Wearing the right kind of clothes can be a significant challenge for many people on the autism spectrum. Sensory processing difficulties can make certain fabrics, textures, or clothing tags uncomfortable or even painful. Difficulty with fine motor skills or executive functioning can make it challenging to manage buttons, zippers, or shoelaces. However, instead of viewing these challenges as problems, it's possible to turn them into solutions.

Expressing feelings that are otherwise hard to express

For many autistic people, verbal communication can be a significant challenge. Emotions can be difficult to articulate, and social cues can be challenging to read. However, clothing can provide an avenue for self-expression. Wearing a shirt with a favourite character or a pair of socks with a funny slogan can help an autistic person communicate something about themselves without needing to say a word. Clothing can also help an autistic person express their mood or feelings, whether that's wearing bright colors to show happiness or darker colors to show sadness.

Connecting with others 

Making connections with others can be a challenge for many autistic people. However, clothing can provide an excellent conversation starter. Wearing something flashy or unique can attract attention and spark a conversation. For example, wearing a shirt with a favorite band or movie can connect an autistic person with someone who shares similar interests. Clothing can also help an autistic person relax in social settings. Wearing something comfortable and familiar can provide a sense of security and help reduce anxiety.

Getting used to concepts that are otherwise difficult to apprehend

Many autistic people struggle with trying new foods or experiences. However, clothing can help an autistic person become more comfortable with new ideas or concepts. Wearing a shirt with a picture of sushi, for example, can help an autistic person become more familiar with the idea of sushi. It can also provide a visual cue that can help an autistic person remember the concept later.

Feeling fabulous

Autistic people have many strengths and abilities that can be celebrated. Wearing clothing that makes them feel fabulous can help unleash these strengths and abilities. Whether that's a princess dress or a superhero costume, clothing can provide an avenue for autistic people to celebrate their unique qualities and embrace their superpowers.


Overall, clothing can be an incredibly powerful tool for autistic people. By turning the challenges of sensory processing and fine motor skills into opportunities for self-expression and connection, clothing can help autistic people thrive in the world.

Organizations like Vanish and Ambitious about Autism are doing brilliant work in this area, such as their "Me, My Autism and Me" project.

By recognizing the power of clothing and using it to support autistic people, we can help create a more inclusive and understanding society.

April 08, 2023 — Clementine Schouteden