These Moms Make Adaptive Clothing for Kids

Easy on-and-off pants with hidden zippers help kids with challenges.

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Let’s face it, getting dressed can sometimes be difficult, especially as our fine motor skills deteriorate, or we have physical challenges from a young age. Adaptive clothing is specifically crafted to facilitate dressing for individuals facing challenges like these.

The tailored design of such clothing, reports Item Live, can significantly enhance the lives of individuals, providing them with the independence to dress themselves or making it easier for caregivers to assist them comfortably and efficiently.

Two moms get creative
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Befree, a US-based company specializing in adaptive clothing, was founded by two moms who innovatively patented zip-on pants to enhance fashion and comfort for individuals with disabilities or those recovering from injuries or surgeries

Co-founder Nicole “Nikki” Puzzo's inspiration for Befree came from dressing her daughter Stella, who has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Stella's double-hip surgery at age five made dressing challenging, leading to the creation of adaptive pants with a side zipper. 

Surgeons told Puzzo that her daughter would have to wear dresses or a long T-shirt for three months while she recovered. “She doesn't like to look at any type of brace or Band-Aids or anything like incisions," Puzzo told CBS News. 

Not wanting her daughter to feel uncomfortable with visible braces or Band-Aids, Puzzo took matters into her own hands, reorted CBS News. She decided to craft a pair of pants for Stella using brightly colored pajama bottoms. By disassembling and sewing in Velcro, Puzzo created a simple yet transformative solution. 

“I decided to go out and make her a pair of pants,” she said. It was a simple fix, but it was a game changer" for her daughter,” she said. 

Zipping along
“At her post-op appointment, [Stella] was wearing the pants,” Puzzo confided. “And the doctor at [Boston] Children's [Hospital] said, ‘You need to make these. So many parents ask us all the time what to dress their children in, and you basically solved that problem.’”

When she told her friend and co-founder Joanne DiCamillo about the situation, they enlisted the help of DiCamillo’s mother, a talented seamstress, to produce prototypes and refined their design, moving from Velcro to snaps, before eventually shifting to a full-length side zipper on each leg, according to Item Live.

Teaming up with the nursing director at Mass General, the duo made further adjustments to their design, ensuring that the side zippers were fully covered. This modification aimed to prevent friction irritation, particularly for paralyzed customers. Despite facing a temporary setback during the pandemic, Befree successfully sold its inaugural pair of pants in 2022. 

“The feedback has been terrific,” DiCamillo told Item Live. “If they’re a caregiver and they’re helping their children get dressed, we hear from them how that makes their life so much easier. We have some customers who dress themselves and they love how that gives them independence.”

Patty & Dricky, the adaptive clothing marketplace describe the zipOn pants as being made with a soft, moisture-wicking fabric and an elastic waist with drawcord. The zipOn youth clothing unzip and open completely on both legs with zippers spanning waist to hem. This allows them to be taken on and off without pulling up through the legs like traditional pants. The clothing can be put on and taken off easily from standing or lying down and open from the bottom as needed to accommodate casts, braces, and other medical equipment. 

The next step
“I embrace life without letting anything hinder me — and that's pretty amazing,” Stella Puzzo shared with CBS News. The now eighth-grader is passionate about swimming, gymnastics, and working out with a trainer.

The company plans to expand its product line, reports CBS News, introducing jogger pants, leggings, and shorts, with a commitment to inclusivity by partnering with the Jauron Family Foundation for financial assistance, ensuring adaptive clothing accessibility for all, according to Item Live. Puzzo emphasizes, “Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible in our company in the apparel that we're making. And what we realized was we did not want financial hardship to ever be possible for anyone because adaptive clothing should be available to everybody.”

As a mother, Puzzo shares the universal desire for her daughter, Stella, to achieve independence as she grows up. She has made a heartfelt promise to Stella, committing to do everything within her capability to ensure that her daughter enjoys the freedom to live independently, regardless of any challenges they may face.

“I want to instill in her that she is beautiful, powerful, strong, no matter what,” she said  “And she can always do whatever she puts her mind to, and I believe that, you know, whether she is able-bodied or not.”

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