Adaptive Fashion Truths

Don’t you hate it when you’re looking through your closet for some cute summer clothes and realize that everything you own is out of season? Well, for wheelchair users like myself, it’s even harder! Not only do we have extremely limited options, but we don’t get to decide if our clothes are in season or not.

When it comes to adaptive clothing, you can’t choose your colors, style, size, or price. Yes, there are some companies who have an adaptive clothing line, but the clothes are not customized to you. Even if they do claim to be adaptive, they might not be adaptive to your disability. The clothes they sell are extremely overpriced and limited. Items rarely go on sale, so you can really only get one or two things at a time without spending all your money, which is not my idea of a shopping spree! You can’t even go to the mall to shop. Everything is online!

Not only do adaptive clothing lines sell their items for crazy amounts of money, but most of the time they are always so basic and boring! Nothing is in season and everything is usually black or white. As a girl in middle school, the way I look is very important to me. I want to be trendy! The fact that I’m not able to wear the same cute clothes as my peers makes me feel a little sad because I know that if I go on a shopping spree with my mom like everyone else does, I won’t be able to get half of the clothes I want, because the clothes aren’t adaptive, cute, or comfortable.

My wheelchair plays a big role in the way I dress because putting on certain pieces of clothing while in my wheelchair is very difficult. Either I wear what clothes that make me look frumpy and like a garbage bag, or I have to get out of my wheelchair and go through the whole process of putting everything on. Here is a scenario: What if you want to try on clothes at the mall and there isn’t anywhere to lay down? What can you do? Ordering things online is really the only option and even then, you don’t know if the things you ordered will fit to your size or your disability! It’s honestly such a hassle! I personally think that it should be mandatory for every mall in the United States to have at least one store where disabled people can shop for trendy, affordable clothing without having to worry about online shopping and not getting the right size!

Now, we’ve talked about summer clothes but what about those big, bulky, winter jackets? You might have the option to find cute ones, or even take it off when you want. For me, I deal with giant jackets that are always hot. I can’t choose not to wear it because my weakened immune system doesn’t allow me to go outside without a jacket when it’s cold. Also, I need to be comfortable in the jacket because I’m not taking it off anytime soon, unless someone can find an area for me to lay down. That jacket isn’t going anywhere!

Now, what about gloves? Those are even more difficult! If I don’t wear them, my fingers feel like they’re going to fall off from the cold and I can’t drive my wheelchair properly. On the other hand, if I do wear them, the fit is so basic and not adaptive. I can’t expand my fingers and my hand is too stiff to drive my power wheelchair!

Now, for something I struggle with every day: Shoes! My right foot is inverted, so the only shoes that are fit to my size are my ankle-foot orthosis leg braces, which are the opposite of stylish! If I wear sandals or flip-flops, they hurt my toes. Winter boots are too thick; my foot never goes in properly. You can forget about heels! And with flats, my foot is way too turned to fit!

It’s so difficult to find basic clothing that’s made for people like me. After reading this, you’ve learned what my fashion life is like on a daily basis. And it is not just me! All disabled people out there have similar struggles. I hope one day there are changes made in the ways that adaptive clothing is produced. We all deserve to be stylish!

About Sakina Shamsi: Sakina lives in New Jersey with her parents and brother. Although she has spinal muscular atrophy type II, Sakina lives a full and independent lifestyle. She is active in the disability community and enjoys horseback riding, baking and crafting. Click here to learn more about Sakina.