If you have recently had to adjust to a deterioration in your ability to move around freely, whether this is due to the onset of medical conditions such as arthritis or simply advancing years, you may find that some basic household tasks you used do in seconds are now harder to accomplish. In many cases, even dressing can become difficult – and, when this happens, the inconvenience and sheer frustration it causes is often debilitating.

Fortunately, we live in an age when help is at hand for dealing with almost all physical issues. Buying a rise and recline chair, investing in a stairlift or purchasing a mobility scooter, for instance, can all give the user a whole new lease of life and allow them to once again enjoy a truly independent existence. Less well-known but just as handy is the wide range of clothing now available that has been specially designed to make life easier for the countless people around the UK for whom getting ready in the mornings can be a daily struggle.

Here, we will introduce you to the world of adaptive clothing, some of the many types of garment that can be bought, and which retailers stock disability-friendly fashion.

Why choose adaptive clothing?

We know that feeling like you are losing your independence – if only to a small degree – can be a scary experience. There comes a point, however, when even the most independently-minded people need to listen to what their bodies are telling them and start taking steps to make their day-to-day lives easier. To this end, the main benefit of good-quality adaptive clothing is that it significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to get dressed and undressed.

Thanks to magnets, hook-and-loop fastenings and other innovative features, the best adaptive clothing can take all the stress out of what is one of our most essential daily tasks – for both the wearer and, very often, their carer too. In an instant, disability-friendly clothes can shave several minutes off our dressing routine, which is sure to be a big help for all concerned.

In recent years, adaptive wear has also become much more stylish, echoing the fashions of the day, and it is now recommended by occupational therapists as a great way of improving the lives of anyone with limited dexterity and movement.

Menswear

Today, an adaptive substitute has been developed for almost every kind of menswear, meaning any man can find whatever they need to help them get dressed quickly and comfortably – and you may be surprised by just how discreet the ‘accessibility’ element of your new wardrobe is.

It could be argued that the day-to-day business of dressing is most difficult for men with mobility problems, as many – especially those of a certain age – like wearing collared shirts that usually have more than five buttons on the front. However, the task of buttoning up this style of shirt, which can be particularly tricky for people with arthritis, has now been made simple by the invention of magnetic shirts. These clever products feature several hidden magnets, both down the front and on the cuffs, which give each garment the appearance of a ‘normal’ shirt whilst being entirely hassle-free.

Other popular items of adaptive menswear include trousers that unfasten discreetly at the back (perfect for anyone with incontinence), jackets which open easily at the sleeves via Velcro tabs, and socks that are specifically designed to help those with diabetes enjoy better circulation.

Ladieswear

In the past, it was undeniably difficult for women with limited dexterity and mobility to find clothing that was both practical and fashionable. This may sound like a relatively small issue but most of us like to take some pride in our appearance and could be upset by a medical condition preventing us from wearing the clothes we love and have long felt comfortable in.

Nowadays, however, ladies’ adaptive clothing has advanced far beyond garments that would only really look appropriate in a care setting. Whatever your level of ability, there will be a range of disability-friendly clothes out there to suit both your sense of style and any physical limitations you may have.

From blouses with extra-wide armholes and buttons to elasticated skirts and dresses which unfasten conveniently at the side or back, there are many different items to choose from that will ensure you never have to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in what you are wearing again.

Accessories

As in many areas of life, it is sometimes the little details that can make all the difference between whether you are able to wear what you want or not. All the leading retailers of adaptive clothing therefore also offer a good selection of accessories and extras that are designed to make getting dressed as easy as possible – including some that would be recommended for those who have mobility issues but cannot afford to buy a full wardrobe of accessible clothes.

One of the most useful accessories you could order is a combination button hook and zip puller (widely sold by adaptive clothing specialists, as well as major e-commerce websites like Amazon); usually available for just a few pounds, this simple but effective product allows the user to pull zips up and down and hook buttons through holes with a minimum of fuss, instantly making your old shirts adaptive.

Other examples of adaptive clothing accessories you could consider purchasing include dressing sticks (which can be used to help pull clothes on with ease) and elastic shoelaces (which, after being tied up once, will never need to be adjusted again).

Where can I buy adaptive clothing?

There are too many adaptive clothing manufacturers and suppliers for us to list here (which is itself a good indication of the healthy current state of the disability-friendly clothes market) but, below, we have picked out a small selection of some of the UK’s most popular:

  • Adaptawear – Offers a comprehensive selection of male and female clothing, as well as accessories.
  • Rackety’s – This supplier is particularly popular for its range of adaptive clothes for children.
  • Able2 Wear – Specialists in clothing that can be worn comfortably and conveniently by people in wheelchairs (e.g. waterproofs).
  • Company – A unique company catering to the clothing needs of children with special needs, such as autism.
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