Regina Garson's Blog

Adapting to Adaptive Fashion Needs

Sew1Somewhere in the process of decluttering, rearranging and building a new life in the shape that I found myself after my accident, I finally got around to thinking about clothes again. This is actually a major improvement since the day that I told my darling daughter that I didn’t see the point in shopping for clothes ever again, since there wasn’t much likelihood of me wearing out what I had. Ever. So I just plain didn’t need any more. Ever.

Despite it all. By some kind of miracle, I’m still on this side of the daisies and despite the long road, I am doing significantly better and still getting better every day. Life is change though, perpetual change. And in the middle of decluttering my household and life, which started somewhere in the healing process, changes in life, changing needs, changes in body, and all that, I recently realized that it was probably just about time to start sewing again. Now that I have ventured out shopping again, I have been having a bear of a time finding things that suit me.

By not being able to find anything, I don’t mean because of my finicky fashion sense, I mean things that I can actually wear, despite the shape that I am in. And I don’t mean the pounds, retailers are pretty good these days about stocking plus size fashions, but that is not actually my clothing issue either.

The thing is, after all of my medical misadventures, surgeries and procedures, I have bumps and bulges in places that I never knew you could have bumps and bulges. I know that I am not the only person to ever have this problem. But it surely isn’t something that folks talk about in polite company and I can’t say as I have ever heard or seen mention of a fashion show with runway models sporting the latest fashions designed for folks with less than perfect bodies, I mean with parts that are not in the generally accepted shape of things, except breast cancer maybe, and people are coming around on that.


I do sew though. And this whole adventure is vaguely reminiscent of why I started sewing in the first place. In one junior-high school year, I went from one of the shortest people in the class to one of the tallest. And I didn’t gain a single pound in the process. Everything was suddenly either way too short or falling off, and I mean hitting the floor falling off.

Needless to say, I needed some new clothes. My folks would take us shopping, and I can still hear Daddy telling my sister and me to find a dress. What was once fun had turned into a nightmare.

We’d go through every single rack at Sears. Now, at 5’8″, I honestly needed a “Tall” size, but have you ever tried to find a Tall size “0” in the Junior department? If we found anything at all that fit, that was what I got. You can imagine my budding teenage fashionista delight at that fashion prognosis.

I think it was Margaret Atwood who said:

I am certain that a sewing machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more  (Margaret Atwood).

Although my sewing motto is, “When all else fails, sew,”  I do believe she nailed it. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in my teenage kind of way, I sure did feel like I was suffering without anything to wear and before long, I was more than ready for some inventing so I talked my mom into teaching me to sew. And she did. Then, I’d skip lunch and spend my lunch money on fabric and patterns. Every year after that, I signed up for home economics classes too so I could learn how to sew a little better. I accomplished my mission and I was finally happy with my clothing selection.

BlueLine-SmallFast forward a few decades, the freak accident of the century, a stint on a feeding tube and once more, I am having a bear of a time finding clothes that fit, much less cover what needs to be covered: discretion, modesty and all that. Fashion has once more taken a nose dive. And actually, I do enjoy clothes and fashion, having fun with style, and dressing up, I always did. So it’s back to nudging through the pattern pages: McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue. They are all on the Internet now.Sewing_patterns

Somewhere in the process, I got my dear son to help me pull my old sewing storage back in the house. Talk about memory lane. Some old projects never finished, and they never will be. But that was also where I used to store things of sentimental value. Treasures of my life. My first husband’s favorite skirt that he so loved to see me wear, may he rest in peace. I sure did learn some things about love along the way. The tattered pattern for my wedding dress, which I made myself. A Disney wall hanging from the nursery when my kids were babies. Memories. Tossing the old, thinking about the new.

Life is all about change. Some things you expect, and some you just plain don’t. But if you plan to keep on living, you have to go with what you got and keep moving forward, adapt as they say. Life is like that. It sure throws us some loops when we wake up and realize what kind of shape we really are in. Eventually, we all get a few of those loops. You have to do what you can, the best that you can, with what you got. “Adapt,” and I really do mean it literally. Meanwhile, sometimes we really do need a new suit of clothes. And that is true for us all, no matter what shape or condition we find ourselves. We all want to look our best.


So what do you do, when for whatever reason, you can’t honestly buy clothes that will work for you anymore, or you or a loved one has clothing needs that just plain can’t be filled with a trip to the mall. Except for my daughter’s first formal, when she was way too tiny for anything off the rack, this is something that I have not dealt with on a personal level since my days as a size “0” Tall.

Getting real. It took me a minute to figure out what I was actually looking for. With the various procedures, I have bumps and bulges in places that are not generally accounted for in the clothes that you buy off the rack.  So it is clearly not as simple as heading off to a clearly designated clothing department, which is how I ended up back on the sewing thing.

In the process, of scouring stores, and looking through hundreds of sewing patterns in search of something that I could either use or adapt, I sure did learn that it wasn’t just me. There are so many people who really don’t fit the standard mold and need some kind of adaptation in their clothing. It could be that they have reached a point where they can no longer get in and out of their clothes on their own, or what they really need is an adult size bib that doesn’t look like a bib. Or what about the person in a wheel-chair who has a career and needs to look and dress like a professional? Or the ups and downs of living with tubes? There are all kinds of bumps and bulges with those things too, not to mention what to do with the tubes and bags when you are out and about. Or it could be that all a person needs is a pair of pants that are loose enough to wear over a pair of Depends. Some things are relatively simple to remedy, but others take a little more doing.

Adaptive fashion” is the term used for clothes that are modified in some way to accommodate a medical or other issue. It covers all of the above and more. Although you may have to order them, some things are available for purchase. Amazon has a few adaptive clothing selections. Dream Products has a number of adaptive products for making life more comfortable for people who are less able. Disabled World has good information and an overview to get you started and give you an idea of various options that might be available.

I have already learned much in this adventure and once I realized that it really wasn’t just me having a hard time with the clothes, I started to make a list of all the resources I found.  Although a few are linked in the post, I ended up collecting them all together on a Pinterest board. That way, if you have an interest or need, it’s all in one place. It’s also easy to add to and follow if you are on Pinterest, if you are not a member already, it is free to join. Some of the pins have DIY sewing information for specific products or adaptations and others are links to places where you can purchase clothes and products that accommodate specific needs. If you have other that you know of that might be of use to some, leave a link in the comments and I’ll get it on the Pinterest board too.



See also:

Adaptive Clothing and Other Needs – the Pinterest board.


Illustration Credits:


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