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  • Jennifer Birch and Nassima Alloueche

How Adjustable Clothing Is Changing the Fashion Landscape

Diversity is carving its much needed space within fashion with the statement: bodies are not meant to fit clothes, clothes are meant to fit bodies.

In the days before huge department stores and fast fashion chain retailers, altering, fitting and making your own clothes from scratch was common practice. But with the industrial boom, this soon became a rarity and in order to facilitate mass production and shortened turnarounds, brands quickly resorted to standardised clothing sizes.

If you take a look at sales racks in common high-street clothing stores, you’ll notice that a lot of perfectly good items go unsold because they simply do not fit anybody correctly. I mean, how many times have you tried on a piece of clothing that looks divine on the impossibly tall and skinny mannequins in store, only to be disheartened that it looks nothing like that on a real body?

Spoiler alert, the problem was never with your body, it was the clothing.

Most likely than not, these garments were cut straight from a cutting board and potentially never fitted on a real human before they were sent out to be sold. More and more brands are also being exposed for shooting models in clothing that does not even fit them (note that most models are hired because they are meant to fit the sample sizes), not to mention brands are also stuffing and padding clothes to make models appear plus size when they aren’t.

© TikTok

In all, it’s become much more frustrating to find well-fitting, good-quality clothing that can be worn for a long time. Even when you do find a garment that you love, it is not realistic to purchase it in multiple sizes to account for our bodies changes over time as this can, first up, take up too much closet space and is, also, an extra expense on the wallet and on the planet.

When you pull on a beloved pair of pants, only to find they don’t fit you anymore, in most cases you would end up doing one of two things: dispose of it or relegate it to the back of your closet, hoping it may fit you again one day. Unfortunately, most are resorting to the former, with one study showing that Brits throw an average of six items of clothing away per month – or 72 pieces a year – even though they could have been taken to a tailor for repair or donated instead.

But what if, instead of buying more quantities of clothing, we could wear clothes that adapt to our body’s changes over the years? If we look closely, we can start to see this happening.

Welcome to the exciting world of adjustable fashion.

The fashion industry has made admirable strides in the past two decades and brands are resorting to creative tricks to make clothing adjustable to different sizes, body types and ages to appeal to customers like you and I, who have felt victimised by the unrealistic cuts of sample size clothing.

One brand embracing the timelessness of adjustable clothing is Lila Bare. With an eco-conscious approach to textiles and craftsmanship, this Kenyan brand’s ethos is all about innovation. From their artisan production to their sumptuous convertible and gender neutral designs, this brand's approach to fashion is a celebration of bodies, identities and of the precious work that creating a piece of clothing entails.

© Petit-Pli

In addition, the brand Petit-Pli specialises in creating garments using a pleated fabric that allows the clothing to expand as the person grows. This is especially useful for children and maternity clothes, which would otherwise have a relatively short life in our closets.

Adjustable clothing has even hit the runway, with designer Ruben Jurrien’s ‘Super Femboyant’ collection making waves at Amsterdam Fashion Week. Featuring pant varieties that fit four different sizes, either XXS to M or M to XXL, and adjustable straps, both kids and adults can wear the childhood-inspired pieces. Brands like Unhidden are, also, creating adaptive clothing for people with disabilities that are both practical and fashionable. The garments incorporate features like velcro, zips and magnets, making clothes well-fitting, comfortable, and easy to put on.

© Ruben Jurrien

Adjusting clothes has become a trend now on Tiktok as well, where creative solutions to adapt clothing have become more popular. From elasticated waists and cuffs on trousers, to waist-snatching ties sewn on the back of dresses, to clever pinning techniques that transform entire outfits or even the trend of wearing clothing the ‘wrong way’ - these are all examples and symptoms of a new and evolving mindset surrounding our relationship to clothes.

As the world moves into a collective lifestyle that prioritises conscious consumption, adjustable fashion will change how we view what’s hanging in our closet – from interchangeable, replaceable commodities to beloved items that we repair, re-wear, and even pass on to the next generation.

Most importantly, the rise of adjustable clothing can reshape the distorted view that decades of sample sizes and poorly cut clothing have ingrained in our minds and instead we can remind ourselves that we are not meant to fit clothes, clothes are meant to fit us. Adjustable clothing is, in its own way, a celebration of body diversity and we applaud brands that embrace this practice and create a more inclusive fashion world that benefits everyone.


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