FASHION AND AUTISM
Clothes are an integral part of human evolution, becoming one of the basic necessities for the survival of our species along with food and shelter. Fashion, in a sense, is the medium in which our changing perceptions of clothing comes to form and is given life. Today, when we speak of fashion sense, it does not only limit to the context of what clothes look good and trendy in the eyes of the beholder but also how you can incorporate your own personality or style in your outfit. The concept of fashion paved the way to the rapid booming of the clothing industry and today, there is already a myriad of clothing styles more than you could imagine, and along with it, thousands of both virtual and physical stores selling clothing products all over the globe. Because of the dynamic nature of fashion and clothing, one can clearly say that our clothes are also evolving along with us. But more than just fashion sense, our choice of clothes are greatly dictated by other factors as well, such as comfortability, efficiency, and even safety. If you look at clothing designs specially tailored for autistic persons, you will realize how complex our understanding of fashion is and how much our knowledge about clothes have expanded into other horizons.
The concept of autism-tailored clothes is gaining popularity nowadays because of the rising cases of autism diagnosis in many parts of the world, and the pressing issue of understanding the spectrum disorder in a more socially-conscious and practical sense. Parents are the most active advocates of this movement, as they try to raise awareness in the community about the disorder and build the world that’s nurturing and welcoming for their autistic children. Along with them are charitable organizations and socially responsible fashion personalities, who hold fundraising and awareness events as they introduce clothing designs and labels for autistic persons. Below are some of the noteworthy campaigns of retail stores, designers, and parents who worked hard and creatively in making unique and promising clothing wear for autistic children.
Mark & Spencer
Last August of 2016, Mark & Spencer, a British multinational retail brand, launched a set of clothing range tagged “Easy Dressing” in cooperation with The National Autistic Society. The project was primarily aimed at creating school-specific clothing with the help of Hellen Allison School as the project correspondent. Marks & Spencer team collaborated with the students of the said school to gather useful data on the specific clothing features that students like and dislike. The company originally went with five prototypes which they presented to the school for children to try and fit. Hellen Allison School’s resident therapist Corrina Laurie was really impressed with how well the project turned out, and commended the partnership and is hopeful that several other organizations will follow suit. These 5 prototypes include:
Unisex Long-Sleeve Polo
M&S’ version of a school long-sleeve polo has Velcro panel instead of buttons, making it easier for students to get dressed. With the panel hidden and the absence of buttons, autistic students will feel more comfortable wearing it.
Shirts for Girls and Boys
Just like the long-sleeve polo, both shirt designs have a hidden Velcro panel that replaces four buttons to eliminate the urge of fiddling while dressing up.Â These shirts also don’t need to be ironed, and are made with taped seams and stain away components.
Trousers for Girls and Boys
This trouser is designed to provide the least discomfort and sensory distractions for autistic students. It is a pull-up trouser, which means there’s no zipper or button to manoeuvre just to manoeuvred just to tighten it. The back pocket is also left out of the design and the care label can be found inside of the trouser pocket.
Emanuela Corti and Ivan Parati
These two Dubai-based designers also launched an autism apparel project called Caravan, a design collective that featured prototype clothing unique for autistic individuals who experience sensory perception disorders. Called as Sensewear garments, these prototypes look and feel quite different from the normal counterparts and the whole set is comprised of five pieces. The project won the Lexus Design Award, a prestigious award for new and promising fashion designers worldwide. Before working on Caravan, Corti and Parati are furniture and product designers, which gave them the necessary tools and experience to work on the prototypes for the award-winning project.
Oversized Necklace and Scarves
This large necklace is designed to relieve stress among autistic people, as they can bite into it, shake it and touch it. There also two different scarves, one acting like an olfactory bank when worn as the garment matter absorbs odour from the surrounding, and the other one with many tentacle-like tubes can be gripped and tightened to apply pressure in many areas of the body.
The jacket is installed with a hand pump where the autistic person can apply pressure to make the jacket inflate. Once inflated, the jacket will provide that warm and tight hugging feeling which autistic individuals often need to calm themselves.
The hood of this pull-over is unique in the sense that it can be stretched until the whole head is covered. For autistic people who are highly sensitive to sound input, this pullover is an ideal garment to have.
The maker of the Independence Day clothing line, Lauren takes motivation for her work from her own son, who is autistic. Like the previously mentioned clothing projects, Independence Day Clothing is comprised of garments that are designed to minimize, if not completely eliminate, sensory distractions. Aside from that, Lauren’s idea also factors in the challenges that autistic people have with their gross and fine motor skills, which means that those wearing Independence Day clothes can move freely almost without any restriction to their movements, which is good for autistic people with physical disabilities. Aside from this, the clothes are also installed with GPS devices so parents can easily track the location of their kids.