Sustainable Clothing Design for Children With Cerebral Palsy With the Heart of a Mother


The Dictionary of Seoul Design Governance. This book introduces projects that were carried out on ordinary citizens, infants/children, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, multicultural families, laborers, and animals from 2016–2019. / Data provided by the SMG, photo by: 516 Studio

Public design that turns daily inconvenience into something beautiful and efficient; the “needs” of public design start from the following three situations. First, people are too familiar with the problem situation. Second, there is no known solution, or the needs are in the blind spot of the managing body. Third, the needs cannot be discovered easily because of special circumstances. This is the reason why the starting point of successful public design should be accurate identification of the inconvenience of users.

Completed by voices of people — design governance

“Design governance” launched by the SMG in 2015 starts from the public instead of designers and administrative experts. The so-called project “embodied using taxes I paid” involves people suggesting ideas and participating in the administration to make improvements in cooperation with various stakeholders. The project allows for the cultivation of problem-solving abilities through design while applying solutions based on broad collaboration processes including expert reviews and citizen votes. From 2015 to 2020, 5,732 citizens participated in the design governance project, and 29 suggestions were selected as the final topics of the project.

“Design to solve clothing problems of children with cerebral palsy” falls under the “special circumstances,” the third example of cases in which it is difficult to discover public design needs. It paid attention to the fact that designers and administrative experts cannot easily look into this situation due to the relatively small number of affected people. We would like to share a heartwarming story of a mother who suggested a sustainable reform system after agonizing over clothes that did not fit the body of her child with cerebral palsy in 2016. This system allowed citizens, the city administration, and businesses to enjoy a better everyday life for two years.


A child wearing a bib developed through design to solve clothing problems of children with cerebral palsy / Data provided by the SMG

Many persons with brain disorders use products for infants and children after reaching adolescence because there are no supplies appropriate for their age. Since it is difficult to wear ready-made clothes as they are, clothes need to be mended such as by adding zippers or changing to stretchable materials.


The clothing reform problem difficult to solve alone —

Will it be easier if we work together?

Cerebral palsy is a disease that causes impairment in motor ability and posture by damaging the function of the brain before reaching maturity. Due to the small number of patients with cerebral palsy in Korea, they are relatively out of the scope of social attention. Despite the specific and desperate need for assistance and high dependence on guardians until patients reach adulthood, the actual support available is poor. Brain lesions have diverse aspects in terms of the affected parts and motions. In serious cases, the patient requires tools to assist or correct the body. Accordingly, ready-made clothes needed to be reformed to make them comfortable for wearing and move the body smoothly.

However, guardians have a difficult time reforming clothes while taking into consideration the waterproof function and laundry, as well as devices to be used with clothes such as wheelchairs and inner body correction tools. They were frequently refused by repair shops due to the high level of difficulty, and they often received clothes mended incorrectly due to the lack of understanding in the characteristics of the disability. After becoming aware of such difficulties faced by mothers, the National Rehabilitation Center suggested an idea to improve the clothes repair process with members of the community for parents of children with cerebral palsy to design governance. That is how the project on “service design to solve clothing problems of children with cerebral palsy” started in full scale. 


Meeting with proposers and project team meeting / Data provided by the SMG

How can we reduce the time burden of parents and build a sustainable system?

STEP 2. First step to make a spontaneous community!

Patients with cerebral palsy, clothing experts, and repair experts have come together.

The project team comprised members of the Organization for Parents of Persons With Multiple Severe Brain Lesions, service designers of the clothing industry, and rehabilitation experts. The team first looked into online platforms connecting buyers and suppliers to build a sustainable system that would not stop as a one-time event. After engaging in discussions, the project team designed a spontaneous service model that would link reform demanders, clothing experts, and repair resources within the community. The project also included the method of fostering reform experts in collaboration with institutions that have talented individuals, such as regional senior clubs. 

In addition, reform know-hows were summarized into communicable patterns to stabilize the operation of the service model after the initial development process. Two items were designed here. Stylish Reform is a reform guidebook that teaches people how to reform clothes. Also, a bib and a knee wrap for wheelchairs were developed as common items that can be frequently purchased by a relatively large number of patients for stable service operations. 


Reform Guidebook / Data provided by the SMG, photo by: 516 Studio

Let’s help our children wear stylish clothes through reform!


Easy order and comfortable wear —

Say goodbye to difficult clothing reform!

Stylish Reform is a design guidebook to help communication between families of patients and repair experts. One of the members of the Organization for Parents of Persons With Multiple Severe Brain Lesions, who participated in the project, provided know-how on the detailed reform methods for top and bottom clothes. Special techniques including side openings, back openings, and inner belt piercings were explained in detail with drawings. The guidebook included an order form, the method of filling out the form, and precautions to reduce communication mistakes that occur frequently.


Knee Wrap for Wheelchairs / Data provided by the SMG

Common items were selected through the voting of members of the Organization. The “bib” is an essential item for children with cerebral palsy regardless of age, but all existing bibs only had designs for infants. The “knee wrap for wheelchairs” can stably wrap the legs from early fall to winter without getting caught in the wheelchair wheels or falling off the legs. The project team completed designs by analyzing existing cases and considering appropriate shapes for each age group and manufacturing costs. Nabisu, a medical uniform maker, produced and supplied the products.

This project gave hope to make and prepare daily necessities for children without relying on expensive imported goods.


To help more patients experience a greater variety of clothes

The original service design made back in 2016 was impressive, but the significance of the project to improve clothing designs for children with cerebral palsy is that the original design has consistently been improved by raising more awareness. A new design team was formed in the Organization, and the SMG sponsored the manufacturing cost for cold-proof overshoes for aids, an additional common item, in 2017. In 2018, the project was selected as a participatory project to additionally develop an elbow protector, knee protector, and innerwear for men and women. 


Coldproof overshoes for aids newly designed as an additional common item in 2018 / Data provided by the SMG

In addition, the SMG completed the clothing reform system, which could not be implemented after the service development in 2016, by working together with FRL Korea that suggested clothing support. As a result, FRL Korea provided reform professionals, reform materials, and 4–5 kinds of clothes per person to four Seoul Assistive Technology Centers, starting in 2019. The project provided 1,912 pieces of reform clothes to 383 persons with physical disabilities, including persons with brain lesions, in Seoul during the same year. In 2020, reform clothes were provided to 800 persons living in Seoul and Busan.



Choi Gwan, a patient who found perfect clothes through the “project on clothing reform for persons with brain lesions” implemented by the SMG, Korean Society for the Cerebral Palsied, and FRL Korea





Lee Sang-jong, a tailor who helped with the reform work during the “project on clothing reform for persons with brain lesions” implemented by the SMG, Korean Society for the Cerebral Palsied, and FRL Korea

Sustainable design involving citizens, the city government, and businesses

Public designs need to take into consideration many suggestions and hidden needs. Among them, “design to solve clothing problems of children with cerebral palsy” is a heart-touching case that shows the virtuous cycle of public designs. Patients no longer have to wear ready-made clothes that do not fit their bodies or hesitate to go out because of the arduous process of wearing and taking off clothes. Moreover, this project has even greater significance in that the problem posed by the voices of citizens was solved together by the private sector, experts, the city government, and businesses. This three-year process will set a solid groundwork for more diverse sustainable problem-solving designs. We look forward to finding other stories of discovering and improving hidden inconveniences in the public sector “together.” 

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