MS Patients Can Dress For Success

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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When you have MS, finding a way to dress for success means more than just looking sharp. It means dressing to both look good and feel good about yourself while wearing clothing that’s easy to wear. Finding those clothes takes a little more effort than simply going into a clothing store and picking out a few things, but it’s worth the effort. And there’s research to back up that statement.

At the University of Missouri, researchers who interviewed people with a disability reported that a lack of appropriately designed clothing left those people feeling excluded in the workplace and that it limited their participation at work.

“(They) want clothing that expresses their sense of style,” said university instructor Kerri McBee Black in a news release. “They want clothing that makes them feel confident. Unfortunately, the apparel industry has yet to sufficiently meet the demand for this population.”

One multiple sclerosis patient told the researchers that she searched for adaptive clothing that would accommodate her colostomy bag. She struggled to find options that made her feel attractive and, she said, that lack of choices impacted her overall confidence. Other participants reported similar challenges in finding work-appropriate clothing. In fact, McBee Black said that people with disabilities often choose not to apply for certain jobs because they feel they can’t meet the expectations associated with an office dress code.

We can dress for success

Wooden cane 2

One of my wooden canes. (Courtesy of Ed Tobias)

Having something as simple as a good-looking cane can help your image and be an ego boost in, and out of, the workplace. When I first began having trouble walking and started using a cane, I had a collection of three or four that were of hand-carved wood. Sure, they were more expensive than the standard metal cane you can find in a drug store, but they helped my image, inwardly and outwardly. They were also great conversation starters and icebreakers.

Of course, we can’t go out of the house wearing just a cane. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in clothing for people with disabilities. You can find several online. Unfortunately, most of these clothes seem to feature function, with little regard for style.

Magnetic button shirt.

Shirt with magnetic buttons. (Photo courtesy of MagnaReady)

One exception seems to be MagnaReady. Maura Horton started the company a few years ago because her husband, a Parkinson’s disease patient, had trouble buttoning his shirt. MagnaReady makes shirts for women, plus shirts, pants, and ties for men. They all have closures infused with magnets, so that someone with decreased dexterity, like many of us with MS, doesn’t have to fumble with buttons that he can’t feel. I have no connection to MagnaReady and no experience with items this company sells, but they appear to be useful and stylish enough to wear work.

For out of the office, Target is selling a limited number of casual wear items designed for people with disabilities. They include jeans with wider than normal legs and tops with hidden openings for easy abdominal access. And designer Tommy Hilfiger has created some sporty-looking accessible clothing items for women, men, and children.

Accessible but without style

Other companies provide a greater array of garments for people with disabilities, but in making them accessible, their style suffers. Silverts sells garments for numerous conditions. You can actually search for items by medical condition, and they have over 200 items which, they say, are useful for people with MS. Most of these appear to be easy on/off pants, tops, and shoes. But they have very few items that I would wear to work, and none I would wear to a job interview. Able2 Wear, Adaptations By Adrian, and Easy Access offer similar products. They’re primarily aimed at wheelchair users and hospital patients, and all of the garments listed on these sites seem to be at least one step below what I would consider “business casual.”

Feeling welcome in the workplace

University of Missouri researcher McBee Black says “… people living with disabilities want to work; yet, they experience public and self-stigma, both of which undermine their confidence. Making sure that everyone has access to attractive, professional clothing will help people living with disabilities feel welcome in the workplace.”

It’s nice to know that there are at least a handful of companies working to help us accomplish this.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Claire Robinson avatar

Claire Robinson

A very important article, and indeed you are right - fashion is too often not combined with functionality to the detriment of those living with ill-health or disabilities. It is entirely unacceptable how underserved this community is on the high street. This was also our experience, and having cared for those living with ill-health for many years we created a collection of clothing at INGA Wellbeing. They were created by a talented fashion designer and collaborated on with patients and nurses from multiple pathologies, providing access to many parts of the body easily, allowing people to remain confident, comfortable and stylish whilst still having functional clothes that gives easy access to the abdomen, chest, groin and back for easy access to ostomies, catheters and many other medical devices, in hospital or integrating your illness into daily life. We would love to know your thoughts. We are also great fans of MagnaReady - theirs is a wonderful solution.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Claire,

Thanks for letting us know about INGA Wellbeing. The more options we have for these garments the better.



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