The Complete Breakdown of Adaptive Clothing

When people are online searching for clothing that helps with their disabilities or medical conditions, they oftentimes come across the term called “adaptive clothing”.  What is adaptive clothing exactly?  Adaptive clothing is defined as clothing designed for people with disabilities, the elderly and anyone who struggles with dressing themselves.  For people who are having a difficult time dressing themselves because of a medical condition or disability, regular clothing can be very difficult, if not impossible, to dress themselves in.

How does adaptive clothing work?

When a designer is putting together a piece of clothing for a particular disability or medical condition, they’ll keep in mind the specific issues with that condition.  For example, a pair of jeans for someone who is in a wheelchair will have a high rise in the back because of their seating position.  Or if a person who has type 1 diabetes and has to carry around an insulin pump all the time, the designer will create integrated pockets so that they can fit the insulin pump right into their shirt for inside-outside access.

Designers will usually apply specific kinds of fabrics and elastic materials towards their adaptive design.  The fabrics will sometimes have a stretchy component to make create flexibility, and the waist will sometimes be elastic for ease of use.

See our new Stitches Medical Insulin Pump Shirt Collection

There are “hardware” components to adaptable clothing that will create functionalities of the clothing.  These closures will make it easier to take on and off clothing, as well as access certain parts of the body.  The components include:

  • Velcro Closures
  • Button Closures
  • Snap Closures
  • Zippers

As you can see, what makes adaptive clothing work is the combination of tailored design and functional closures.  The vision of Stitches Medical is to combine the elements of functional clothing with a designer taste, so that you can have clothing that people truly want.

Caretakers Dressing Patients

Not only does adaptive clothing make it easier for people to dress themselves, but it is also a solution for caretakers who are taking care of people with disabilities or medical conditions.  Many designs for adaptive clothing are tailored towards the caretaker, so that they can easily dress and undress their patient.

Typically these kinds of clothing designs have openings and closures at the back or rear.  This is why it is critical to know exactly the kind of adaptive garment that works for you or someone you know because if they want a shirt that will make it easier to dress themselves, they will not want something that is geared for the caretaker.  

See our article on: Special Needs That Need Adaptive Clothing

Nurses Dressing Patients

Not only does adaptive clothing apply for caretakers, but it also applies for nurses in the hospital.  Oftentimes, when nurses have to apply a treatment to a patient, they’ll have to remove part of the garment for access.  For example, if a patient is receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer, they’ll usually receive their medication through a small plastic or metal disc called a port. The entire device is called a port-a-cath.  The catheter goes into a large vein in your chest or upper arm, so the nurse will have to be able to access that part of your body to apply the treatment.

The challenge is that regular clothing can make it difficult for the nurse to access the patient’s port, so this is where adaptive clothing can be the solution.  Many patients will not want to wear gowns for their own personal taste, and they can instead buy adaptive clothing for their particular medical condition.  In this instance, they can buy a sweater or long sleeve shirt that is designed for chemotherapy.

Clothing for chemotherapy is just one instance for a nurse needing adaptive clothing to dress a patient.  There are many other kinds of medical procedures that need adaptive clothing.  Just a few of these procedures include:

  • Gallbladder Surgery
  • Dialysis Treatment
  • PICC Catheter Treatments
  • Urology Treatments

See our article on: Medical Conditions That Need Adaptive Clothing

See our Stitches Medical Online Store.  In the Fall 2018, we will be releasing our adaptive clothing collection for chemotherapy and port access.

The lack of fashion around adaptive clothing

The lack of fashion around adaptive clothing draws one of the largest complaints from many people who have to face dressing issues on a daily basis.  There are adaptive clothing companies out there, but when you browse their clothing collections, you may feel like these are “last resort options”.

This is the idea behind Stitches Medical.  We are a clothing brand that brings freshness, true design, and functionality to all kinds of disabilities and medical conditions.  You simply search for the condition you have, and we have a designer garment for that exact condition.  Visit our collections here at Stitches Medical.

Who is the market for adaptive clothing?

Another criticism that you hear on the adaptive clothing market is that this it is geared for only senior people.  While the senior community is of course in need of these kinds of clothing products, especially for the sake of caretakers, but it seems forgotten that there are people of all ages who have disabilities and medical conditions.

A PhD student in Critical Disability Studies put it this way on her blog:

Something that is frequently decidedly lacking in adaptive clothing which often seems to presume an elderly clientele and that this clientele will not care if their clothing is hideously ugly (apparently this is somehow a dress and not a hospital gown). I am offended both for this unfortunate assumption about older people and for the fact that clothing brands tend to forget that disabled young people exist.

Source: The Complicated Ethics of Having No Alternatives

This is why there will be a shift in the adaptive clothing market, which is that there needs to be clothing designed with the idea is that different generations have different kinds of taste, especially when it comes to clothing.  Stitches Medical is our brand that has that goal in mind.


The adaptive clothing market has a lot of needs that are largely unmet.  A recent Forbes article put it this way:

The adaptive clothing market is large and growing. In the U.S. alone, more than 54 million people have been diagnosed with arthritis, more than one million with Parkinson’s disease and 30,000 with ALS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…

International fashion industry network FashionUnited estimates that the total apparel market is worth approximately $3 trillion globally, and adaptive clothing represents just about 1% of that total market. But these numbers do not factor in potential mainstream uses for stress-free, adaptive clothing.

Stitches Medical has a team of designers and manufacturing partners that is working endlessly on providing the most value they can possibly give to their current customers, as well as future customers.

Please reach out for any feedback.  Thanks!  😉




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