Tommy HilfigerShare on Pinterest
Photo credit: Tommy Hilfiger

Zipping pants. Buttoning shirts and coats. Even tying shoes. Getting dressed is a privilege many of us may never had considered, but for people with disabilities, who make up about 13 percent of the population, putting on clothes isn’t so straightforward. For some, buttons may not be just hard to reach — they’re another barrier to independent living.

Which is what makes Tommy Hilfiger’s new line for adults so empowering.

Independence without buttons or zippers

This year’s collection, which is available now, features 37 styles for men and 34 for women. It’s all done in typical Tommy Hilfiger style, dedicated to red, white, blue, and the kind of “sporty cool” that’s been his mainstay for decades. It’s bold, alive, fashionable and, most importantly, can be put on with one hand.

Using Velcro and magnetics, Hilfiger’s range of jackets, sweaters, and dresses do away with traditional buttons and zippers. The pants, which include options of classic denim jeans and chinos, feature magnetic zippers, flies, and hems that work with orthotics and leg braces. Plus, there are pull-on loops embedded in the waistbands, making sure everything stays put.

This isn’t the first time Hilfiger has released a line of adaptive clothing. Last year was Hilfiger’s first foray into adaptive clothing when they released a children’s line. The children’s collection was part of a partnership with Runway of Dreams Foundation (RODF), a nonprofit founded by Mindy Scheier. Scheier, a fashion designer in the industry for 20 years, has a son with muscular dystrophy. When she found that her son’s clothing needs weren’t being met in the fashion world, she founded RODF.

A new era for fashion is coming

Research shows that the lack of adaptive clothing can be a barrier to engaging in meaningful activities. Even if an individual doesn’t explicitly identify the clothing as the problem, apparel-related issues — such as the time it takes to dress — have shown to lower a person’s quality of life and social participation.

It’s a huge step forward to see big brands like Tommy Hilfiger actively listening and reacting by offering stylish, adaptive clothing. It’s even more exciting see that other brands are jumping on board too — Target’s popular children’s line Cat & Jack announced that they’re expanding their line to include sensory-friendly, adaptive apparel. These clothes have plenty of hidden openings to make dressing easier for kids and parents. You can find them exclusively at this coming October 22nd.

Another tastemaker to join the growing trend is renowned New York design school, Parsons, which has partnered with Open Style Lab (OSL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing fashionable, adaptive clothing for people of all abilities. The executive director of OSL, Grace Jun, spoke to Fashionista in a statement that echoes the finding of scientific research: “We also see a barrier to your independence if it takes you 30 minutes to put on a garment that has difficult closures because you have paralysis or limited dexterity in your fingers. Is it really your fault — or is it your clothing that needs to be redesigned?”

Allison Krupp is an American writer, editor, and ghostwriting novelist. Between wild, multi-continental adventures, she resides in Berlin, Germany. Check out her website here.