Staying fashion-forward on four wheels


Retailers need to be more considerate when catering for their consumers. There are one billion people around the world with some kind of disability. It is their job to cater for everyone to inspire and change lives.


Wheelchair users and those who are less mobility can often benefit from wearing adaptive clothing. Adaptive clothing is clothing specifically designed for those who sit in the same position for a long period or those who have difficulty moving or putting clothing on. These garments are very comfortable and it can help those who wear to complete their daily tasks with ease. The garments provide more independence for the consumer as it provides a less likely chance that a caregiver or family member will need to help them get dressed. The question is, do retailers make adaptive fashionable?


Fashion is a statement. We all have the right to choose our own style and show the world our identities! Fashion is something that defines us and shows our personalities. So when my Mum was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I questioned the world of fashion for wheelchair users. Why was there so little choice? - Hannah Dunk, Owner of Blossom Boutique Clothing

Fashion is a statement. We all have the right to choose our own style and show the world our identities! Fashion is something that defines us and shows our personalities. So when my Mum was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I questioned the world of fashion for wheelchair users. Why was there so little choice? - Hannah Dunk, Owner of Blossom Boutique Clothing


The practicalities of adaptive clothing


Wheelchair users, who are in a seated position for a long period of time, may find that their legs are sensitive to a change of temperature. Prolonged sitting may also result in pressure sores or ulcers. This is painful and in some cases cause skin damage which can lead to fatal infections. There are cushions designed to prevent this but that is an unnecessary expense if retailers could design clothing that could provide the same preventions. People with disabilities are still human with feelings who care about what they wear so they can go about their day feeling confident. It is a retailers duty to care for all consumers and their needs.

The brand Able 2 Wear caters for consumers in wheelchairs. Able 2 Wear offers adaptable clothing, wheelchair clothing, tailor-made, and accessories. They have found a market that is underrepresented but is still missing the point. The clothing they offer is practically all the same colour and design which leaves no room for expression. Their shorts range has a selection of two for men and one for women; men having more as one offers a drop front so going to the restroom is made easier. Brands need to understand that it's not just about being comfortable but also feeling confident that you look good so you're ready to start the day.

Adaptable clothing - features and examples


Adaptive clothing is beneficial for wheelchair users for a number of reasons:

  • Side openings in trousers and skirts allow for wheelchair users to get dressed in bed or in a laying down position - more independence getting dressed

  • Fastenings such as hooks or velcro are easier to use than zips and buttons - important when using the restroom

  • Softer fabrics are often used which can withstand regular washing


Brands taking initiative


ASOS took a step in the right direction when launching a wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit in 2018. The partnership with British Paralympic athlete and BBC Bristol sports reporter Chloe Ball-Hopkins was created due to the urge of introducing adaptive clothing options as disabled people want to be stylish too. The jumpsuit was comfortable, waterproof, colourful, stylish, and most importantly accessible to all; disabilities or not.


By ASOS paving the way to creating more inclusive fashion, it created an awareness of the underrepresentation of disabled shoppers. Over the years, more companies realised consumers with special needs do not want to be restricted to stores that are designed to specifically cater for their needs and target them specifically. They want an equal opportunity to shop at popular retailers in a section that caters to their needs.


People with disabilities are not a niche market.

"There are one billion people on our planet that experience some type of disability. One billion. If 10 percent of that billion experience clothing challenges, that's an enormous amount of people that may not be as confident, as successful or even as happy as they could be." - Mindy Scheier, founder of non-profit organization Runway of Dreams

Tommy Hilfiger was the first mainstream brand to launch a clothing line for children with disabilities in partnership with Runway of Dreams. The collection featured 22 pieces that looked the same as the brand's regular children's line. In 2017, Tommy Hilfiger expanded the line to include adult wear naming it 'Tommy Adaptive'. The line included t-shirts, shorts, dresses, trousers, and jackets with special features such as adjustable waists and hems, magnetic buttons, and velcro so those with special needs could easily get dressed.


American retailer Target soon followed with an adaptive children's line in 2017, launching its adult line in 2018. Introducing features such as t-shirts with flat seams and heat-steamed labels instead of tags for extra comfort.


Nike launched its 'FlyEase' shoes in 2015 aimed towards consumers with disabilities who find tying and untying shoelaces difficult. Tobie Hatfield designed the shoes after receiving a letter from Matthew Walzer, a high school student whose aspirations were to go to college without worrying about someone coming to tie his shoes every day. This letter was published on the Nike website.


It is important for retailers to understand that having a disability can be difficult but with their help, they can make thousands of lives easier by producing clothing and footwear that saves time and energy. With their designs and ideas, they can improve disabled peoples lifestyles by giving them the opportunity to shop for new clothes that helps them express themselves and feel more confident. Retailers can help disabled people have more independence by not relying on someone to help them get dressed in the morning or assist them in the bathroom. These things may seem small to those without a disability but the ability to go out to a restaurant for dinner and go to the bathroom alone without any help can make a huge difference to someone's lifestyle.