Clothing and fashion

A study* into clothing needs for people with spinal cord injury discovered that finding suitable clothing is a big issue for people sitting in wheelchairs. People were finding it very hard to find clothing that was easy to put on, that sat correctly on the seated figure but that was also stylish and fashionable.

There was a perception that people got stared at more sitting in the chair. So it was very important to people that they could wear clothing that not only fitted in with the perceived social norm, but that also functioned appropriately for the wheelchair user at the same time.

The study concluded by saying that the “needs of people with spinal cord injury were not being met by current available and affordable clothing solutions and that clothing design overlooked key concerns.”

Common problems that people in wheelchairs might encounter are:

  • Jeans appearing shorter when seated and the pockets tending to gape
  • Shirts and jackets riding up at the back
  • Needing to purchase larger sizes to cover the stomach area resulting in baggy clothing with the danger of this clothing being caught in wheels or creating pressure sores
  • Restrictive fabrics, particularly when dressing and pushing
  • Difficulties manipulating some buttons, zippers and press studs
  • Difficulty in trying clothes on in shops due to changing rooms being inaccessible

Some helpful hints for altering your existing clothing for a better fit and comfort

  • Get a slit made two or three inches up the sides of tops and shirts for a smoother fit over the hips or if a jacket put the slit up the back of the jacket, much like a riding jacket,
  • Purchase longer pants than you used to
  • Use Velcro, buttons or press studs to attach your shirts to your pants (waistband, belt loops or wherever convenient and concealed) to stop them from riding up through the day
  •  Insert an additional zipper or piece of Velcro at the side or back of your long pants and/or dresses and skirts for easier dressing
  • Remove back pockets from jeans
  • Incorporate concealed panelling and stitching into the clothing to cover a legbag
  • Remove front pocket buttons, replace closure with Velcro and sew the button back on for decorative purposes
  • Eliminate the need to tie/untie shoelaces by using elastic or permanent laces; and
  • Sew elastic or drawstrings around the insides of jumper cuffs for additional warmth

Clothing Designers specialising in fashion for the wheelchair user

  • ABL Jeans Dedicated to providing clothing for people with mobility issues - Jeans designed for functionality, comfort and style.
  • Able Apparel A wide selection of clothing, outerware and accessories for children and adults.
  • Able2Wear Adaptive disabled clothing for disabled people and wheelchair users of all ages. 
  • Active Adaptive Australian designed and made clothing and accessories. Custom designed push mitts, hand pockets to hold utensils and other objects and mens and womens clothing.
  • Ag Apparel Very attractive, innovative designs.
  • Alter Ur Ego Fashionable, adaptable jeans clothing line combining both fashion and function for people in wheelchairs.
  • Billy Footwear Shoes that utilise universal design techniques, which incorporate zippers that go along the side of the shoes and around the toe, allowing the upper of each shoe to open and fold over completely. Thus the wearer can place his or her foot onto the shoe footbed unobstructed. Then with a tug on the zipper-pull the shoe closes and secures overtop the user's foot. 
  • Caring Clothing Adaptive clothing for elderly and people with disabilities.
  • Disabled Gear Sell Rollitex trousers and jeans which have been specially designed for wheelchair users.
  • Endless Ability Fashionable jeans made for wheelchair users.
  • Fashion Freaks Design your own clothing. Come here for basic patterns for skirts, pants and jackets and tips from other wheelchair users on materials, adaptations and gadgets.
  • Independent Living Centre NSW Search the product directory to find suppliers of a range of clothing and dressing aids.
  • Izzy Camilleri Adaptive Clothing The IZ Collection features modern, stylish and sophisticated pieces for both women and men who use a wheelchair.
  • Kymotion Designs Able bodied people and people with disabilities can choose from the same funky, stylish, high quality, easy wear designs.
  • LegaWear Make suits, tuxedos and jeans. You supply the measurements and the design you want and LegaWear will make the clothing to order.
  • Rolli Moden A large range of clothing and accessories.
  • Rolling Elephants Handcrafted jeans for people who take life sitting down. The jeans are custom made to your measurements.
  • Rollitex High quality and customised clothing from Berlin. Rollitex offers everything for wheelchair fashionistas. Jeans, gloves, jackets and weather protection for the wheelchair user.
  • 3E Love A disability awareness clothing line and marketing company selling t-shirts, hoodies, bags, stickers and buttons.
  • USA Jeans USA Jeans have been specially designed for people in wheelchairs. The jeans are designed for sitting, comfort, good looks and prevention of pressure sores. 
  • Wheeliechix-chic Designer collection specifically tailored for the independent, sexy and confident wheelchair woman.
  • Willow Bug A new and innovative wheelchair clothing company for kids and teens. Designed and made in the UK, the range features everyday outerwear essentials for four year olds to teens, and includes everything from waterproof ponchos to wheelchair snugs, back fastening wheelchair jackets to wheelchair capes.

Further reading and discussion

1. ‘Are You Stylin’?’, PN, Vol 63, no 12, Dec 2009, p.57.

2. ‘Dressed for Sitting’, New Mobility, February 2010, p. 40.

3. *Imogen Howe, ‘Fashioning Identity: An Investigation of Clothing Needs for Spinal Cord Injury’.

These articles and more can be downloaded from the SCI Resources Library - Clothing and Fashion

4. CareCure Forum.  Visit the CareCure Forum - enter "clothing" in the Search to join in the discussion on all things clothing related.

Feedback

We would love to hear about solutions and useful tips that you as a wheelchair user have discovered or maybe you have come across a new designer to add to our list. Please drop us a line to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


For further information on this or any other topic please call SCIA by phone on 1800 819 775 or email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit the SCIA Library.

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