Adaptive fashions make style easier
When Roxanne Hoke-Chandler’s 19year-old daughter was growing up, she wanted to wear jeans like her peers. But having Down syndrome made finding denim that fit a frustrating challenge.
Luckily, Hoke-Chandler found a specialized company that made jeans for young people with Down syndrome.
“I thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” she says. “But the thing is, I found them because I was at a Down syndrome conference.”
Retailers and designers such as Target and Tommy Hilfiger, which launched an adaptive clothing line at the end of March, want to bring these options to the mainstream by balancing fashion with function and offering clothes that adapt to the wearer.
Enter adaptive apparel: Clothing designed for people with disabilities who find it difficult to dress independently or those who are sensitive to certain textures and materials. More than 40 million people in the U.S. have a disability, and more than 14 million of them have difficulties with daily living activities such as dressing, according to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report.
Adaptive items use different features such as Velcro closures and magnetic buttons to make dressing easier, while still having the outward appearance of typical clothing. Other tweaks include using flat seams and tagless options to allow more comfort on the skin.
Stacy Bingle, a senior consumer trends analyst at Mintel, says adaptive apparel is a growing market, with its breakout into mainstream retailers part of a shift toward inclusivity.
“It’s part of an overall trend that we’re seeing, with consumers who have been underrepresented in the past are really getting a greater voice,” she says.
Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy Adaptive Spring 2018 collection features clothes for children and adults of differing physical abilities, including those with prostheses or braces.
The line exists thanks in part to the non-profit Runway of Dreams, which
“It allows our kids to wear clothing that they see their peers wearing.”
collaborated with Hilfiger on ways to best make the clothes adaptive. Some features include one-handed zippers, adjustable pant hems and MagnaReady brand faux buttons, which look like real buttons, with a magnetic closure.
MagnaReady’s line of magnet closure shirts became popular through social media and now the company sells its garments at several major retailers.
In early February, Target released its Universal Thread adaptive apparel line for adults following a successful launch of Cat & Jack’s sensory- and disabilityfriendly line for kids late last year.
Zappos.com also launched an adaptive line last year, which includes clothing such as pull-on pants and orthopedic-friendly and easy on/off shoes.
Hoke-Chandler, director of the family and community engagement team for the Federation for Children with Special Needs, says before mainstream options existed, she would suggest specialized small businesses or clothing “tricks” to families looking for adaptive options.
“I’m really glad that these companies are making it because we’re in a way of inclusion now, including other people,” Hoke-Chandler says.
Adaptive apparel not only helps people physically but socially, says Theresa Forthofer, CEO of Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley. She also is the mother of two children with myotonic muscular dystrophy and autism.
“It allows our kids to wear clothing they see their peers wearing. My boys wanted to wear jeans, but physically we struggled to find jeans,” she says. “As they get older, there’s more interest in order to dress in more typical clothing that they would see their friends and their peers wearing.”
Forthofer was grateful for the Tommy Adaptive line when her son started an internship. “He’s able to wear a work uniform that looks just like any other pair of khaki pants, but he’s able to be completely independent,” she says.
Hoke-Chandler has a plea for companies interested in pursuing adaptive options: “This clothing should really not cost more . ... There’s a market for it.”
Target’s Universal Thread has flattened seams, wider legs and tagless tops.
Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive line features easy closures.