An investigation into adaptive formal clothing available for people with disabilities, with a focus through case studies and design development on men's shirts.

  • Lucy Clayton

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The objective of this research was to create formal shirts for three men with different disabilities, to assess how a standard shirt could be adapted to their specific needs and what impact these shirts could have on usability. Furthermore, this study aimed to gain further insight into the combined experiences of the disability community in finding suitable clothing and whether this would be deemed appropriate in terms of accessibility.
Two anonymous surveys were conducted online which were distributed via social media and University societies. Interviews were also conducted with participants to assess their needs; shirts were produced to match their specifications. The garments were produced to be suitable to the participant’s needs, this included using magnets and Velcro as alternative fastenings. A closing interview was also held with each participant to assess the shirt’s success in comparison to what they had tried previously.
The findings from the study included the following: from those surveyed 48.3% of people had difficulty finding formal blouses or shirts, 47.6% would avoid events which require formal attire, 94.7% thought better fitting shirts or blouses were more expensive and 76.8% had not heard of adaptive clothing.
From the case studies, of the participants interviewed all three said the shirt that was adapted to their needs was more comfortable than shirts they had worn before and had better functionality. Of the participants interviewed two said that the shirt was better in terms of style, with the other participant stating it was about the same as the shirts he previously worn.
People with disabilities can significantly benefit from access to adaptive clothing that is tailored to their needs. It can generally help to improve functionality and comfort, however more specifically it can reduce pain, time getting dressed and, in some cases, allow the user independence when dressing. The accessibility of adaptive clothing is not sufficient, the causes of which includes availability of the clothing, the expense, and the awareness of its existence.
Throughout the development of the adaptive shirts, the experimentation showed the vast array of garments which could be produced. From engaging with the design work, it became apparent that simple changes can quickly increase the accessibility of garments, however there are a vast array of disabilities which need to be accommodated and it is not a one size fits all when it comes to accessibility.
Date of Award27 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTracy Cassidy (Main Supervisor)

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