miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Marks and Spencer and the National Autistic Society have launched a school uniform range aimed at the parents of autistic children. Note that I say aimed at the parents of autistic children, rather than aimed at autistic children. All the blurb is to do with how easy it is to put on, and how hardwearing it is. The subtext is that it's designed for kids who can't dress themselves. This is clearly aimed at parents.

The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.

So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
  1. Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.

  2. No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.

  3. Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.

  4. Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.

  5. Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.

  6. Flat seams! Or even NO seams!

  7. For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.

  8. Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.

  9. Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing

  10. Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
And a clothing store for autistic people?
  1. Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.

  2. Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.

  3. Would sort by size and colour as well as style.

  4. Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.

  5. Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.

  6. Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
Now, if some kind banker or venture capitalist would like to give me a wad of cash to make this a reality... And to M&S and the NAS... I do appreciate that you're trying, and I don't wish to appear ungrateful, but if you consulted any actually autistic people in fomulating that clothing range it's not immediately obvious. Please, please, bear in mind the priorities of actually autistic people, not the parents of autistic children, when making clothing that the autistic people are actually meant to wear. Remember the phrase: nothing about us without us. Thank you.

Date: Saturday, August 19th, 2017 04:55 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: Sooffocles with me in background (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth
Not just autism but dyspraxia as well. All these things apply to my husband

Date: Saturday, August 19th, 2017 05:20 pm (UTC)
telegramsam: John Byers Disapproves (Disapproving Byers)
From: [personal profile] telegramsam
man I would give my left arm for clothes shopping like that. I'm not autistic but I've always had sensory issues with clothing (shit, I still turn my socks inside out because that damned seam across the toe is a torture device and cut the tags out of shirts).

Even if we're only talking about school aged children here, just because something is easy to put on doesn't mean the child will want to wear it, so I don't see how this is even really helping parents, who are probably just going to end up with a very unhappy kid. I think whoever came up with this marketing idea literally spoke to no one.

Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017 01:04 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
It would be great for people with allergies and skin issues, too! My brother has psoriasis and spent his whole high school life desperately changing clothing items around to try not to aggravate his skin. Wool was the worst, but polyester was bad, and exposed seams or tags would end up making lesions. Fortunately my mother could sew and would put cotton linings in things and cover seams and elastic, but it was a huge hassle.

Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017 05:21 am (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Well, that's just typical, isn't it.

Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017 10:02 am (UTC)
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
From: [personal profile] karen2205
They do better with their 'skin kind' range which is 100% cotton - http://www.marksandspencer.com/l/kids/school-uniform/skin-kind but agree re better labelling of stuff and thinking about sensory processing when designing clothes.

Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017 04:09 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
Your hypothetical business would incidentally make money from neurotypical people who want pockets, comfort and fit over fashion, and clear labels. Of course things like being allergic to wool are also accessibility issues, even if they tend to be ignored.

(This comment is meant in terms of "hey, you neurotypical capitalists, there's a market here," rather than "it's okay to do this, it will appeal to 'normal' people too," but given the clothing industry's long-term unwillingness to make money by producing clothing fat women actually want, it might not matter.

But this gets into my rants about how capitalism isn't just ethically flawed and destructive, it doesn't even achieve what it's supposed to, namely seeing where there's a need and money and serving that need.)

Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017 07:56 pm (UTC)
darkoshi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkoshi
I'm not sure I'd be considered autistic or not, but I am clothing sensitive. I agree with many of your points, but one thing that surprises me is your total dislike of polyester, even blends. I'm curious to hear if many other autistic people share your opinion on that?

Personally, many polyester fabrics feel uncomfortable, stiff and scratchy on my skin, but many don't - some feel silky, soft, light. I always have to feel and try out an item before knowing whether I'll like it or not.

I especially appreciate polyester for winter jacket linings - they let me slip my arms easily into and out of the sleeves without having to struggle and without my shirt getting shifted around into the wrong position. I also have a pair of men's polyester pants, which are nice and loose and silky, and very easy to pull on and off.

I do avoid pure polyester shirts, even when they are a comfortable fabric, because they don't breathe well and tend to take on body odor very quickly.

On the other hand, even some pure cotton fabrics feel stiff and scratchy on my skin. The same goes for linen, ramie, bamboo, etc. And my impression of viscose is "very scratchy" - but maybe that was just a few bad instances, not reflective of all viscose fabrics.

So in terms of comfort, I can't depend on the content label. And it always depends a lot on the cut and style of the clothing too.

I just went to check the polyester content on a few of my shirts to confirm, as I know that one of my most comfy shirts is a cotton/poly blend - softer and more supple than most cotton shirts. But unfortunately, I had cut out the scratchy label, so there's no proof.

Where to get clothes

Date: Monday, August 21st, 2017 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
any chance you could share the best places in your experience to get friendly clothes? :)

Thanks so much,

A happy friend.

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