Fashion Design for the Functionally Challenged: An Overdue and Promising Frontier
Whether by accident, injury, amputation, disease or any other cause, functional challenges continue to cause problems with regard to dressing fashionably with minimal assistance. Born of the marriage of the occupational therapy and fashion design disciplines, not unlike Tech-enhanced Life's Freedom Wear initiative under the Longevity Collective, the MIT Open Style Lab is assembling teams to tackleproblems of fitting clothing for people with limited dexterity.
The few companies in the United States that design accessible clothing were inspired by the elderly market, but much remains to be done in every venue, especially with regard to fashionable appearance. The Open Style Lab is the brainchild of Grace Teo, who received a PhD from MIT in medical engineering this spring. She and co-chair Alice Tin chose 24 students from MIT and other colleges, creating eight teams to design clothing for clients with amputations, spinal cord injuries, early-onset arthritis, and other disabilities.
From the Boston Globe article by Kathleen Burge: “Nearly a quarter-century after the Americans with Disabilities Act made buildings, jobs, and phones more accessible, most clothing is still as inaccessible as ever. Pants are designed to fit — and look best — when wearers are standing, not sitting in wheelchairs. Zippers, buttons, jewelry clasps, tight-fitting dresses, and jackets with linings are daily grievances for anyone with limited dexterity. Some prosthetic limbs chafe against — or do not fit beneath — clothing designed for able bodies. It is exactly this problem that De Roche has asked the new MIT Open Style Lab to fix. His team includes an engineering student, a design Related Engineering fashion for everyone student, and Bender, a Boston University master’s student in occupational therapy.”