Aging In Place

2/12/2024 | By Terri L. Jones

Getting dressed independently can be challenging for people with congenital disabilities or acquired disabilities such as injury or arthritis. Clothing manufacturers have created clothing to assist, but that clothing often lacks aesthetic appeal. Finally, fashion designers are creating stylish adaptive clothing and aids, so we can all look good and feel good.

Your clothing is part of your identity. When you feel good in what you’re wearing, you’re not only more comfortable but also more confident and, in many cases, happier. However, if you have a disability, illness or other limitation that makes dressing difficult, you probably haven’t had a good selection of fashionable clothing from which to choose. And having to meet the world in shapeless, style-less clothes that don’t represent your personality can often have a negative impact on your self-esteem.

Form meets function

Thankfully, things are beginning to change. In the past several years, there’s been a wave of clothing brands and retailers trying to make fashion more inclusive for those with disabilities, illnesses, or age-related restrictions. These businesses firmly believe that form doesn’t have to be sacrificed for function.

“A lot of designers who just want to have a cool brand leave a lot of people out,” iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger told PBS. “I never wanted to be that brand.” The Tommy Hilfiger clothing brand includes an adaptive line with pieces for children and adults.

Incorporating adaptive pieces, or clothing that accommodates the needs of those with disabilities, represents not only an opportunity for these businesses to expand their customer base and increase their sales, it also helps them improve their reputation with consumers outside the disabled arena, wrote Megan Cerullo for Money Watch.

Innovative adaptations

A woman in a wheelchair in a kitchen working on a laptop. Article on stylish adaptive clothing

There are also programs like Open Style Lab, a nonprofit based at the Parsons School of Design in New York, which teach designers to think outside the box when it comes to adaptiveness in fashion. One participant in the lab’s summer program created a pair of pants for a person with severe rheumatoid arthritis that used a pulley system to gather up the pant legs so the wearer could get their feet in. Another added a strap on the bottom of a dress to allow the person, whose arms are paralyzed, to use their foot to pull down the dress’s hem.

Other design adaptations used by manufacturers to meet the needs of those with disabilities or age-related limitations such as like arthritic fingers, tremors, difficulty bending over, etc., include magnetic or Velcro closures instead of buttons; pants, shirts and dresses that open at the sides; and step-in shoes that eliminate the need to bend over or use one’s hands. Equally important are fabrics that are more breathable or that make clothing slide on more easily. There are also adaptive clothing items that provide easy access points for medical equipment.

Functional and stylish adaptive clothing lines

If you or a loved one has challenges putting on or wearing mainstream clothing, check out these stylish adaptive clothing brands.

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive embodies the same “classic, American-cool style” that the brand is famous for but with innovative features like one-handed zippers, magnetic buttons, and seams that open to accommodate prosthetics. A favorite of actress Selma Blair, who has MS, this adaptive line makes dressing stress-free for adults with disabilities or other conditions that create wardrobe challenges.

MagnaReady – Yarrow

After watching her husband struggle with dressing as a result of Parkinson’s disease, Maureen Horton designed an adaptive line of men’s wear, MagnaReady, following it up with Yarrow for women. Using design features like magnetized zippers and buttons to help those with disabilities maintain their independence as well as other modifications, these pieces are also polished and stylish. “Ideally, you can’t tell it’s adaptive clothing – it should look just like any other clothing line out there,” Horton told Oprah Daily.

Seven7 Jeans

Woman’s Day picked Seven7, a decades-old purveyor of jeans, as their favorite adaptive denim brand. Offering nine adaptive styles in soft, stretchy fabric, these jeans don’t bunch in a wheelchair. Plus, they have a Velcro closure at the waist (with a button on top) and Velcro side openings to accommodate leg braces or orthotics.


man in wheelchair wearing stylish adaptive clothing

An ultra-chic stylish adaptive clothing brand for men and women, British-based Unhidden believes that dignity and function can also be stylish. With openings along sleeves to give access for IV treatments without having to undress, snap fasteners for those with dexterity issues, elasticized waistbands and more, this brand accommodates a wide range of special needs while empowering wearers a modern and classic silhouette.


IZ Adaptive, named for designer Izzy Camilleri, is known for its revolutionary pant design with a seamless back to reduce the risk of pressure sores for those in wheelchairs. For men and women, IZ Adaptive’s tops, coats, vests, skirts and more also feature one-handed zippers, pull-up tabs on skirts and pants, and zippers at the shoulder of some tops to make slipping arms through the sleeve easier.

More adaptive products to aid people with disabilities and caregivers


Zappos Adaptive offers a wide range of shoe styles for those with disabilities or health conditions, including no-hands slip-ons, AFO- and orthotic-friendly shoes and diabetic shoes that offer support and protection while minimizing pressure points. To accommodate those with different-sized feet, only one foot or a prosthetic foot, the online retailer will even sell single shoes or mixed-sized pairs of certain brands.

Just as one size doesn’t fit all, one design doesn’t fit everyone either. It’s taken a while, but the fashion industry is finally realizing that fact and giving a once-overlooked sector of the population choice in the clothing they wear and the ability to feel good when they go out into the world. Everyone deserves that!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones