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:
- 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.
- No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.
- 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.
- Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.
- Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.
- Flat seams! Or even NO seams!
- 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.
- 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.
- Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing
- 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.
- Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.
- Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.
- Would sort by size and colour as well as style.
- Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.
- 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.
- 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.