Adaptive clothing, or adapted clothes, are defined as clothing, garments and footwear specially designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, the infirm and post surgery patients who may have difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or due to a lack of a full range of motion required for self dressing eg. arthritis sufferers, quadriplegics and paraplegics. Adapted clothing also makes dressing and undressing patients easier for caregivers, nurses, and hospice staff, and provide nonrestrictive comfort to the wearer.
"Adaptive clothing should benefit the wearer both physically and psychologically, quality clothing often makes us feel good about ourselves, promoting a sense of wellbeing."
What is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing are garments designed with medical function in mind for post-surgery patients, the disabled, elderly, rehabilitation patients, special needs children and adults, people with arthritis, stroke victims etc. Adapted clothes provide easy access to body parts without removing the entire garment, and make it easier to change or remove clothing.
There are many styles and medical purposes for disabled clothing - mostly garments with zippers that provide access to parts of the body that would otherwise require the clothes to be removed entirely. With adaptive clothing, a disabled or elderly patient can retain dignity, can provide some level of self-care, and experience the added comfort of quicker access to medical appliances and needs for both them and for a nurse or physician.
Who Wears Adaptive Clothing?
Over fifty-five million people in the United States have some kind of disability, some of them with challenges requiring a high level of care by others. Most people in any walk of life know someone who has a disability, and many of these disabilities can make even simple tasks like getting dressed very difficult. Medical adaptive clothes are useful for those with limited mobility (temporary or permanent) and medical conditions including: the elderly, the disabled, post-surgery needs, nursing homes, special needs, joint therapy, incontinence, fitness needs, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, stroke victims, arthritis victims, and others.
What to Look for When Purchasing Adaptive Clothing:
- For some conditions, particular with the elderly, it is essential that the materials used are not going to be abrasive to the skin.
- Dignity is important, make sure the designs bear this in mind. Generous overlapping at the rear with night and day gowns and high backed waistbands for those in wheelchairs etc.
- The fabrics that are used need to be of the highest quality and therefore able to withstand rigorous cleaning and usage.
- Check where fasteners are located so that undue pressure is not applied to tender areas of the body which can then produce sores etc.
- Garments that hang near wheelchair brakes or wheels, can be very hazardous.
- Split shoulders allow dressing without having to place the clothing over the wearers head as the garment can be donned around the person.
- Adaptive clothing should benefit the wearer both physically and psychologically, quality clothing often makes us feel good about ourselves, promoting a sense of wellbeing.
- Feels like normal clothes - Any disabled or mobility Garments should fit as well as any regular piece of clothing (albeit usually a bit wider in certain areas to stow away medical enhancements). But they should feel natural and comfortable for the wearer.
- Looks like normal clothes - There is a trend in medical wear for more fashionable disabled clothing and garments. This is true in graduated compression stockings, undergarments and swimwear for ostomates, and naturally, adaptive clothing. Medical enhancements to adaptive clothing should be discreet modifications; lightweight additions that do not bulk the garments, and allow unique enhancements like zippers to be easily tucked away and hidden.
- Built to last medically and fashionably - A good adaptive garment will have medical benefits that last as long as the life of the garment, so all adaptive clothes will go through many additional processes in development to enhance medical uses and to produce a durable, lasting piece of clothing.
- Broad Range of Sizes - People come in all shapes and sizes, so clothing should come in all shapes and sizes. For the best mobility and style, the perfect size adaptive clothes will make all the difference.
Orthopedic Shoes (Adaptive/Adapted Footwear)
Woman wearing comfortable adaptive clothes
Orthopedic shoes are specially-designed footwear to relieve discomfort associated with many foot and ankle disorders, such as blisters, bunions, calluses and corns, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, or heel spurs. They may also be worn by individuals with diabetes or people with unequal leg length. These shoes typically have a low heel, tend to be wide with a particularly wide toe box, and have a firm heel to provide extra support. Some may also have a removable insole, or orthotic, to provide extra arch support.
The most commonly prescribed external therapeutic shoe modification are Rocker profiles, used to afford pressure relief for the plantar surface of the foot, to limit the need for sagittal plane motion in the joints of the foot, and to alter gait kinetics and kinematics in proximal joints.
Diabetic shoes and socks, also referred to as extra depth, therapeutic shoes or Sugar Shoes, are specially designed shoes, or shoe inserts, intended to reduce the risk of skin breakdown in diabetics with co-existing foot disease. The diabetic shoes and custom-molded inserts work together as a preventative system to help diabetics avoid foot injuries and improve mobility. Socks for people with diabetes are usually designed to be form-fitting and seamless in order to eliminate any potential sources of irritation. The socks might have fibers with some anti-microbial or anti-fungal properties, yet for the most part their main purpose is to not make foot issues related to diabetes any worse.
In the United States, diabetic shoes can be covered by Medicare. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers the furnishing and fitting of either one pair of custom-molded shoes and inserts or one pair of extra-depth shoes each calendar year. Medicare also covers 2 additional pairs of inserts each calendar year for custom-molded shoes and 3 pairs of inserts each calendar year for extra-depth shoes. Medicare will cover shoe modifications instead of inserts. (www.medicare.gov/coverage/therapeutic-shoes-or-inserts.html)
Purchasing Adaptive Clothes Online or from Overseas?
For those wishing to buy cheaper adaptive clothing - or even standard shoes and clothes items - from China, Japan, Mexico etc. be sure to study our Male and Female Clothes Size Conversion Charts before ordering, as international standards regarding clothing sizes vary from country to country.
List of Best Stores to Purchase Adaptive Clothing Online:
Listed below are some of the better trusted stores that sell a large variety of adaptive clothing both online, and in bricks and mortar shops, they also provide product shipping and delivery right to your door.
United States Stores
- NBZ Apparel International - Ohio-based apparel maker and online clothing retailer serving customers in the United States and around the world. The NBZ brand is for typical body types in standard sizes benefiting disabled veterans, amputees, stroke victims, seniors, autism, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Cerebral Palsy, ALS, and more. Their Downs Designs brand is specially made to properly fit individuals with Down syndrome offering 18 different styles based on body type and also include their Dip-down options. Both brands are constructed with soft, stretchy, sensory-friendly material and elastic waistbands with no buttons, zippers or tags. Both brands offer several different styles of jeans to benefit wearers' everyday living, including black dress and khaki options for other social, formal and/or employment settings - nbzapparel.com
- ABL Denim - (Jeans and Denim Wear) - Inclusive design business dedicated to providing clothing design solutions for people with special needs. ABL Denim are the only inclusive design company currently making premium adaptive jeans and denim wear for men, women and kids - abldenim.com
- Adaptations By Adrian - Provides basic well-designed adaptive clothing designed by Adrian himself. Adrian believes caregivers should be able to also dress patients while laying down, and use only high quality closures and fabric choices - www.adaptationsbyadrian.com
- Adaptive Clothing Showroom - Provides clothing for men, women and children in need of regular or adaptive clothing to meet their ease of independent or aided dressing needs - adaptiveclothingshowroom.com
- AudreySpirit - Designs and manufactures clothing for people with medical/surgical/mobility needs. They offer xamtee therapeutic garments for care providers, and personalized xamtee garments for individual purchase called WearOurCare garments - www.audreyspirit.com
- Buck and Buck - Buck and Buck adaptive clothing designs promote independence in dressing and personal care for the wearer for as long as possible and also provide ease in the dressing process for the caregiver - www.buckandbuck.com
- Comfort Clothing - A complete source of adaptive clothes for nursing home and home health care residents and seniors. Their apparel has been adapted to best solve the particular dressing problems of wheelchair users, the elderly, geriatric patients and those suffering from such disabilities as stroke, arthritis, paralysis, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, edema and incontinence - www.comfortclothing.com
- Dignity Pajamas - Easy on, easy off sleepwear for both men and women. Their uniquely created designs are made in the softest 100% cotton with sophisticated prints and soft fine detailing and trims for the discriminating customer - www.dignitypajamas.com
- Easy Access - Adaptable clothing for men, women and children. Clothing in a variety of styles, colors and fabrics. Examples include camo cargo pants, Polartec hooded capes for children and polo shirt bodysuits - easyaccessclothing.com
- FootSmart - Carries shoes, orthotics, socks, home treatment products, products that can help with arthritis. Browse by types of products, gender or foot conditions (things like diabetes that can affect feet), and lower body issues (including back, ankles, knee ailments). Most of their products look just like regular shoes and socks - www.footsmart.com
- Janska - Offers a wide selection of fashionable clothing made from Polartec fleece. Products range from stylish raincoats to arm and hand warmers to fleece booties and cloche hats. These colorful clothing items are manufactured for both males and females - janska.com
- LegaWear - LegaWear sews custom made pieces made to your specifications. Items that can be ordered include pants, shirts, jackets, trousers, suits and tuxedos. The company serves both men, women and children who need upscale clothing that reflect personal taste in design and fabric - www.legawear.com
- Professional Fit Clothing - Provide adaptive clothing and accessories for people with special needs including those in State Developmental Centers, Veterans Homes and Hospitals, Intensive care facilities, Retirement and Group homes - www.professionalfit.com
- Etsy - Adaptive Clothing for people with physical disabilities - www.etsy.com
Canadian Adaptive Clothing Stores
Adaptive Clothing Tax - Adaptive clothing in Quebec is exempt from federal and provincial tax when prescribed by a physician.
- IZ Adaptive - Izzy Camilleri Adaptive Clothing (IZ Adaptive for short) features a collection of fashionable apparel for women and men who have a physical disability and use a wheelchair. The dressing room in the Toronto showroom is equipped to handle wheelchair movement, and staff are well versed in approaching wheelchair users to discuss modifications that may be needed to fit items more specifically to individual customers - www.izadaptive.com
- Boutiques Chic Chez Vous - Distribute their own adaptive clothing brand, Collection Innova. They offer a range of products that meet the needs of people suffering from a loss of independence who live either at home or in an assisted-living center. When buying their products, you are assisting people dealing with a mental health issue - www.chicchezvous.com
- Geri Fashions - The brainchild of two nurses who worked in local nursing homes. They develop fashions that are attractive, comfortable and easy to get on and off for wheel-chair users, and customers who require assistance with dressing. Fashionable current apparel for ambulatory clients - www.gerifashions.com
- Creation Confort Adaptive Clothing - Since the late 1980s, Creation Confort Adaptive Clothing has been pursuing its mission, to facilitate the lives of elderly care, special needs and people with disabilities such as Alzheimers and arthritis, as well as their caregivers. Their adaptive clothing is made to withstand the frequent washing and drying it goes through in a residential care facility - www.creationconfort.com
- Mini-Miracles - A source for special needs clothing for children, adults and seniors in Canada. They provide customers with high quality products and service and offer adaptive clothing selections that are lacking in the marketplace to date - www.minimiracles.ca
- JBS Clothing - A leading provider of conventional and adaptive clothing, proudly servicing Senior and Disabled members of the community since 1988. For ease of service customers can purchase through their website, mobile store or order directly by phone.
- Reliable Home Care Agency Adaptive Clothing - Offer adaptive clothing for seniors, people with physical limitations, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, MS, degenerative illnesses and for those persons who need quality outfits offering discretion - reliablehomecare.ca/adaptive-clothing
Adaptive Clothing Shops in Europe & U.K.
- Able2Wear - Sell adaptive men's suits, shirts, trousers and outdoor wear, as well as women's and children's outdoor wear and accessories. While their focus is primarily for seated customers, they offer adaptive clothing options for other disabilities, such as MS, MD and CP - www.able2wear.co.uk
- Brothers & Sisters - A new range of high quality 100% Organic cotton bodysuits featuring a new design that allows for tube feeding without obvious holes or slits in the garment - brothersandsisterslondon.com
- Rackety's - Provides a wide variety of casual clothing options for people of all ages. Of particular note is the swimsuits for children, which include a bikini style for girls. Their mission is to add a rainbow of color and sparkle reflecting the vibrant, challenging and colorful lives of their customers - www.disabled-clothing.co.uk
- The Able Label - Provides quality, stylish clothes with adapted designs and hidden extras that make self-dressing easier for those with dressing difficulties - www.theablelabel.com
Adaptive Clothing Shopping in Australia
- Adaptawear Clothing - Australian owned business provides clothing for those with special needs and disabilities, as well as children's adaptive clothing - adaptawear.com.au
- Able Clothing - Product designs are customized with special needs children in mind. Their adapted clothing range offers comfort, are time saving, and have special features required to dress and undress with ease. Their garments give dignity and comfort to the wearer whilst looking fashionable - ableclothing.com.au
- Dignitee - Provides unique, stylish and comfortable clothing for men and woman who have any kind of disability and required clothing that is adapted to enable them to dress or be dressed with as little discomfort while still remaining fashionable and discreet - dignitee.com.au
Adapted Clothes for Down Syndrome
- Ashley - Clothing for People with Down Syndrome by Ashley, a 30 year old woman who has Down syndrome and loves fashion - ashleybydesign.com - ( Read Ashley's story ).
- Downs Designs Dreams - Line of jeans designed for people with Down syndrome. Their jeans feature easy to pull up elastic waistbands for individuals with cerebral palsy, Parkinson's, autism, arthritis, paralysis, injured veterans, stroke, elderly, etc. The jeans have a mock fly and fashionable presence making them unnoticed compared to standard jeans - Downs Designs Dreams
Adapted Clothes for Amputees
- Amped Up - Amped Up is a special line of adapted clothing designed for amputees to make dressing much easier for people with disabilities.
Adapted Clothes for Veterans
- Sew Much Comfort - Sew Much Comfort is a charity organization who coordinate sewing adaptive clothing for wounded soldiers returning home - www.sewmuchcomfort.org
- Operation Undergarment - Operation Undergarment is a grass roots clothing drive to provide injured and sick soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen that are deployed in combat zones with clothing items to make their hospital stays more comfortable - www.operationundergarment.org
- Wounded Wear - Wounded Wear provides free clothing and free clothing modifications to wounded warriors - combatwoundedcoalition.org
Resources for Designing and Making Adaptive Clothing at Home:
- Pinterest - Provides a wide range of pictures with links to adapted clothing projects you can do from home - (www.pinterest.com/lmswedberg/diy-adaptive-clothing/)
- Adaptive Clothing for Elderly and People with Disabilities Forum - Provides a place to post questions and solutions for sewing your own adaptive clothing - (sewing.patternreview.com/SewingDiscussions/topic/57190)
- Fashion Freaks - The Fashion Freaks website is filled with basic patterns and sewing instructions, descriptions on how to adapt ready made clothes and so much more - all of it suited for wheelchair users - (en.fashionfreaks.se)
- The Seams - An independent podcast and occasional story series for NPR, explores the business of fashion for the disabled - www.theseams.org
- Cut-away Garments: Seat of the garment has been "cut away" providing easier personal care by the caregiver and comfort for the wearer.
- Back-flap Pants: Designed with fabric that overlaps at the seat and is attached by snaps at the waist to allow for ease in self-toileting for the wheelchair bound person.
- Foot orthoses - Comprise a custom made insert or foot-bed fitted into a shoe. Commonly referred to as "orthotics" these orthoses provide support for the foot by redistributing ground reaction forces as well as realigning foot joints while standing, walking or running.
- One-piece Jumpsuits: Have back zipper access to prevent the wearer from disrobing inappropriately and assist in toileting and personal care needs for the individual.
- Plus Size Clothing: Also called Outsize in some countries, an extra large or oversize clothing size, especially one for women's or children's clothing.
- Rear Closure Garments: Items that open down the back to facilitate dressing people who cannot raise their arms over their head to put on a shirt or dress, or who are confined to a wheelchair or bed.
- Side Snap Pants: Feature snaps on both sides of the pants at the waistband providing ample room for care and dressing comfort, and making the waist area adjustable.
- Side-zip Garments: Feature zippers down both sides allowing greater ease in dressing and facilitates the transfer process in toileting.