A guide to adaptive clothing

Siski Green / 09 November 2015

If shoes, buttons and zips are tricky for you, try adaptive clothes. They are made especially to be easy to put on and take off and still look stylish.



High-street clothes aren’t designed to put on with ease, they’re designed to look good on the wearer. The problem is that some items of clothing are particularly difficult to put on if you have stiff joints, a reduced range of motion or some kind of illness that impairs your use of hands or fingers, such as Parkinson’s, for example. 

Thankfully, some individuals who have been affected by this problem themselves, or by those near to them, were frustrated enough with the available clothing to decide to produce their own clothing that both looks good and is easy to wear. Now there are several ranges of stylish adaptive clothing which can help you become independent once more. 

Easy-to-put-on shirts and blouses

Tops can be tricky as getting the head hole over your head and down requires a great deal of flexibility and it can feel unnerving to be stuck with a top over your head without any means of getting it off or on fully. 

That’s why many adaptive clothing companies design women’s tops that are fully wrap around, thereby avoiding the over-the-head issue. 

The Able Label produces a range of attractive garments for women. All fiddly fastenings have been replaced by colour-coordinated velcro - see our slideshow above. Simply match the hook side of the velcro to the loop side of the velcro which will be in the same colour. The colour is defined by the side which the velcro fastens on i.e lime for left and red for right. This aids dressing if you have cognitive difficulties. Go to www.theablelabel.com.  

For shirts and blouses with buttons, designers have kept the buttons for aesthetic purposes but then put Velcro fasteners inside to make getting dressed and undressed easier. 

Men’s shirts, which are incredibly difficult to get on for someone with reduced mobility, are designed with an ‘open back’ where the material cleverly fastens at the shoulder along the seam and along the side. That way, the shirt can be put on from the front, like a hospital gown, but the shirt looks just like a classic men’s shirt. You can find examples at Spring Chicken - www.springchicken.co.uk

Other shirts feature magnetic fasteners along the front where the buttons are, as well as on the cuffs, making them very easy to put on and take off. You can find these at www.designedtocare.co.uk.

Exclusive offer for Saga readers 

Get 10% discount on The Able Label. Find out how to get your discount.

Lightweight, cushioned and flexible shoes

The old days where the Dr Scholl label was the only brand to offer comfortable shoes for those who needed extra cushioning or greater flexibility are long gone. While Scholl still produces very comfortable footwear for those who need extra support or cushioning, there are now several other companies you can check out too. 

Hotter, a company based in Lancashire, offers a wide range of beautifully designed shoes with cushioning supports that contain little pockets of air, ensuring a soft and flexible feel. They are also lightweight, making them more comfortable all round. You can find shoes in half sizes, as well as four different width sizings. To fasten your shoes, special elastic zips are used to make them easier to zip up, too. Go to www.hotter.com

www.CosyFeet.com also does an excellent range of shoes for those who need extra comfort or ease of use, and the Spring Chicken, mentioned below, also supplies shoes. 

Wheelchair-friendly trousers

Sitting in and using a wheelchair presents special problems for some items of clothing, which is why company Able 2 Wear focuses on designs especially for wheelchair users. From trousers cut to a design that suits sitting perfectly (unlike most trousers that are designed for a standing person), to waterproofs designed to keep scooter users dry, there are a range of warm and comfortable options here www.able2wear.co.uk.

Gadgets to help you get dressed

If socks are impossible to put on, you’ll find the Sock Aid handy. This is a unit that allows you to put socks on without bending down. You put the sock onto the unit (on your lap, for example) and then, using a special stick, move the unit to the floor where you can simply slide your foot into the sock, find it at www.springchicken.co.uk.

If putting your bra on is difficult because you’ve lost dexterity in one hand the Bra Angel might solve that for you. It allows you to attach the bra fastener to the Bra Angel, leaving your functioning hand free to attach the hooks. No more twisting and grasping. This is also available at Spring Chicken. 

Check the price for VAT

You may notice that a lot of these products have two prices - one with and one without VAT added. That’s because you can get the VAT back if you or the person you’re buying for has a chronic illness or disability, saving you up to 20% of the price. 

Illnesses that are covered include Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, MS, heart disease and others, and the clothing must be ‘zero-rated’ by the HMRC. Some retail sites, such as www.adaptawear.com, for example, have a special box that you can tick during check-out that allows the VAT to be removed before you pay.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.