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Adapting Jacket

tinkerbell88 | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi Everyone, 

I was referred to this board in the hopes that someone will be able to suggest a way to modify my son’s winter coat to make it easier to get him into it.

He has cerebral palsy and his shoulders and arms are stiff.  He cannot rotate his shoulder back to put his arms into the sleeves.  I need to make the sleeve or side seam flexible or elastic so I can get his arms into the coat.

I have thought about gussets or panels but I am not sure how to do it without areas that wind can get in.  

Does any one have any suggestions?

Thank you for your help.



  1. SewTruTerry | | #1

    How big is the coat? Does he use a wheelchair where his back is also protected somewhat from the elements?  Are you handy with a needle and thread could you actually start from scratch?  Either way perhaps instead of the side seams use the back of the jacket and add a zipper from the bottom of the jacket to the neckline so that he can actually hold his arms straight out and then slip the hood over his head then just pull the zipper down to the waist area.  Does this make sense?

  2. mainestitcher | | #2

    It seems as though I saw a book some years ago in the public library about sewing for persons with special needs.In a cursory sheck of amazon, there are a couple books listed, but I'd check the library first, since it's free.

    The first thing that comes to mind is add a zipper from the jacket sleeve, to the armhole, and down the side front. Maybe velcro would work, as well.

    1. tinkerbell88 | | #3

      Thank you all for the replies.


      Yes he is in a wheelchair, but I am concerned about transfering from the van to the chair.  He rides in a car seat.

      I like the idea of a zipper under the arm and side seam.  I will try that. The back zipper may cause irritation on his spine.  he has high tone and is always pushing back against the seat.

      I am leary of making an entire new coat.  I don't have the time and he needs the coat now :-)

      I found the book on Amazon and am calling my library now to see if they have it.



  3. Elisabeth | | #4

    When my daugther was in preschool the kids had a cool way of getting their jackets on. At that age twisting around an arm to get the second sleeve on was frustrating for many of them to do on their own and they got impatient when a grownup tried to wrestle them in. The kids would put the jacket on the floor zipper side up but upside down in front them and then dive their arms in and flip it over their heads and then they would pull their arms and jacket down almost like they would a tee shirt. Maybe this is nothing new to you but I wonder if a modification of this technique where you "dive" your son into his jacket with his arms in front and slip it over his head would work.

  4. kayl | | #5

    You might want to pick up Maureen Goldsworthy's Clothes for Disabled People (BA Batsford, London, 1981) and take a look at the split-back
    coat there for people who cannot reach back.

    Drop me a note at kay(at)fern(dot)com and I'll send you a pile of old
    posts of mine on clothing alterations/choices/patternmaking
    for people with various disabilities -- there are a number of book
    titles sprinkled throughout that you may also find useful, and some websites.

    My other thought was to build him a jacket with raglan sleeves,
    and incorporate a zipper into the raglan sleeve line, so the sleeves
    can be zipped on and off. Or how about a takeoff on one of the
    patterns for jackets that convert to a vest by zipping off sleeves.


  5. mem1 | | #6

    Hello tinkerbell, I know this problem well as I work with alot of people with various disabilities . I would suggest tha you put an open ended zipper on one side seam running from the hem and down the underarm sleeve seam to the cuff.You only need it on one side as its only when getting it on the second arm that problems arise.

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