Photo: Girl modeling Runaway of Dreams and Tommy Hilfiger Line. Source: The Mighty.
Coming down with a chronic disease or being born with a disability can be a very serious issue, especially if left untreated. As most know, a condition like Duchenne muscular dystrophy can alter the patient’s lives, forcing them and their caregivers to adopt different lifestyle habits to accommodate their symptoms. Furthermore, without proper treatment, their symptoms may evolve into greater and more serious consequences, possibly causing irreparable damage in the process. Moreover, even when the symptoms are in check, and the disease is effectively under control, the commitment required to upkeep the new lifestyle habits can frequently be off-putting for the patient, causing psychological duress, stress, and anxiety, and preventing him or her from enjoying life, despite their condition.
As a neuromuscular disease, muscular dystrophy is characterized as the degeneration and weakness of muscle. It is a genetic disorder that happens when the protein, dystrophin, is missing. Dystrophin is responsible for keeping the cells in muscles intact. There are various forms muscular dystrophy can take, but the most common form of muscular dystrophy is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which mostly affects males. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the bottom half of the patient's body is mainly affected. This will make walking, climbing up stairs, and even just getting up difficult for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It can also affect a patient's cardiovascular system and their communication, social, and memory skills. According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, "Most children with DMD use a wheelchair full time by age 13. Heart and respiratory muscle problems begin in the teen years and lead to serious, life threatening complications."
Though the symptoms can be helped with steroids, a healthy diet and physical therapy, the disease will eventually worsen and impact the patient's overall quality of life. Even though the steroids purpose is to maintain as much muscular strength as possible and reduce any heart and lung issues that they would have, the steroids do not prevent the ultimate outcome for muscular dystrophy patients.
Suffice to say, diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy often leave little space for the patients to enjoy their lives, or to simply sit down and bask in the pleasures of even the simplest things, given that, in some cases, even the action of literally sitting or lying down can cause excruciating pain and discomfort. For this reason, the affected individuals often abandon their hobbies and the activities that used to provide pleasure in times past. The constant state of being confined to a bed or wheelchair can negatively affect their self-worth and self-image which, in turn, may lead to a whole new level of psychological sickness, further compounding the original disease’s symptoms.
Luckily, while there are companies that are hard at work to discover new treatments and medical procedures, and hopefully even cures, to improve the patient’s symptoms, there are also other enterprises that are researching new measures to improve their quality of life through alternative means. Case in point, the fashion industry is working on a new campaign for inclusivity where the design and the manufacture state-of-the-art and trendy clothing for people with disabilities.
Adaptive clothing for individuals with disabilities
For the longest time, the organizations that dabbled in fashion often created products for healthy people, forcing individuals with disabilities to make unsightly alterations to their clothing in order to accommodate their limitations. Amputees without prosthetic replacement limbs often tie knots just below the stump of their amputated limb to prevent dragging the leg of their pants on the floors, while those who have lost other limbs are forced to make similarly jarring modifications to their clothing in order to prevent them from dragging or from getting snagged on their equipment such as wheelchairs or crutches. This also includes muscular dystrophy patients, particularly those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, as caregivers and patients themselves would have to be accommodated with clothing.
However, this situation is slowly changing with the creation of adaptive clothing for people with disabilities, which are designed to be easy to put on without external assistance regardless of the person’s disability and to help affected individuals to improve their self-image through not only fashionable, but comfortable clothing.
Despite still being a fairly young trend, yet to hit mainstream media, companies like Tommy Hilfiger are catering to people with disabilities by accounting for the parts of clothing that said individuals may often have issues with zippers and buttons. The new adaptive clothing collection by the Tommy Hilfiger is based on pre-existing collections created by them, and consists of 37 men’s pieces, as well as 34 articles for women. This line was featured on their online store on October 18th.
In a statement released by Tommy Hilfiger, he said, "Inclusivity and democratization of fashion have always been at the core of my brand's DNA. These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion" (Bustle).
These pieces of clothing are created with the end consumer in mind, which is to say, handicapped individuals. To cater to their special needs, the articles are equipped with a wide variety of features such as adjusted seams, magnetic shoulders, and special closures that are velcro and magnetic. All of which are on the front and back to ease pulling their clothes over the head. The leg pieces are also equipped with special modifications to facilitate fitting, such as openings for prosthetics and orthotics, and special loops around the waist, which fit around the user’s wrists, which those with limited hand mobility can use to pull them up.
This collection for adults is inspired by the success of a previous campaign aimed towards children and created in collaboration by Tommy Hilfiger, MagnaReady, and Runway of Dreams. The nonprofit organization, Runaway of Dreams, was created by designer Mindy Scheier, whose son is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The line she created was to accommodate those who are like her son, who do not have the same access to clothing that would meet their needs. Originally released in 2016, this collection consisted of several pieces of stylish clothing for children with special needs such as those that are wheelchair-bound or those who suffer from any form of muscular dystrophy and struggle with regular pieces of clothing.
Hopefully, these campaigns led by the fashion giant will serve as an example for other clothing businesses, so that they too may begin creating trendy pieces of clothing that anybody can easily use, including those that have special needs or are otherwise limited by disabilities. In the meantime, this is without a doubt a step forward, and we are excited to see what comes next!