Someone’s been thinking. About a big problem affecting a lot of us. That turns out to have a brilliantly simple solution. Meet the woman who came up with clothing that can’t be worn wrong. It’s universal design for fashion, and it makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
Lauren Thierry is truly a mother-of-invention. Her 17-year-old son Liam is autistic. The simplest of tasks can challenge him and undermine his independence. Basic daily routines like getting dressed become stressful time killers. “I know it sounds like such a non-issue,” explained Thierry. “And yet, if your kid can’t get dressed, they can’t get out of the house.”
Like all parents, she’s aware that she won’t live forever. She decided to solve the problem now. And she did, for her son (shown above with his mom) and for more people than she ever imagined with her newly launched line called Independence Day Clothing.
“A lot of people with autism have issues with fine and gross motor skills,” Thierry told ABC News. Her clothing is for people with cognitive impairments, physical limitations, or sensory sensitivities. It enables them to get dressed independently and, she emphasizes, look like everyone else.
Connecticut-based Thierry didn’t have fashion experience – she spent a decade as a financial news anchor – but having dressed Liam for years, she knew what Liam and kids like him needed.
“First of all, they deserve better than t-shirts and baggy sweatpants,” Thierry said. “I said whatever Liam’s going to put on – he’s not going to look like that kid in the baggy sweatpants and monochrome t-shirt that may or may not be inside-out. That was my son’s uniform for years.”
The garments feature what she calls “hidden helpers”. There are no buttons, zippers, tags or labels. Except for dresses, each item is unisex, designed without a designated front or back making it impossible to wear it “wrong”.
Because people with autism often have sensory issues, the clothes use soft, smooth fabrics. She also offers an option to embed GPS tracking devices into the garments, which she considers a “lifesaver” in many situations. “I don’t look at it as a spy technique,” she said. “If you ever felt that pit-in-your-stomach fear of, ‘Where is my special-needs kid who cannot speak up or tell you where he lives,’ you’ll understand.” The GPS tracker is also appealing to caretakers of people with dementia.
Public response has been overwhelmingly positive. The clothes – sold through her website – combine form and function. Simple styling is modern, and a touch preppy. Customers tell her they are buying for sufferers of Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease, and for people with limited range of movement. There is wide potential for elderly customers. Thierry plans to extend the line to small children, and extra-large and double-extra-large adult sizes.
“We really changed the conversation,” Thierry said. “They can get up, get dressed and feel good about themselves. Why not start the day on a positive note?”
All Images from Independence Day Clothing