Alzheimer's Society Innovation Hub

Dressing: Clothing that promotes autonomy and self-esteem (and that looks good)

Living with dementia involves struggles with activities of daily life.  My dad, who has Parkinson’s dementia, said “everyone focuses on my dementia, but they don't think about all the other difficulties that go along with it". Dressing is one of these difficulties that he increasingly struggles with – every morning, every evening and throughout the day.  He has less dexterity to fasten buttons and zips, and difficulty reaching his arms above his head, finding sleeves in his shirts and balancing to put on trousers.  There are some adaptive clothes out there but they generally don’t look great and aren’t designed for people with dementia. He now has to rely on his wife to get him dressed and undressed. 

There is a profound difference between being dressed by someone and having the agency to dress oneself.

If the right clothing existed dressing could remain a daily activity that he, and I’m sure many others, could perform themselves. This would promote independence, help maintain sense of identity and self-esteem, remove the frustration of feeling ‘disabled’ and lessen the burden on carers.

The innovation I propose: To create clothing adapted for people with dementia and movement difficulties (e.g. Parkinson’s, arthritis, etc) that uses leading edge materials and clasps (beyond ‘elasticated’ and ‘velcro’), that is co-created with users rather than just forusers, and that incorporates fashion alongside functionality.

edited on Oct 20, 2019 by Natalie Marchant

Lesley Heath 3 weeks ago

I agree with this proposal as we are looking to a world of autonomy...with cost cutting! However, would the individual with dementia be able to recognise the differences without additional anxiety? We already have elasticated trousers/shoes, that are quite popular with the population as a whole? The main difficulty, using this proposal, is the intricacies of buttons and pulling things over the head, or indeed putting socks/tights on. Velcro becomes contaminated with the debris of daily life and will then not fasten securely/look appalling. There must be some textile out there that can help individuals to dress independently for as long as possible (for all concerned). Take out zips/buttons/Velcro that are completely visible and highlight 'difference'. It could be buttons that are slightly larger and there are less of them? Does elastic, where used, need to be so tight? This can be used across the fashion industry, not just specialist providers who then charge prohibitive prices. We need to see an end to zip up cardigans in the style of the 40s, push out the old without making things beyond the individual who needs to get dressed!

Margaret Booth 1 week ago

Yes it needs to be proper design not just changing the fastenings. We need to also look at fabrics.

John Clark 3 weeks ago

This is an excellent idea! From occasionally helping an old friend who has advanced Parkinson's I have learned how frustrating getting dressed can be for those like him. And involving the potential users in the design makes profound good sense

Jennifer Bute 3 weeks ago

We certainly do not need buttons and zips my wardrobe is devoid of these and I even have reversible dresses so can't be worn inside out and I know they exist for T shirts and socks. So yes please anything to enlarge this area of functionality !

Isabel Montagnon 3 weeks ago

Such an important idea. My brother had MS and had really frustrating, embarrassing clothing problems.

Margaret Booth 3 weeks ago

Raglan sleeves are hard to find but can leave a lot more room for getting arms in armholes. The modern alternative of a dropped shoulder seam leaves a quite tight opening. Surely attractive functional clothing is something that fashion students could get stuck into. Would there be any mileage in targeting undergraduate fashion design courses, or setting up a competition.

Sophia Stanworth 1 week ago

As an ex fashion student I think that this is definitely a project that most 'Fashion' colleges would be interested in. It would be an ideal opportunity for students to 'think outside the box'. I my day we were limited to Evans Outsize!

Tim Shakespeare 2 weeks ago

This idea has been advanced to the next phase

Tim Shakespeare 2 weeks ago

This idea has been moved back to the current phase

Natalie Marchant 1 week ago

I am so glad that this idea resonates with the community, and that people are already generating ideas (e.g. reversible clothes, raglan sleeves, novel fabrics)! I agree that it would be important to create clothing that is easy to use in order to avoid increasing anxiety, and involving fashion students could be really useful.

Katharine St John-Books 1 week ago

This such a great idea! Greatly needed

John Clark 1 week ago

This idea's got to be a winner! And it's a great idea of Margaret's to involve fashion students. I'm sure there would be a design college who would be prepared to take this up as a special project. But don't lose the really good idea of involving those with dementia, Parkinson's etc in the design as well. So perhaps - if fashion students do get involved - they could be required to come up with their design ideas using a participatory approach.

Serena Snoad 6 days ago

Sounds like a practical idea. Perhaps partnership working with retailers or foundations connected to retail/fashion could provide resources? Are there any service users who worked in fashion or tailoring who could offer expert opinion on design and dementia to work alongside and mentor the students?

Ann Rita 6 days ago

I could not agree more. My mum experienced increasing difficulties even in me trying to dress her. Trying to get arms into sleeves and trying not to hurt her and her skin was so thin and marked to easily. As well as the dexterity issue with buttons towards the end there was the safety problem of her sucking them like sweets so I preferred not to put anything on her which had buttons as I was afraid she might pull one off and swallow it. Also I preferred to zip her into things which she had less chance of taking off by herself and becoming inappropriately dressed. I spent that much time trying to find clothes which would help rather than hinder us that I still do it now when I am out shopping and my mum is no longer with us. the specialised clothing which does exist is poorly thought out. there must be a large market for good helpful smart adapted clothing and with all the different types of fabric and fastenings it must be possible to address this. .

Tim Shakespeare 1 day ago

This idea has been advanced to the current phase