Fashion is, and always has been, one of the key ways we express our identity – from the clothes we buy to how we choose to style them are defining factors in how we portray ourselves in society. However, not everyone has the luxury of going into any high street store and picking something off the rail.
For many differently abled people, generic clothing found in most fashion retailers is uncomfortable, inaccessible, and difficult to wear. This has led to the rise in adaptable fashion.
Since the popularisation of magnetic fasteners on clothing in the early 2010s, many new and pre-existing brands are making the move towards adaptable clothing. This means articles of clothing that are specifically designed with disabled bodies in mind, making it easier for them to find clothes that work for their bodies.
In 2017, Victoria Jenkins saw a gap in the market of adaptable clothing. She found that while adaptable clothing was on the rise, a lot of it was loungewear and pyjamas, meaning people were forced to choose between fashion and practicality. With this in mind, Jenkins founded Unhidden, a brand specialising in fashionable adaptable clothing.
The range currently includes silk shirts and twill trousers, as well as dresses and high-quality t-shirts, meaning those that shop with Unhidden are able to create smart, fashionable outfits without sacrificing their own comfort. In providing this option, it's allowing people of all abilities to express their identity and take pride in their appearance, which can be especially crucial to those that become disabled later in life and struggle to adapt to a new way of living.
Unhidden make all of their clothing from deadstock cloth, meaning it would otherwise end up in a landfill, which means their products are not only accessible but highly sustainable. On top of this, Unhidden also offer a complete price breakdown of each individual product, meaning customers can see exactly what they’re paying for.
What’s on offer?
Jenkins’ brand offers a range of staple pieces and, as all pieces are custom made, every order can be adjusted based on the needs of a specific individual.
Silk shirts that have discreet popper tape on the sleeves and the centre of the shirt, designed for ease of access to arm points as well as being more accessible to those with dexterity issues. This also contains an opening in the bib detail for discreet access to the chest.
Their twill trousers come in both a standard design, as well as a seated version that have extra material at the back, and reduced material around the knee to increase the comfort for wheelchair users. Both versions of the trouser include invisible zips around the hem and side, and elasticated, adjustable waistbands to allow for a changing in stomach size.
My personal favourite, the double layer dress, contains two layers of material to create a pocket bag around the stomach, in order to protect stoma bags. It also features a keyhole detail just above the breast which can be used functionally for port access, as well as being a flattering detail of the dress.
These are just some of the products offered by Unhidden, and Jenkins herself has said the brand is constantly working towards new designs and features to aid differently abled people.
Adaptable fashion for all
While there is still a way to go on the accessibility of adaptable clothing, there are many brands that are taking a step toward adaptable clothing. Brands such as Care + Wear, Slick Chicks, and Ffora are all centred around adaptable fashion. On top of these new brands, many high-end brands and designers are making the move towards adaptability.
Tommy Hilfiger is one of the leading designers in luxury adaptable clothing, as many of the brands pieces are made to be adaptable with magnetic fastenings, without sacrificing their signature style. UGG have launched their Universal Collection that they branded ‘functional fashion’ as they are complete with larger zippers and extra wide openings to make them easier to put on. International sports giant Nike have even launched a line of trainers that have foldable heels and one-pull fitting straps, meaning you can step in and go.
This increase in adaptable fashion means that more and more differently-abled people are able to access adaptable clothing, and hopefully as brands continue to expand these ranges these designs will filter down into high street stores with a more affordable price point, and become accessible to all.