Adap­tive fash­ions make style eas­ier

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - USA TODAY LIFE - Sara M. Mo­niuszko

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.”

Theresa Forthofer

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

Tar­get’s Uni­ver­sal Thread has flat­tened seams, wider legs and tag­less tops.

TOMMY HIL­FIGER

Tommy Hil­figer’s adap­tive line fea­tures easy clo­sures.

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