Fashion designers use zippers, buttons, snaps, elastic and other items to make their clothes more attractive and functional. Unfortunately, the addition of extra elements to shirts, pants, dresses and jackets can make it harder for seniors to get dressed on their own. This is because arthritis, dementia, strokes and other medical conditions may make it more difficult to manipulate small items or pull clothes on and off the body.

Even healthy seniors can experience some physical changes that make it more difficult to get dressed or undressed without assistance. For example, about 40% of seniors have balance problems that could affect their ability to put on socks and shoes. The body’s muscles also tend to get weaker over time, which can frustrate efforts to close metal snaps or pull zippers up and down.

Adaptive clothing solves some of these problems by making it easier for seniors to get dressed on their own. Still, not every senior knows what adaptive clothing is or how to go about getting it. This guide covers some common adaptive clothing options, describes their most helpful features and explains where you can get adaptive clothing to meet your needs. It also answers some of the most frequent questions asked about adaptive clothing, giving you the information you need to be more independent. 

What Is Adaptive Clothing?

The term adaptive clothing refers to clothes designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. Many types of adaptive clothing have features that make it easier for wearers to get dressed without assistance, but clothing can also be adapted to conceal medical devices or help people with disabilities use medical equipment. For example, some companies make pants designed specifically for wheelchair users. The pants have zippers on both sides, making it easier to get dressed while sitting down.

Here are just a few examples of clothing items that can be adapted to make them easier to wear:

  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Nightgowns
  • Jackets

Most adapted items are designed to make it easier for users to get dressed on their own; these items are known as “self-dressing” adaptive clothing. Some manufacturers also make clothing that has been adapted to make it easier for a caregiver to help a person get dressed.

Who Needs Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is helpful for several groups of people, including:

  • Seniors who have arthritis and other mobility issues that prevent them from using snaps, zippers, buttons and other closures
  • Older adults with balance problems that make it difficult to put on certain clothing items
  • Seniors with medical devices that have tubes, wires or other features that aren’t compatible with traditional clothing
  • Older adults who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids
  • Seniors with problems affecting their fine motor skills
  • People with Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions that cause their hands to shake
  • Seniors with allergies to the materials used to make tags and other components of traditional clothing

What Are Adaptive Clothing Features and Who Do They Help?

What Are Adaptive Clothing Features and Who Do They Help?

Adaptive clothing is a broad category, so not every item has the same features. The table below lists some of the most common features, explains what they are and provides an overview of who can benefit from using each one.

Clothing Type/Feature

What It Is

Who It Can Help

Hook-and-loop fasteners

Hook-and-loop fasteners are made of two fabric strips that stick together when you press one strip over the other. When you want to take off the item, you simply pull one strip away from the other one.

Seniors who struggle to tie their shoes.

Magnetic waistbands

Magnetic waistbands fasten with magnets instead of snaps or buttons.

Seniors with arthritis and other conditions that affect their ability to use snaps, buttons and other fastener types. 

Magnetic closures

Magnetic closures replace buttons and snaps in shirts, dresses and other clothing items. 

Seniors who fumble with buttons or don't have enough strength to close metal snaps.

Elastic waistbands

In an elastic waistband, elastic takes the place of buttons or snaps. Elastic is a stretchy material that contains rubber and other polymers. These polymers allow the elastic to stretch and then return to its original shape when the clothing isn't in use.

Seniors with arthritis or balance problems.

Open backs or sides

Open-back items have openings in the back to make it easier to get dressed. Some items have open sides for the same reason.

Seniors who have trouble reaching back to put their arms in sleeves. Also, seniors who use medical devices and need openings for tubes, wires or other device components.

Pull-over designs

Pull-over designs are easy to pull over the head, eliminating the need to use buttons and other fasteners.

Seniors who struggle to fasten a shirt, dress or jacket.

Higher backs on pants

Some pants are adapted to have higher backs, making them more comfortable for wearers who spend most of their time sitting down. 

Wheelchair users and seniors who spend much of their time sitting.

Pull-up tabs

Pull-up tabs make it easier to use zippers. They're larger than traditional zipper pulls, allowing users with weak grips to grab them with less difficulty.

Seniors with arthritis, muscle weakness and other medical conditions resulting in a weaker grip.

Tagless tags

With tagless tags, the size, care instructions and other information is heat-transferred onto the item. This eliminates the need for a separate tag.

Seniors sensitive to materials used to create traditional clothing tags. Also, seniors with sensory processing disorders that make traditional tags painful.

Seamless construction or flattened seams

Seamless clothes have no seams, reducing irritation and chafing. Flat seams have the same benefit as they feel smoother than regular seams.

Seniors with skin sensitivities or sensory processing disorders, as these adaptations reduce friction between the fabric and the skin.

Who Can Benefit From Adaptive Clothing?

Any individual who has difficulty getting dressed in traditional clothing can benefit from wearing adaptive shirts, pants, jackets and other items. The following examples should give you some ideas about how you can use adaptive clothing to make your life easier and maintain your independence.

Adaptive Clothing for Seniors and Elderly

Problem Senior May Have

Adaptive Clothing That Can Help

Arthritis makes it difficult to manipulate buttons, zippers, snaps and other small items.

  • Stretchy clothing
  • Clothing without fasteners
  • Items with front closures
  • Zippers with pull-up tabs
  • Shoes with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Shoes with elastic laces
  • Clothing with magnetic button covers
  • Slip-on shoes
  • Pull-over designs

Balance problems make it difficult to put on pants, shirts, shoes and other clothing items.

  • Slip-on shoes
  • Shoes with hook-and-loop closures
  • Shorter robes, dresses and nightgowns to reduce the risk of tripping
  • Items with front closures to eliminate the need to maintain balance while pulling on a shirt or dress

Age-related changes make the skin more sensitive to fabric and clothing.

  • Items with tagless tags
  • Clothing with flattened seams
  • Clothing featuring seamless construction

Weak muscles make it difficult to get dressed or undressed.

  • Items with front closures to eliminate the need to stretch while pulling clothes over the head
  • Pants with elastic waistbands
  • Loose clothing to prevent having to struggle to pull on tight pants or shirts

Neurological problems cause the hands to shake, making it difficult to fasten buttons, snaps and other closures.

Movement disorders such as tremors may also make it difficult to put on form-fitting clothing.

  • Loose clothing
  • Clothing with magnetic button covers
  • Shoes with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Pull-over designs
  • Pants with magnetic waistbands

Adaptive Clothing for Disabled Adults

Problem Disabled Adult May Have

Adaptive Clothing That Can Help

Wheelchair users need clothing that doesn't make them uncomfortable or put their safety at risk.

  • Pants with high backs to prevent the waistband from digging into the skin while seated
  • Shirts with open backs that are easier to put on when seated
  • Pants with shorter legs that won't get caught in wheelchair wheels

Individuals with disabilities need clothing that doesn't interfere with their medical devices (e.g. feeding tubes, intravenous lines, etc.)

  • Clothing with open sides
  • Clothing with open backs
  • Shirts, pants and other items with cutouts for tubing and wires

People with sensory processing disorders find some clothing irritating or painful to wear.

  • Loose clothing
  • Clothing made from natural fibers
  • Items with tagless tags
  • Clothing with flat seams or seamless construction

Cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other health conditions cause muscle weakness, making it difficult to put on some types of clothing.

  • Clothing with open backs to reduce the need to stretch
  • Pull-on pants with elastic waistbands
  • Shirts and jackets with front closures

Adaptive Clothing Specifically for Men

Problem Men May Have

Adaptive Clothing That Can Help

Some men struggle to put on their shoes and socks due to balance problems, muscle weakness and other health issues.

  • Tube socks
  • Sneakers with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Slip-on loafers

Men's dress shirts typically have buttons down the front and on the cuffs, making them difficult to use if you have arthritis or another health problem affecting your joints or muscles.

  • Pull-over designs
  • Shirts and jackets with hook-and-loop closures
  • Shirts with magnetic button covers

Men's trousers may have snaps or buttons that are difficult to fasten.

  • Trousers with magnetic or elastic waistbands
  • Suspenders paired with elastic-waist trousers

It's difficult for some men with mobility issues to tie a necktie.

  • Adaptive ties with clip closures

Adaptive Clothing Specifically for Women

Problem Women May Have

Adaptive Clothing That Can Help

Mobility issues make it difficult to reach around and fasten a bra.

  • Bras with front closures

Some women have difficulty putting on dresses due to reduced mobility in the arms.

  • Dresses with open backs

Arthritis and other health conditions make it difficult to put on skirts with buttons and snaps.

  • Skirts with elastic waistbands
  • Skirts with magnetic waistbands

Where Can I Buy Adaptive Clothing?

Where Can I Buy Adaptive Clothing?

Several reputable companies offer adaptive clothing, making it easier to find the items you need to look and feel good about yourself. The table below lists some of the most popular retailers and provides an overview of the adaptive clothing options offered by each one.

Retailer Name


Adaptive Clothing Options


  • Pull-over designs
  • Shirts with open backs
  • Clothing with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Pants designed for lying-down or seated dressing


  • Single shoes for amputees
  • Insulin pump belts
  • Easy on/easy off shoes
  • Seated clothing
  • Wide shoes
  • Adaptive underwear

Dignity Pajamas

  • Nightgowns and pajamas with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Open-back nightgowns and pajamas

Amazon Adaptive Clothing

  • Open-back nightgowns
  • Clothing with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Shirts with magnetic buttons
  • Shirts designed for use after shoulder surgery
  • Pull-on pants
  • Easy on/easy off shoes


  • Dresses and shirts adapted for use with G-tubes
  • Adaptive underwear
  • Post-mastectomy clothing
  • Adaptive clothing to make it easier to access medical ports
  • Adaptive pants


  • Shirts/pants/underwear with hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Pull-on pants with wide legs
  • Clothing designed to be put on when seated
  • Items with tagless tags

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive

  • Items with one-handed zippers
  • Clothing with magnetic closures
  • Items made with sensory-friendly fabrics
  • Clothing designed to accommodate prosthetics
  • Clothing that's easy to put on while seated

Adaptive at Seven7 Jeans

  • Jeans designed to be pulled on while seated
  • Tummyless seated jeans
  • Pull-on pants

Frequently Asked Questions About Adaptive Clothing

We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about adaptive clothing to give you more information on your options.

Can You Use FSA/HSA to Pay for Adaptive Clothing?

No, you can’t use a flexible spending account or health savings account to pay for adaptive clothing as per IRS Publication 502, which explains the types of qualified medical expenses that can be used for FSAs and HSAs.

What Does Adaptive Mean Regarding Clothing?

When used in reference to clothing, adaptive simply means that an item has been modified to better meet the needs of a person with a disability or medical condition. Adaptations are typically made to make it easier for people to get dressed and undressed. Adaptive clothing is also available for people who use feeding tubes, insulin pumps and other medical devices.

Are Magnetic Snaps Strong?

The magnetic snaps used in adaptive clothing are strong enough to keep shirts and other items closed. Some items also have magnetic button covers, which work well to keep buttons closed without you having to push each button through the corresponding buttonhole.

How Do You Adapt Clothes for a Wheelchair?

One way to adapt clothes for use with a wheelchair is to choose pants with high backs, as higher backs are less likely to dig into your body when you’re sitting down. If you’re concerned about clothes getting caught in the wheels, you can adapt your clothing by shortening the legs or sleeves. Pull-on pants are also easier to put on in a seated position than other types.