Adaptive Clothing Hits the Mainstream

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Child wearing sensory broadshorts For some parents, the morning ritual of getting their child dressed is a dreaded battle, a frustration exasperated by buttons in wrong places, seams that dig into skin, tags that itch, shoes impossible to put on correctly and fabric that feels inhumane to sensitive skin. Putting clothes on a child with a disability – whether that child uses a wheelchair or leg or arm braces, wears a feeding tube or has sensory issues – has never been easy. Parents often opted to have clothes professionally tailored for their child (expensive), tried to alter the clothes themselves (time-consuming and possibly aggravating), or chose a wardrobe straight from a hospital patient catalogue (functional and convenient but lacking in any kind of personality or style). The fashion world – a $3 trillion global industry according to Fashion United – has rarely paid attention to the needs of people with disabilities, even though the U.S. Census reports that they make up 19 percent of the population. Adaptive clothing lines have traditionally been super-small organizations with designers working out of their basements or garages, often for little to no profit. But things are heating up for adaptive clothing in the fashion world. The runways of L.A. and New York, department stores and online shopping portals are now championing adaptive lines, building a connection between functionality and fashion – and not just for adults, but children, too. Addressing specific physical needs, garments are more than just something to wear – they can provide emotional relief, long-lasting recognition and personalized joy.


The North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) leads North Carolina's efforts to carry out the federal Assistive Technology Act of 2004. We promote independence for people with disabilities through access to technology. Visit our website at
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