Dressing with Arthritis - Arthritis Action

How we dress can affect our mood and everyday life. Facing a daily struggle with dressing can leave many feeling frustrated, isolated, and like they’re losing their independence.


Discovering suitable ‘adaptive clothing’ options can significantly help to reduce the time and stress dressing may take in your daily routine. Even small changes to our dressing and clothing habits can make a large difference by giving back confidence, providing dignity, and helping to maintain independence.


Our partners at The Able Label have shared their top tips on easier dressing for people who live with arthritis. Visit their website by clicking this link to browse arthritis-friendly adaptive clothing. Use the discount code ART10 at their online checkout to receive a 10% discount off your total purchases, and The Able Label will also donate 10% of your purchase to Arthritis Action.


Top Tips for Easier Dressing

  • Dress in a seated position or with the support of a rail or handle, in front of a mirror if possible
  • Try to buy high quality, comfortable clothing wherever possible
  • Look into dressing aids for extra help, such as long handled shoe horns
  • Welcome help from a loved one or carer if this will make certain parts of dressing and undressing easier
  • If you wear Velcro-adapted garments, wash these with the fastenings closed to help maintain strength and avoid damaging the Velcro


Clothing Considerations

Fabrics: Comfort is key, and fabrics go a long way to ensuring you look and feel great in what you wear. High quality, natural materials like cotton, bamboo and viscose (from wood pulp) give all-day soft comfort, and help to regulate body temperature and sweat. Super-stretch fabrics such as jerseys, especially those made from viscose with elastane, help make getting into and out of clothes easier, while non-iron fabrics make clothes easier to look after.


Temperature regulation: Natural fabrics including cotton and bamboo help to maintain a comfortable and constant temperature. Those who frequently feel cold will benefit from materials such as brushed cotton and fleece, as they provide a soft, heavier, cosy layer. Those who experience fluctuations in temperature will find wraps or capes helpful, as they have no arm holes for quicker and easier dressing on and off.


Easy Fastenings: Poppers, hook-and-eye and Velcro fastenings can all help to overcome fiddly fastenings like buttons and zips. We find that Velcro fastenings require the least amount of coordination and strength to use, making them ideal for anyone who struggles with fine motor skills. To make your clothes last even longer, ensure you close all of the fastenings when washing to prevent damaging the Velcro.

Some jewellery comes with magnetic fastenings, which are much easier to manipulate than regular fiddly clasps. However, magnets should be avoided by anyone with a pacemaker.


Shapes: Consider shapes for your clothes that are comfortable and well-fitting, with extra room where necessary. Wide-legged trousers are easier to get your legs into, while ‘Raglan sleeves’ provide larger armholes to make dressing easier. If you feel the cold, sleeveless capes and ponchos have no armholes, making them easier to pop on and off.


Front Opening: If you find overhead dressing uncomfortable, front-opening clothes such as shirts and nightdresses may be a good option for you. For women, bras can prove particularly tricky as they traditionally fasten at the back, however front opening options make it a lot easier to reach and see how to align fastenings.


Elasticated Waistbands: Design features including elasticated waistbands can prove a huge help. Options with a flat front and elasticated back create a smart look, yet provide that extra all-day comfort and reassurance.


Helpful Styling: If getting about is difficult, carrying things may be too. Look out for clothes with pockets to help with keeping useful items in easy to reach places. When looking for coats, slippery linings are a must as they allow for quicker and easier dressing into and out of.


Incontinence: Specialist incontinence underwear for both women and men is available to provide peace of mind. There are now far more attractive styles with leak proof designs to provide protection and the option of machine washing makes them reusable.

When it comes to toileting, fully opening wrap skirts are quick and simple to dress out of, whilst stretchy pull on trousers take away the difficulty of fastenings. Velcro fly trousers are another adaptive option for easier toileting, without having to completely remove trousers.