Shopping for clothes can be a delight for many, an opportunity to express personal style and feel confident in our choices. But for individuals who use wheelchairs, clothing selection extends beyond mere fashion. It's about finding garments that not only look good but also provide the comfort and functionality necessary for daily life. In this guide, we'll explore the top 16 factors to consider when shopping for clothes as a wheelchair user. From accessible closures to breathable fabrics and adaptive features, we'll delve into the details that can make a significant difference in your everyday comfort and convenience. Let's embark on a journey to discover clothing that suits both your style and your lifestyle.
Wheelchair Clothing Should Make Dressing Easier
1. Ease of Dressing
Shopping for clothes as a wheelchair user starts with considering ease of dressing. Look for items with accessible closures such as long, easy to-grasp zippers, magnetic buttons, or even Velcro. These features eliminate the need for intricate maneuvers and make dressing and undressing a straightforward process, ensuring that fashion doesn't come at the cost of functionality. After trying out some options, you might find that you prefer magnets over Velcro, or zippers over magnets — you can’t really go wrong with any option that helps you dress easier.
2. Adaptive Features of Wheelchair Clothing
Clothing designed specifically for wheelchair users often incorporates adaptive features. These can include open-back shirts, high-waisted pants, or pants with adjustable leg lengths. Exploring such options can significantly improve convenience and comfort in your daily routine. These adaptive features prioritize function often without compromising on style. (But, if style is important to you — as it is to most — choose those brands that are designed with fashion in mind as well as innovative functionality.) Some brands even position features like pockets, buttons and snaps in locations that are more convenient for those in a seated position.
Fabric Choice is Critical for Wheelchair Clothing
3. Fabric Choice
The choice of fabric plays a pivotal role in ensuring comfort throughout the day. Opt for fabrics that prioritize breathability and comfort, especially since you'll be seated for extended periods. Natural materials like cotton and blends incorporating spandex for stretchiness can be ideal. These materials allow your skin to breathe and reduce the risk of irritation.
Maintaining proper airflow is crucial for comfort. Clothes should be breathable to prevent overheating. Opt for materials that allow air circulation, especially in areas where the fabric is in close contact with your skin. This ensures that you remain comfortable in varying temperatures.
Clothes Fit Different When Seated Vs. Standing
5. Fit & Comfort for Wheelchair Clothing
Perhaps the most critical factor when selecting clothing is the fit and comfort it offers. Clothing should sit snugly without being restrictive. Ensure that it doesn't exacerbate pressure points or bunch up when seated. Prioritizing a comfortable fit can significantly enhance your overall well-being and confidence. Some clothing brands specifically for wheelchair users will design pants with an ergonomic fit that makes sitting for long stretches more comfortable while the clothes remain aesthetically pleasing. For example, these pants from Joe & Bella include a raised seat, which ensures that the waistband won’t fall too low or high when you’re seated and that the pants won’t bunch up in your lap.
6. Stretch & Flexibility
Flexibility and ease of movement are paramount. Clothes should allow you to move freely while seated in your wheelchair. Consider fabrics with some stretch, as they enable you to maneuver without restrictions, ensuring both comfort and mobility.
7. Garment Length
When shopping, pay attention to the length of garments. Tops, jackets, and shirts should be of an appropriate length to avoid bunching up when seated. Longer back lengths on tops can help maintain coverage while sitting, ensuring a neat and comfortable appearance.
Design Features That Improve Wheelchair Clothing
8. Cuff & Sleeve Designs
The design of cuffs and sleeves can impact your comfort. Choose clothing with cuffs and sleeves that don't hinder mobility or feel overly tight. Comfort in these areas can contribute to an overall pleasant wearing experience throughout the day. Some adaptive clothes feature stretch fabric in sleeve cuffs so it’s easy to slip your hands in without having to deal with buttons.
9. Seam Placement
Take a close look at the placement of seams in clothing items. In particular, focus on areas that will come into direct contact with the wheelchair seat. Opt for clothes with flat seams or minimal seams in these areas. Avoiding such seam placements can help reduce friction and prevent discomfort or irritation, making your day-to-day activities more comfortable. There are now plenty of options for seamless clothing, including for tops, bottoms and undergarments.
10. Pockets & Storage
Functional pockets that are easily accessible when seated can be immensely helpful. They provide a convenient space for carrying personal items, reducing the need to reach out to bags or other storage solutions while in your wheelchair. These jeans, for example, feature cargo pockets on top of the thigh which are perfect for seated convenience.
11. Waistbands for Wheelchair Clothing
Elastic waistbands or adjustable options are your friends. They provide a secure hold without digging into your skin when sitting for extended periods. This balance between comfort and security can greatly enhance your overall clothing experience.
Wheelchair Clothing Aesthetics
12. Color & Style
Fashion should be an expression of your personality and confidence. Don't compromise on colors and styles that don’t resonate with you. When you feel good in what you're wearing, your self-esteem and overall well-being will improve. (On the other hand, wearing clothes that don’t look and feel like you and you simply don’t like, can do exactly the opposite. New entries in the adaptive market, like Joe & Bella, have brought in accomplished designers from major non-adaptive brands that balance the best of fashion and function.
Footwear should cater to both sitting and standing needs. Look for shoes that provide good support and stability when standing or transferring from the wheelchair, while still being comfortable during extended periods of sitting. Consider options with cushioning and arch support for all-day comfort and that are easy to slip into. For those wheelchair users who sometimes like to go shoeless, look for socks that have grippers on the bottom to provide extra stability while moving your wheelchair. For example, Joe & Bella’s Everyday Gripper Socks feature strategically placed silicon non-skid grips on the socks’ soles to provide traction and stability. They also come with easy-to-grasp pull tabs that essentially function as a built-in sock-assist device.
14. Layering Options
Versatility is key when it comes to clothing choices. Look for items that can be easily layered to adapt to changing weather conditions. Being able to add or remove layers ensures that you stay comfortable regardless of the temperature.
Wheelchair users often put more wear and tear on their clothing due to the friction and pressure associated with sitting for long periods. Investing in well-constructed garments ensures clothing can withstand this daily strain, prolonging their lifespan and maintaining their comfort and fit.
16. Wash & Care Instructions
Practicality extends to clothing maintenance. Choose clothes that are easy to care for and don't require special cleaning methods. Why not simplify your daily routine and while keeping your wardrobe in top condition.
Consider all these factors as you shop for clothing as a wheelchair user. By doing so, you can ensure that your wardrobe not only reflects your personal style but also prioritizes your comfort and easy of dressing, making each day a more enjoyable experience.