Fashion + Disability

What Is Adaptive Fashion, and Why Is It So Important?

For some people, fashion doesn’t come as easy as it does for others. Not because of style, or lack of interest but because there’s not much fashionable clothing that is adaptable to their disability. Luckily, things are starting to change. In recent years, it has come to light that brands need to be designing fashionable pieces for people with chronic conditions or disabilities. This is called adaptive fashion. There is still a long way to go, but we are more inclusive now than what we were 10 years ago.

For fashion to be adaptable it needs to follow these three rules: medically safe, accessible for changing in and out of, and most of all to be fashionable. These rules came from Stephanie Thomas who is the founder of Cur8able, a blog-turned-company about disability fashion, and lifestyle. She was born a congenital amputee, and has been at the forefront of the inclusion of adaptive fashion within high fashion brands. On Cur8able, Thomas says “I happily do this work in order to bridge the gap between where the fashion industry is and where it must inevitably go to be more inclusive.” This is important as the fashion industry is so far from being truly diverse, and it’s incredible people like Thomas who are paving the way for a welcome change.

The Purple Pound

Not only would adding adaptable lines to a brand make it easier for people with disabilities or chronic conditions to express themselves, it would also benefit the brand financially. The Purple Pound refers to the money to be spent in a household where one or more disabled people live. Fashion retailers are currently missing out on a share of £249 billion of the Purple Pound. In high street stores alone, the collective spend of disabled customers is £267 million every month. There would only be positives for brands who would cater to the Purple Pound households. Not only would it make it easier for people with disabilities to feel more creative in their style, but it would increase sales. It would also give the brand a lot of positive media attention which in turn would promote people who don’t need the adaptable lines to also shop with their brand.

Big and small brands who are making the change

In recent years bigger brands have started to release lines that include adaptive clothing. One of the bigger brands for this is Tommy Hilfiger who released a range called Tommy Adaptive. In a statement Hilfiger said: “[He] learned through having children with special needs how much Tommy Adaptive was needed.”  He goes on to talk about how much easier it would make it for people who need this range, and how much it would improve their confidence. Included in this range is items with easy closures such as one handed zippers, and magnetic button closures on shirts. The company have guaranteed that these clothes will be of the same quality of their regular clothing pieces.

There are also lesser known brands who cater only to people who need adaptive clothing. One brand in particular is called ‘IZ’ (@izadaptive), and was created by Izzy Camilleri. They first started their journey in adaptive fashion in 2004 when she was working with a client who required certain amendments. Now the brand makes clothing with popular items such as trench coats with the back shorter than the front. This is for people who need wheelchairs so they don’t end up sitting on their coat, but then their legs will still be covered. They also include a pair of jeans with no pockets, which are made so seated people can avoid pressure sores. These jeans will also be made with elastic in the back to relieve pressure off the waistband.

The importance of adaptive fashion

It’s important for adaptable fashion to exist for so many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is to make day to day that much easier for people with disabilities. Something as simple as getting dressed in the morning can be the hardest of tasks for some. However, clothing items like a bra with the clasp in the front or jumpers with hidden zippers can completely change how they start their day.

Another important reason is for the confidence of people who need these lines. The more ranges of adjustable clothes there are, the more choice they will have to express their sense of style. This would naturally increase their confidence, as they would have an outlet to express themselves creatively. This can only be a positive thing.

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