Adaptive Clothing Is an Option … Maybe
Clothes shopping stresses me out! Stores and malls are not designed for those of us with disabilities, so I really dread visiting them.
Due to Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, I wear ankle-foot orthoses, which make trying on clothes 10 times more difficult. Often, the dressing rooms are small, so taking the shoes and braces off can be a challenge. If the size I took does not fit, I have to put the braces and shoes back on to go out and find another size, or hope that I can flag down a salesperson to help. That is not always possible. If I do find the right size, I have to be sure the pant leg is wide enough to fit over the brace — no skinny jeans here. It is just one more thing to think about.
After shopping and trying on clothes, I often need to take a break. However, most stores do not have benches or other seating. This can make it harder to go to the store. That is why I often will order clothing online.
That presents its own issues: figuring out what size to order and what the return policy is, getting to the post office to mail a return, and sometimes, picking up the package from the nearest FedEx or UPS location when they do not leave it at the door. I know those are not major issues, but every little difficulty adds up.
Another issue I have is that sometimes the buttons and zippers are too small for me to use. This prompted me to look into the adaptive clothing lines that a lot of stores carry. Target has a line of adaptive wear. Their clothing still has buttons and zippers, but it has flat seams and is made of a sensory fabric without tags. Those features do not fit my needs at the moment.
I also found Tommy Adaptive, by Tommy Hilfiger. This line has a variety of features that could meet my needs and still look fashionable: magnetic buttons that look like real buttons, snap loop closures that you can’t detect from looking at the item, and extended zipper pulls. The one downside to Tommy Adaptive is the price.
Zappos also has a line of adaptive clothing with a variety of styles and options to choose from. They even carry adaptive footwear — shoes that will work with ankle-foot and other orthotics — that I may need to look into. The women’s clothing line has many of the same features as Tommy Adaptive, and the prices are about the same.
I may need to try some of the magnetic or loop closure pants, as they offer solutions to what I find most difficult. Those little zippers on jeans are just not made for those of us with dexterity issues. As for now, off to the store I go in search of shorts. Wish me luck!
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
Hi, I totally understand your frustration. I am a fashion designer and fashion design professor so I totally understand the importance of combining fashion with adaptability and affordability. My dad who is 83 can’t use his hands for much anymore, so getting dressed is quite an issue. He’s stubborn though and refuses help. I noticed that he never zipped his jackets and he never complained , he just would hold them closed. I was so upset by this when he told me he could no longer zip his jacket, something most of us take for granted. So I designed a really cool looking bomber jacket (because even at 83 he needs to look like a cool tough guy), and put a long strip of Velcro under the flap so it looked like it zipped. I even put Velcro under the pocket flaps so he could put his wallet in there. With one motion the jacket closes. When he put it on he got so emotional and started to cry.
I don’t think that people without disabilities understand how important things like being able to dress ourselves is.
I’m considering creating a collection that focuses on CMT issues of getting dressed, which should trickle down to helping other disabilities, but for now I want to do something that will help people with CMT. I’m wondering how anyone reading these feels about this.
I personally never thought about how hard it is to try things on with braces, because I make all my clothes, however when the lady in the previous post mentioned that it made me sad.
I’m not crazy about the word adaptive clothing as it’s being labeled. We just need clothes that we can get into and look sexy/cool/and like anyone else. Any thought?
I love that you made a leather jacket for your dad. That is awesome!! I love the idea of CMT friendly clothes!
Thank you for sharing this article! This is exactly why Reboundwear's founder started her brand! She couldn't find any regular clothing that was comfortable or compatible with the medical devices her older friends and family needed to use, with the only options for adaptive clothing seeming rather dated. Now we design and manufacture clothing that is adaptive and athletic so that you can even wear it during physical/ occupational therapy!