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Adaptive Fashion for You and Your Wheelchair

By Madonna Long
October 11, 2019

Fashion and disability have come along way in the past ten years. Anyone can work on their fashion sense and personalize it to their unique needs. Personally, I love to find that special skirt or shirt, then mix and match my shoes, then make sure it fits my wheelchair. So, no matter where the fashion came from, whether the rack at Ross or specialty design, I want the design to fit so I am comfortable in my chair. Personally, I have bought adaptive clothing from custom design as well as grabbed Calvin Klein designer clothing to fit my fashion taste. I think today since more people are buying online, the choices in the adaptive clothing really work great for many people to mix and match.

Depending on what your needs require in adaptive clothing, no matter which one you choose, you are in luck on the designs, because today there are new lines sprouting up for many types of disabilities. I love that designers like Tommy Hilfiger have decided to design for this market. Tommy Hilfiger’s site notes his family history. Having children with autism has inspired their clothing lines commitment to rethinking the designs to fit everyone. This is great news for many people because years back most adaptive clothing came from medical supply facilities and was not as attractive. Today, top fashion designers like Hilfiger are fitting the design to the person and their unique needs. His designs also have some really great features such as hidden Velcro and magnetic closures to replace zippers.

Even larger chains like Target are working on sensory and adaptive clothing in their chains that feature designs that are without zippers and have no buttons since these things can difficult for those who may not have strength in their fingers. Some people have a sensitivity to their tags; I know I am not a fan of tags either. So, some of the designs featured at Target are tag-less and sensory-friendly to enable the garment to slip on with flat seams, and elastic waistbands. Easy on, easy off and tastefully designed.

Manufacturers like Nike are taking note! Nike features the FlyeEase shoe for people of all abilities. This shoe has a slipper-and-strap design for quick and easy on and off and could be a great buy for seniors as well. Adaptive fashion does not have to look like the medical model today. In fact, you probably would never realize that clothing people wear is adaptive. I am so happy to see that designers and manufacturers are changing the world of fashion for inclusion.

Everyone deserves to love what he or she wears, no matter what their life is like. I have many different types of styles and designer clothing and some are adaptive. I have two David Lega custom suits. Lega Designs were ahead of the times. In 2009, Lega Wear joined me in the United States for a series of fashion showcases at the Abilities Expo across the country. This took place at a time when there were a few designers for people who were in wheelchairs. David Lega was definitely ahead of his time. He sailed across the ocean blue from Sweden to bring his beautiful adaptive fashions and featured them at the Abilities Expos.

What I loved about these suits I own is that they are both fashionable and fit perfectly for sitting in a wheelchair. One suit was made for my pink wheelchair, I know, it’s shocking, right? I love pink. The adaptive jacket was tailored to fit as I sat in my wheelchair, so it would not rub on the wheels. Most suits that were bought off the rack would rub on the wheels of my chair. The key feature of the slacks was that the waistline was higher in the back than in the front for a perfect-seated fit. David Lega and his Lega Wear Suits are quality crafted fashionable suits and never looked like they were adaptive wear. I mean, who wants that right? As styles change, the concept is really the same to make a fashionable product that is comfortable and is designed for movement. Many designers today are doing just that.

If we are designing what we wear to fit our wheelchair, what about designing some of the items on the wheelchair for fashion and comfort? A few of the items on my power wheelchair, although functioning for my physical needs, are also positioned for my fashion needs. First of all, on my Edge 3 iLevel® Power Chair and my manual wheelchair I have a product called Grip Solution, which is attached to my footplates. The Grip is an amazing non-slip sticky pad that prevents my feet from sliding during transfers. And it keeps my high heels from slipping also. The grip is also soft and helps protect my feet when I do not have my shoes on.

I also have calf adductors located to the right below my knees and on the side of my calves to keep my legs in place. This item keeps my ankles from bending, as it pushes my legs together while keeping those great shoes in place. So, there you go! Fashion that is highlighted by the helpful items on my wheelchair also help to protect my legs. No matter if it is adaptive fashion or not, it’s all how you mix and match items to fit your fashion sense and to fit your wheelchair!

About Madonna: Madonna Long works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.

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