Inclusivity efforts are making adaptive clothing more accessible in large retailers, but not all options on the market are practical or attractive to adaptive clothing consumers.

This is why a few small brands are expanding the space with significant design adjustments. The adaptive adjustments derive from personal experiences and challenges that these brand owners have faced within their life. Get to know the three brands that are transforming the adaptive clothing space right now.

The Charlotte Letter

Screenshot from The Charlotte Letter Facebook
Clothing from The Charlotte Letter will be available this fall

The Charlotte Letter is an adaptive clothing brand created specifically for special needs kids. The company name originates from a Facebook blog created by Founders Kameron and Stephanie Brooks to document the journey of their 4-year-old daughter Charlotte. After the family moved across the country, the blog was created as a way to stay connected to their community.

“If we ended up in the hospital, it was a great update for prayer requests and it just ended up becoming this form of advocacy where we would show people what it was like to have a special needs kid,” said Co-founder Stephanie Brooks.

As Charlotte grew older, it became more challenging for the Brooks to find stylish, practical and well-fitting clothes. The adaptive clothing on the market through the large brands did not have significant enough adjustments and had large gaps in sizing.

Garments like a plain t-shirt labeled as adaptive would have a slit near the belly button for feeding tube access, which is not a significant change compared to the alternative of wearing a traditional shirt and lifting it slightly for the same function.

One-piece outfits like rompers require parents to remove the entire garment in order to change a diaper. After a frustrating experience of putting their daughter in a romper, the Brooks decided to make adjustments to Charlotte’s clothing.

“My husband got the idea to have a seamstress sew [the romper] a zipper, just from ankle to ankle and we realized it was extremely convenient,” said Brooks.

After seeing how helpful it was to have that adjustment to the romper, they thought of starting an adaptive clothing brand. After extensive research on different fabrics, zippers and designs for children’s clothing, the brand is prepared to launch its first items this fall.

The Charlotte Letter is taking adaptive clothing further by considering the situations kids with special needs typically face. The brand is designing garments that provide more than the general adjustments to make finding well-fitting clothes less of a challenge for parents.

The Charlotte Letter is first releasing 5 items in both boy’s, girl’s and unisex styles. The girl’s rompers will have discreet feeding tube access underneath the ruffles, zip ankle to ankle and come in fun prints.

A boy’s onesie-style dress shirt will also be included in the line. These dress shirts are designed to stay tucked in and have the same style as the typical button-up shirt.

The last item the brand is releasing is joggers. These joggers go over ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) and will have a hidden inseam zipper. The joggers can be put on while lying down, making them convenient for bed bound children.

For people who don’t wear adaptive clothing but want to support the brand, T-shirts with fun and positive sayings are available for purchase on their website on July 26th, 2021.

CrissCross Intimates

Screenshot from CrissCross Intimates website
Founder Jean Criss poses with models in CrissCross Intimates apparel

Founder of CrissCross Intimates, Jean Criss, began designing her innovative line of undergarments from her hospital bed as she was recovering from breast cancer. The undergarments she had to wear after her surgeries weren’t fashionable and had detectable features like large strips of Velcro and uncomfortable zippers.

“I personally did not like the garments that I had to wear when I went through my surgery,” said Criss. “They were very utilitarian… and the zipper would really rub against your incisions.”

That is why when Criss designed her line of undergarments, she ensured the products provided not only comfortable wear but also looked fashionable. Her utility patented design crisscrosses in the front and wraps around the body so the straps don’t fall. Padding under the breast allows for comfortable wear while magnets and low-profile Velcro act as secure closures.

CrissCross Intimates is originally a post-surgical line designed for men and women who have had any kind of breast surgery. The line then expanded to the adaptive marketplace when people with disabilities found the product valuable since users don’t have to lift their arms to slip into the undergarments. The products can be worn after surgery, through recovery and after recovery as an activewear bra.

Prior to starting her brand, Criss had 25 years of experience in media and technology, but she had no experience in the fashion industry. To get her business started, Criss did extensive research, networked and attended trade shows to figure out what designs and materials she should use for her brand. After making adjustments to the product during the soft launch, Criss successfully put the products into full production.

If you look at the products on the CrissCross Intimates site, you’ll see the names of the garments are titled after real people. As an ode to survivors, Criss named many of the garments after people in her life who have battled cancer.

The first and most popular bra, the Nina Bra, was named after Criss’s aunt. The bra is versatile and comes in nine colors. After creating this design, Criss expanded to different types of undergarments.

“After I had a bilateral mastectomy, I wanted to have the whole ensemble. So, I created briefs which have a beautiful lace waistline. I created thongs… as well compression leggings available to match,” said Criss.

Criss also designed a men’s line with vests and binders for men to use post-breast surgery or as shapewear. Both the men’s and women’s garments hold medical tubes and attach to pant loops or tuck inside the shirt.

All products are available on the CrissCross Intimates website.

No Limbits

Screenshot from No Limbits Kickstarter
The Amp Pant created by No Limbits

After losing her leg in a car accident in 2018, Erica Cole was stuck wearing shorts or sweatpants because jeans did not fit over her new big and bulky prosthesis. Frustrated with her lack of options for pants, she set out to solve the problem on her own. Cole spent over a year researching, developing, conducting interviews and participating in business incubators to create her new brand, No Limbits.

No Limbits is an adaptive clothing brand that creates pants specifically for amputees. The first design, the Amp Pant, is made from high-quality stretch denim with YKK zippers at the base of the pants. Zippers are on each side of the pant leg and blend into the inseam for a discreet design and allow for prosthesis adjustments throughout the day.

The harshness of prosthetics can quickly cause wear and tear in pants which is why Cole designed the Amp Pant with reinforced denim to make them durable and long-lasting. In total, there are three color options per style: women have the choice of light blue, grey and black pants while men have a light wash, dark wash and black option.

The pants are currently available for pre-order on the No Limbits website and will be shipping in September.

The brands above have proved that small businesses can make a huge impact in the fashion industry. At Dhakai, we’re uplifting all small to midsize brands through our innovative technology. Like adaptive clothing, we believe that compliant and sustainable sourcing should be available to all. To learn about how Dhakai can help build your brand, sign up for free at dhakai.com/registration.

This month Dhakai is also giving away a Free Brand Starter Package. Rules and guidelines on how to enter the giveaway can be found on our Instagram.