Style Council – top tips to make dressing easier

An elderly lady trying to fasten buttons on her white shirt.

How we dress can be key to our identity – it’s part of how we choose to present ourselves to the outside world. Clothes can make us feel good, boost our confidence and improve our mood. But when you are faced with a daily struggle to get dressed, you can be left feeling frustrated, angry and isolated.

Katie Ellis is the founder of accessible clothing company The Able Label. She says that enabling people to dress themselves allows them to stay independent, and also helps to build confidence. “Customers have said to us that they don’t go out any more because they worry that when it comes to leaving, they won’t be able to put their coat back on. Something like that shouldn’t be holding people back, so we offer alternatives to help them,” she explains. “It is also about keeping your identity and personality. When you put your favourite outfit on, it lifts you and affects your whole psyche.”

By replacing buttons with touch closures, such as Velcro, and changing designs to be front-opening, clothes become accessible again. The Able Label has sourced a robust Velcro to ensure that fastenings are strong and last as long as the garment. The company also uses fabrics such as jersey, viscose and elastane, which are stretchy and prevent the wearer having to squeeze into them.

It takes just a few simple adaptations to wardrobe essentials to make them accessible to all, but they can transform lives. “A lot of our customers tell us that dressing used to be a nightmare and they ended up sitting in their nightie all day,” explains Jemma Dunn, managing director at Adaptawear. “Now, they are able get on with their lives.”

Check out more tips on living with arthritis here.

Getting closure

Pulling on a top over your head can be impossible, especially if you have arthritis in your shoulders. Wraparound styles are a great alternative, and shirts and blouses can also be easier to take on and off. Look for items with touch closures, such as Adaptawear’s magnetic shirt for men, or The Able Label’s Velcro closure blouses for women.

It’s a wrap!

Dresses and skirts in front-opening and wraparound styles are a lot easier to put on. They’re safer, too, because you don’t have to bend down to take them on and off. Again, go for Velcro or magnetic fastenings, rather than buttons or zips.

You wear the trousers

For women, leggings are more manageable than tights, and give much-needed warmth in springtime when paired with long tops or dresses. If jeans are uncomfortable for you, then jeggings are a great option. For men, elasticated-waist trousers are easier to put on than trousers with tricky zips and buttons.

Marks & Spencer has several options available, including chinos for men and cotton-rich joggers for women, both of which look smart, but are soft and easy to move around in.

Adaptawear’s men’s cords are great for spring, while the cotton trousers help keep you cool when the temperature starts to rise. There’s also a style of trouser that opens on both sides past the hips to make it easier to take them on and off.

Brilliant bras

Bras are one of the trickiest items to deal with. Front-opening styles are easier and are sold by many high street retailers. Adaptawear stocks bras with popper fastenings or large flat hooks, while The Able Label also offers a version with Velcro closures.

Over the top

If you have restricted shoulder mobility, putting on a coat can be a real struggle. Capes and ponchos offer a good alternative because they do not have tricky armholes. If you are looking for a coat, choose one with a slippery lining so it’s easier to pull on and slide off.

Accessories are great for dressing up an outfit, and helping you feel special. The Able Label offers jewellery with magnetic clasps that are less fiddly than traditional clasps to fasten, while Adaptawear has a range of accessories for men, such as clip-on ties and belts.

If you have a problem finding shoes, check out Cosyfeet’s range of stylish spring footwear, which offers extra support for people with swollen or painful feet. Read more about finding footwear.

Young lives

Marks & Spencer has a new Adapted Easy Dressing range designed especially for children aged up to 16. Developed alongside parents and paediatricians, the clothes are made from the softest materials, with hidden care labels and easy fastenings.


You may be able to claim VAT exemption (a 20 per cent discount) on clothing and footwear if it has been designed for use by a person with a long-term health condition, such as arthritis.

All you need to do is sign a declaration at the point of purchase, saying the item is going to be used by a person with arthritis. The Able Label, Cosy Feet and Adaptawear have more information on their websites. You can also find out more at or call 0300 200 3700.

Tips for dressing

  • Dress in a seated position, as this improves your balance, and, if possible, in front of a mirror.
  • Use dressing aids to help, such as long-handle shoe horns and sticks.
  • Lay items out before dressing into them. For example, lay a coat open in a chair, sit down in the chair and dress into it. The chair will help to keep the coat open.