Dementia Centred

By DSDC Guest

June 11th, 2020

Clothing and dementia

Have you ever thought about how complicated it is to put your clothes on?

It’s something we all do every day without even thinking, but it’s a complicated process, with many coordinated muscle movements involved and a lot of balancing and fine positioning, and it relies heavily on memory. If you injure yourself, you soon start to think differently. Even something as simple as a cut finger, pulled muscle or sprained wrist can make buttons and zips difficult.

What if you have more serious injuries, or a condition like dementia, which may impair your dexterity or coordination, or make you forget how to dress?  If you can’t dress the way you are used to, it can adversely affect your mood and attitude. It’s a proven fact that if you look good, you feel better!

Other than having someone help you to dress, or staying in your pyjamas, what can you do to help yourself?

  • Choose easy-on styles, like pull on skirts, trousers and stretchy tops.
  • Consider a bigger size or looser cut, to give you more room for manoeuvre. 
  • Replace buttons with Velcro – this works for many styles and can be accomplished without significantly changing the appearance of the garment. This means you can keep your usual style without having to fiddle with the buttons every time.
  • Make skirts into wrap styles, so that you don’t need to step in and out of them. You can do this by either adding an overlap panel in a similar or contrasting material, or by opening up the zip seam and replacing it with a full length open-ended zip. 

In the event that someone’s help is required for dressing, the process can be made more dignified and less stressful by using well-modified clothing.  As well as the above suggestions, the addition of full length open-end zips to the backs of tops and dresses, makes it much easier to get arms in and out of sleeves. This, in turn, speeds up the dressing/undressing process, and leaves the wearer less exposed.  Also, front openings can then be stitched shut (if necessary) to discourage untimely undressing.

The amount of ready-adapted clothing on the market is slowly improving, and there are now several manufacturers with clothing suitable for a variety of abilities and styles. Search ‘helpful clothing’, ‘adaptive clothing’ or ‘easy-on clothing’ online to see what is available.  

~ Sharyn Hynds, Helpful Clothing Company


If you're interested in designing for dementia, inlcuding products for people with dementia, check out DSDC's design services or contact us.

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