The global adaptive apparel market will reach $288.7 billion this year. Now, brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, and Zappos have entered the market with fashionable and functionable designs to tap into this emerging trend.

Cancer and fashion are two words that seem like complete opposites, but a new range of adaptive design brands are bridging the gap between high-fashion style and the unique needs of someone undergoing treatment for cancer.

Also known as adaptive clothing, adaptive design is fashion designed for people with physical, cognitive, and sensory issues. According to The Washington Post, “Adaptive design began some 40 years ago, mainly for seniors in long-term care facilities, not for young adults and children.” But unlike apparel of the past, today’s adaptive clothing is designed with style, age, comfort, and practicality taken into consideration.

Many brands, like With Grace B. Bold, are designed to target a specific market, like those who’ve received a mastectomy. Megan Sullivan, the brand’s founder and designer, was inspired by her own mother’s breast cancer journey. “She said that the fact that she wore this [drain] home from the hospital that she didn’t know she was going to have to wear home, just completely altered how she saw this experience,” Sullivan told in an interview earlier this year. Some of her designs, like the Anne Elizabeth, include a pocket to hold a surgical drain, for example.

Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive clothing line, Tommy Adaptive, debuted in 2016. Originally targeted to young people with disabilities, the label debuted Tommy Adaptive for adults in 2017. Many of the brand’s designs, seen in our exclusive photo shoot on the following pages, includes magnetic closures and soft fabrics. Other major companies hopped on board, including Target, who launched their sensory-friendly kids clothing brand, Cat & Jack. Zappos, the popular online shoe retailer, launched an adaptive clothing vertical featuring designs by brands such as 4Ward, their in-house brand, Tommy Adaptive and Nike.

Coresight Research, a data-driven site focused on retail and technology, estimates the potential global adaptive apparel market will reach $288.7 billion this year and grow to $349.9 billion by 2023. Coherent Market Insights anticipates that number reaching $400 billion by 2026. In the United States alone, they anticipate a market of $47.3 billion in 2019, which could grow to $54.8 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, needs for the adaptive community are growing, not declining, despite advancements in the medical field. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. As well, around one half of American adults have one or more chronic health conditions.

It makes good business sense then for brands to enter the adaptive design market. According to Vogue Business, “The differently abled population in the US has a collective disposable income of around $490 billion, slightly below that of African-Americans at $501 billion.”

Why then haven’t brands jumped on board? Part of it may be training. Although adaptive design has grown significantly from where it was even just five years ago, many of the current styles are not targeted toward working adult populations. Some schools, such as the famed Parsons School of Design in New York City, have partnered with nonprofits like Open Style Lab, which leads a class on designing for people with disabilities. It’s a major, necessary step forward, one we anticipate growing as the needs and size of customers grows, too.

cW Approved

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite adaptive design brands—featuring everything from sneakers and hospital gowns to lingerie and streetwear—and where to purchase the styles.

Tommy Adaptive
Launched in 2016, Tommy Adaptive has become the go-to brand for pushing the adaptive design world forward. Now featuring designs for children and adults, Tommy Adaptive’s bold, Americana-inspired designs are youthful, playful, and contemporary. 

Where to purchase: or

The biggest athletic shoe brand in the country recently entered the adaptive design market with their FlyEase shoe, which includes smart adaptive features like heel zippers and Velcro closures. The designs now come in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes. 

Where to purchase: or

Designed to “create more positive and effective healing experiences for people everywhere,” Care+Wear has partnered with a number of different brands, including Oscar de la Renta. From recovery bras and port access clothing to PICC-line covers and patient gowns, this start-up brand aims to address most any need of today’s cancer patient.

Where to purchase:

Lymphedema is swelling, usually in one’s arms or legs, caused by the removal or damage to one’s lymph nodes. To address this common post-surgical side effect, founders and breast cancer fighters Rachel Troxell and Robin Miller partnered with designer Kristin Dudley to create fashionable compression sleeves. In addition to arm sleeves, the line now also includes gauntlets and gloves.

Where to purchase:


Coping Strategies & Techniques

Picture Perfect

Say cheese! Cancer survivors find healing lies within the frame through the Framed Portrait Experience.

Read More »
Breast Cancer

A ‘Style’ Is Born

Unsatisfied with wigs, Sonya Keshwani of StyleEsteem created a new style of headwraps that are as stylish as they are functional.

Read More »