The Ultimate Guide to Adaptive Clothing (Everything You Need to Know!)

Adaptive clothing is designed for people having difficulty in getting dressed, such as those with physical disabilities and seniors. And today, there are different types and brands of adaptive clothing available. In this article, we share with you an in-depth guide for everything that you need to know about adaptive clothing.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:
Guide to Adaptive Clothing
Share Post: | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn | Email
Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. 

Old age comes with numerous unforeseen challenges. Many simple tasks that you have previously been taking for granted may suddenly become difficult.

A good example here is getting dressed after waking up in the morning and undressed at night before going to bed.

Fastenings such as zippers and buttons that require manipulating may suddenly pose a challenge. Even dressing in clothing that must be pulled over the head or pulled up from the feet can be all but impossible to manage. That’s where adaptive clothing comes in.

What Is Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is designed for people with physical disabilities or those experiencing difficulty dressing due to not having a full range of motion or the inability to manipulate closures, such as seniors.

It helps preserve independence in personal care and dressing for wearers and makes the process of dressing easier for the caregivers.

Adaptive clothing is aimed at helping seniors who find dressing difficult because of disabilities and people with sensory problems that may find regular clothes either painful or uncomfortable.

Conditions affecting health, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, and arthritis, may impair a person’s ability to dress and undress themselves, particularly if the motor skills required to operate zippers and buttons are reduced.

Sensory processing issues can make tags and seams that others might even notice unbearable. Adaptive clothing is available for both adults and children at various companies, and even major retailers, such as Target, now carry them.

Many of the recently launched adaptive garments have been designed to look just like regular clothes.

guide to adaptive clothing features
Elastic waist pants are convenient and comfortable for people with limited mobility.

What Are the Features of Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is designed to make self-dressing much easier. To do so, designers typically consider the limitations of the people that will be using it and focus on ways to ease those issues.

There are many different types of adaptive clothing available. But, here are some of the most common features that you will usually find on adaptive clothing:

Hook and Loop Fasteners

Hook and loop fasteners (aka Velcro) are closures that can be easily opened, closed, and adjusted as needed. Best of all, they will stay put all day. For maximum comfort, try looking for softer, thinner hook and loop closures without hard edges that dig into the skin.

Learn more about velcro clothing for seniors here.

Magnetic Closures

If Velcro-like fasteners are too stiff for your loved one, then seek out pants and shirts with magnetic closures, which are incredibly easy to work with. The magnets remain stuck together until you grasp the fabric panels and move them apart.

Keep in mind, however, that clothing with magnetic closures aren’t suitable for people with pacemakers.

Elastic Waists

Elastic waist pants are a great option even for those that don’t have a disability. They are especially convenient and comfortable for people with limited mobility.

Elastic waists completely do away with the need for closures and ensure that clothes can either stretch or shrink to accommodate any weight fluctuations or swelling.

Open Backs or Sides

Shirts and pants featuring either open backs or sides have overlapping fabric panels in strategic areas that ensure modesty for the wearer while still providing easy dressing and access to catheters along with other medical devices.

The panels may be held in place by Velcro, stamps, and other fasteners, and the open slip may descend either partway or all the way down the garment.

Pull-Over Designs

Shirts and dresses sometimes do away with the fasteners completely and instead go for a pull-over design. These designs are ideally used by people who still have enough upper body mobility to raise their arms.

Wider necklines and armholes are more preferable so that the wearer isn’t too restricted when putting them on or taking them off.

Higher Backs on Pants

Pants usually pull down in the back when you sit, and this can be a major issue for people that use wheelchairs or those that spend most of the day in a sitting position.

Adaptive pants are usually designed such that the back rises higher than the front, ensuring that wearers always have sufficient coverage.

Pull-Up Tabs

Pull-up tabs are the stretchy straps located on the sides of pants and are intended to make them easier to pull up. Once released, the elastic goes back to its original position and lays flat against the waistband, which ensures maximum comfort for the wearer.

Tagless Tags

Tags often cause a lot of sensory issues for people, so if you find them bothersome, you should seek out garments that print the tag directly on the garment rather than having a separate bit of fabric flapping around.

Then, you will never need to worry about dealing with a rough seam or cutting out a tag again.

Seamless Construction or Flattened Seams

Seams are yet another source of discomfort for people with sensory issues. Look for garments with flattened seams, or completely get rid of them and go with seamless construction instead. Then, you will never need to worry about chafing again.

Who Does Adaptive Clothing Benefit?

Anybody that has difficulty being able to dress with ease and comfort will likely find adaptive clothing useful.

It is especially useful for people with disabilities, wheelchair users, the elderly and infirm, or people that live with an illness or condition that makes day-to-day dressing a struggle.

Here are specific groups of people that can benefit from adaptive clothing:

Adaptive Clothing for Seniors and Elderly

The older people get, the more they find that things they previously did have become a bit more challenging. One of those things is dressing. Dressing independently is something everyone wants to do with ease but is more difficult for seniors.

Fortunately, with adaptive clothing, seniors and the elderly can independently dress themselves. Learn more about using adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly here.

Adaptive Clothing for Disabled

Having a disability doesn’t have to be an issue when it comes to clothing. Fortunately, with adaptive clothing, dressing is a lot easier for adults with disabilities, no matter what that disability is.

Adaptive clothing is designed for all kinds of disabilities as well as those in hospitals that have undergone surgery recently and now find dressing painful.

Read my guide to adaptive clothing for disabled adults here.

Adaptive Clothing for Men

Adaptive clothing for men is especially great for senior and elderly men looking for easier dressing solutions to make their lives easier.

Younger men undergoing physical therapy or occupational therapy or recovering from a sports injury can also benefit from adaptive clothing.

Elastic waist pants, open back shirts, and magnetic zipper jackets are all great examples of adaptive clothing for men.

Adaptive Clothing for Women

Comfort and fashion are often high at the top of a woman’s list when looking for clothing, which is why it can be difficult to find the right item of clothing.

Adaptive clothing for women provides easy dressing functionalities such as open back tops so that senior and elderly women never have to struggle with narrow neck openings.

Adaptive clothing for women also includes side-open pants with zipper or elastic waist openings so that they never have to struggle with fastening buttons.

Where to Find Adaptive Clothing for Seniors

Adaptive clothing is becoming increasingly common and you can often find it being sold in numerous stores and online marketplaces. In fact, some conventional clothing stores have started stocking it, although their selection is usually limited.

Here are the leading stores that stock adaptive clothing for seniors:

Ovidis

Use code GWG10 to save 10% off regular prices.

Ovidis is a specialty manufacturer of clothing for people with physical or cognitive difficulties. They offer unique and innovative designs for easy and stress-free dressing by older adults, the disabled, or their caregivers.

Zappos

Zappos offers much more than adaptive shoes. They offer many adaptive clothing items as well from many of the popular adaptive clothing brands. Plus, they have an Advisory Council that reviews and selects the items they choose to sell.

Dignity Pajamas

Dignity Pajamas has created a nice niche in adaptive sleepwear for men and women. They offer many styles of sleep shirts, pajamas, and gowns with open backs and velcro closures.

Amazon Adaptive Clothing

Being one of the world’s largest retailers, Amazon offers a wide selection of adaptive clothing from many of the most popular manufacturers. Another benefit to purchasing from Amazon is their easy to navigate website and generous return policies. 

Etsy

Etsy is a great place to find one-of-a-kind adaptive clothing pieces that aren’t mass-marketed. Some Etsy sellers even offer custom-made items for special situations or will make special sizes for larger or smaller people.

JCPenney

JCPenney offers a decent selection of adaptive clothing made by standard clothing manufacturers like St. John’s Ba, a.n.a., and Worthington. Plus sizes are available too. 

You can also find adaptive clothing through brands dedicated specifically to the craft. A few examples include:

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive

Perhaps a surprising addition to the list is well-known fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger who has a line of adaptive clothing for both adults and children. His shop is a great choice for the more fashion-forward person.

Seven7 Adaptive

This company focuses on creating stylish denim jeans that use adaptive technology like Velcro or elastic waistbands. Several of their styles are even wheelchair-friendly!

RELATED: Ultimate List of Top Adaptive Clothing Brands and Retailers

guide to adaptive clothing FAQs
Adaptive clothing benefits both the patients and their caregivers.

FAQs About Adaptive Clothing

How Does Adaptive Clothing Help Caregivers and Healthcare Professionals?

Adaptive clothing makes the job of healthcare professionals easier since it makes dressing and undressing the patient both safer and more convenient.

For patients with more intensive disabilities and injuries, adaptive clothing offers open back solutions that prevent injuries in the caregiver and reduce the struggle of dressing patients.

Adaptive clothing also benefits caregivers. Lifting a patient incorrectly or without a gait belt puts the caregiver at risk for straining their back, and getting tangled in the clothes can lead to tripping and falling.

Adaptive clothing usually reduces or completely eliminates the need to lift the patient and makes it easier to guide the clothing on and off without the fabric getting gnarled.

Is Adaptive Clothing Covered by Insurance?

Adaptive equipment, including adaptive clothing, isn’t considered medically necessary, for the most part, so it isn’t covered by insurance.

Are There Ways to Modify Current Clothing to Make It More Accessible?

Seniors and elderly individuals that have physical disabilities or limited mobility can find it difficult if not impossible to wear regular clothing.

Adaptive clothing specifically designed to cater to the needs of such individuals could be the difference between being able to get dressed or not.

Fortunately, it is possible to modify your current clothing to make it more accessible. Here are some of the ways to do just that:

  • Adding zippers to create new access points
  • Adding loops to pants waistbands
  • Adding a full-length zipper to the side seam
  • Removing the back pockets
  • Replacing the rear side of pants with softer fabric

Can You Make Your Own Adaptive Clothing?

Yes. It is actually cheaper than buying ready-made adaptive clothing. However, it is important to ensure that the wearer has maximum comfort when you do so.

Can You Buy Used Adaptive Clothing?

It would be incorrect to claim that it is impossible to find used adaptive clothing to buy, but most stores generally don’t stock used adaptive clothing.

It is always more preferable to buy new adaptive clothing since it costs about the same as regular clothes, on average.

Can You Use FSA/HSA to Pay for Adaptive Clothing?

FSA/HSA can be used for paying for adaptive equipment required after a major disability, such as a spinal cord injury or for assistance with activities of daily living, but cannot be used to pay for adaptive equipment needed for general comfort.

Adaptive clothing isn’t covered directly by FSA/HSA, but equipment used to make dressing easier such as magnetic closures are covered.

Is Adaptive Clothing Tax Deductible?

No.

The U.S. Tax Code allows you to deduct certain medical expenses from your federal income taxes. Some of the medical expenses that are deductible are those associated with acquiring durable medical equipment.

However, items used for general health benefits such as adaptive clothing are typically not tax-deductible.

Is Big and Tall Adaptive Clothing Available?

Yes. Just as is the case with regular clothing, you can get big and tall adaptive clothing to help any big members of your family that require it to look sharp and feel great. It is an excellent way to enhance your loved one’s wardrobe.

Is Adaptive Clothing Available in Plus Sizes?

Yes. It is important to get plus size adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly.

Plus size adaptive clothing is particularly recommended for those with all kinds of mobility concerns, including multiple sclerosis, physical disabilities, and limited mobility caused by the natural process of aging.

Plus size adaptive clothing goes up to size 6XL depending on the brand and typically features stretchy, breathable fabric to suit a wide variety of sizes.

Final Thoughts

The daily routine of getting dressed in the morning after waking up in the morning and getting undressed in the evening when going to bed can become harder as we grow older.

Fortunately, adaptive clothing helps overcome the challenge of getting dressed, giving seniors independence.

Adaptive clothing is the perfect option for people that have limited mobility, struggle with conventional clothing, or are in an assisted living facility or nursing home and want to reduce their dependence on caregivers to help them get dressed.

Adaptive clothing can allow your loved ones to keep dressing themselves for a while yet. Being able to dress themselves is incredibly important for maintaining their sense of independence and empowerment, even when their ability to participate in other activities is limited.

Whether it is putting shoes on your loved one’s swollen feet or helping a wheelchair user into pants, adaptive clothing will reduce the hassle for both you and them. It is also more comfortable and can help improve your loved one’s quality of life.

Now that you know all about what adaptive clothing is, the different types of adaptive clothing available, the different adaptive clothing brands, and important considerations when buying adaptive clothes for your loved one, you are in a position to make an informed buying decision. Best of luck.

Keep Reading About Adaptive Clothing

Adaptive Clothing Cerebral Palsy
Adaptive Clothing Ideas For Cerebral Palsy
Top Adaptive Clothing Brands
Where to Buy Adaptive Clothing: 25 Top Adaptive Clothing Brands And Retailers
Magnetic Closure Clothing
Magnetic Closure Clothing – Everything You Need To Know
Anti-Strip Clothing
What Is Anti-Strip Clothing?
Velcro Clothing Seniors
What Is Velcro Clothing, And Can It Benefit Seniors?
Different Types Of Adaptive Clothing
What Are The Different Types Of Adaptive Clothing?
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

Join Our Crew!

Enter your email address to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to get updates on new guides for seniors and the elderly and savings on senior-friendly products. And, of course, we will never sell or share your email address!

Leave a Comment