it may be difficult to operate zippers and/or buttons. Pants, boxer shorts, and other items of clothing can be adapted to have a Velcro closure as shown below:

Another idea is to have button down shirts adapted so that it is held closed with Velcro only:

In the underwear department, front closing brassieres are a good option for women.  There is a company out of the UK that offers a magnetic closing bra that may be a good solution for those with limited dexterity.

(click on picture to go to site)

Also, loose fitting underwear, or underwear that is adapted with Velcro, a zipper, or snap side seams is a good idea. For men, wearing one size larger briefs or boxer shorts can make going to the bathroom easier. Some people may choose to not wear underwear to make toileting one step easier.

If you have a family member that sews, this is your chance to get them involved! Look at websites to get ideas, and then have your family member adapt existing clothing. This can be a very nice way for someone to help you out. A great resource for these types of ideas is www.bewheelchairfashionable.com. This website also lists resources to find fashionable clothing for wheelchair users. Also, most dry cleaner tailors can do simple alterations for reasonable fees.

SPECIAL NOTE WHEN WEARING ADAPTIVE CLOTHING: Make sure that all seams are finished and that there are no bulky seams or fasteners that will rub you and cause irritation over time. Be sure that the edges of Velcro straps are not exposed to cause irritation. Also, be sure that there are no seams that go across your bottom when sitting. This could be a potential source of a pressure sore, which can be a life-threatening problem. The user or a caregiver should carefully inspect the user’s body when wearing adapted clothing the first few times to make sure that there are no skin irritations from seams or fasteners.

For help with putting on jewelry, there are a number of products available. Original clasps can be replaced with magnetic clasps for bracelets or necklaces. Look for items designed for arthritis patients for easy to use products. A lot of items can be found in the medical isle of large drug store chains.

A web search for “adaptive clothing” will result in a host of websites.  If you have any good resources or other comments, please feel free to leave comments below.

Here are a few specific resources:
Adaptive Clothing Showroom:
www.adaptiveclothingshowroom.com
1-877-222-1055

American Health Care Apparel:
www.clothesforseniors.com
1-800-252-0584

Easy Access Clothing
www.easyaccessclothing.com
1-800-775-5536

Buck and Buck
www.buckandbuck.com
1-800-458-0600

Wardrobe Waggon
www.wardrobewagon.com
1-800-992-2737

AG Apparel
www.agapparel.com
609-661-0195

Here is a link to a website that has especially fashionable clothing for women:
Izzy Camilleri Adaptive Clothing
http://www.izadaptive.com/
1-866-831-0451

There is a non-profit organization that provides custom-made, adaptive clothing, free of charge, to any veteran:
Sew Much Comfort
www.sewmuchcomfort.org

About improveability

I am a rehab engineer trying to make the world a better place through assistive technology.
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5 Responses to Adaptive Clothing

  1. Here is a comment I received via email, and have permission to post here:

    Dear Antoinette,
    Thank you for the article on adaptable clothes. I haven’t checked
    the websites you gave because my cataracts are so bad. But in case
    they don’t mention skirts, I wanted to tell you what I have done as a
    person with ALS to make toileting and dressing easier.
    1. Buy used full skirts in your size from thrift shop. Denim is
    nice, needs no ironing.
    2. Pick apart the BACK seam (or cut it) completely including the
    waist.
    3. Bridge the gap at the waist with a six to eight inch (or more as
    needed) piece of elastic.
    4. if a privacy panel is desired, cut an old half slip up the SIDE
    or FRONT and bridge the gap at the waist with elastic. For further
    ease in toileting, shorten the back side of the slip to about 18 inches.
    To dress, pull the altered half slip over your head and down to waist
    with the split in the front or at the side. Easy to do since it is
    split.
    Next pull the altered split skirt over your head with the split at
    the back. These steps are easily done while seated in a wheelchair.
    Put the upper clothes on last. Underwear is not needed.
    I think this clothing will work with a Hoyer lift but haven’t tried
    it yet. I have been experimenting for many months now and started
    with using ribbons to close the openings at the waist. However, they
    were difficult to tie. The elastic is not pretty but cannot be seen
    by anyone.
    I can dress myself in 45 seconds this way, since I still have the use
    of my arms.
    I was impressed with your presentation at the als meeting some months
    back.

    Comment on bras: Take back-opening bra and sew four to six inches
    of elastic to bridge the gap from hooks to eyes. Put on by simply
    pulling over your head. No need to use the existing closures.

    Sincerely,
    Ann Bond

  2. Antoinette says:

    Here is another listing of resources for adaptive clothing:

    http://www.makoa.org/clothing.htm

  3. Linda Stewart says:

    Do I have your permission to use some of the information you’ve given above and some of the photos for a chapter I’m writing in my book Alterations for the Home Sewer. I feel having a chapter on adaptive clothing is vital. I will give you full credit of course, Please let me know, Linda

  4. Linda, please forgive not seeing your comment earlier. All of the pictures are off of the web – so you would need to credit the appropriate source. If you need help finding the source, I will do my best to remember where I got specific pictures. The writing is all mine, so as long as you credit my writing, that is fine with me.

  5. webjeff2002 says:

    You can also get these types on clothing on ebay!

    http://bit.ly/10fjgeh

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