adaptive outerwear plus clothing

Even My Dog Has More Options For Outerwear

Where Does That Put Me In The Hierarchy Of Personhood?

I just bought my dog the cutest winter coat. Sadly, I won’t be able to see it in action. It’s early November and I am trying to face the reality of being a shut-in for the next 5 months. 

I am fat, disabled and chronically-ill, and I use a power wheelchair as my primary means of mobility. For the last 7 months, I have been screaming from the rooftops about the fact that plus-sized adaptive outerwear simply does not exist- neither in sewing pattern form, ready-to-wear, nor custom made-to-order options.  Trust me, I’ve searched everywhere, because you know, my life kinda depends on it. I’m not the only fat and disabled person I know who doesn’t have proper outerwear. I am perhaps the loudest and most persistent, though. 

So, what exactly is this mythical “adaptive” winter coat that I’m seeking? Adaptive clothing is designed to accommodate the various needs and abilities of the disabled and chronically-ill community. Clothing might have tunnels and ports for tubing and stomas, easy to use magnetic zippers and velcro closures or in my case, be designed to be worn on a seated frame and allow that person to be able to put on and take off their clothing without standing. If it sounds simple, it’s because it should be. 

In my case I’m looking for a coat that will protect most of my body from the cold while still allowing me to remove that coat without needing to stand up once I get indoors. This would be accomplished by creating a warm coat that is both longer in length and slightly flared out in the front to allow it to drape over and protect my lap. The back hemline of this coat should be much shorter, ending at the base of my spine to ensure that I’m not sitting on it- this part makes it easy to put on and take off without standing or having it crumpled against my back.  This shape is what I’ve coined the “reverse mullet,” and it’s based off of both a raincoat I was gifted by an adaptive brand and several other adaptive brands’ outerwear styles that sadly do not accommodate my size.

Another important thing to note about this mythical yet-to-be-made coat, it has to be WARM. As someone who is not creating their own mobility by moving their limbs, like an able-bodied person or a manual wheelchair user, I don’t generate much, if any, body heat. I’m often bundled up in the freezer and refrigerated sections of grocery stores because I’m not able to stand the cold in even the slightest amounts. According to both my doctor and the disability communities I’ve spoken with, the extreme aversion to the cold is common. 

The designs for this coat exist already. They exist in straight-sized adaptive wear. They exist in a raincoat I was gifted by an adaptive brand when I publicly asked them to expand their sizing. They exist in a made-to-order coat that was graded incorrectly for my fat body and didn’t account for any ease of movement. They exist. They just need to be made. They need to be made by a designer who eschews fatphobia and ableism in favour of no holds barred inclusivity.  

Val is a fat Mi’kmaw-white woman. She became a mobility aid user in 2016 after a life saving surgery injured her spinal column. Sadly, the doctors refused to let her to keep the 15lb tumor as a souvenir. She is a fan of slow and ethically made fashion. She loves to sew her own garments, but despises winding bobbins. Val currently resides in the National Capitol Region in Canada with her two dogs and her brother, Aaron. Find Val at @the_rationale_of_val on Instagram.