The Hospital Gown Gets a Modest Makeover

“It’s a large market that no one knows about,” said Chaitenya Razdan, a co-founder and the chief executive of Care and Wear. Nationally, about 140 million people visited emergency rooms in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. According to Mr. Razdan, the number of gowns hospitals typically require is four to five times the number of patients who will use them. That’s a lot of gowns.

“If we want to make meaningful change, it’s critical that we partner with companies where we actually put products into the world that have longevity and impact, and we get a sense of how we can measure our social impact,” said Brendan McCarthy, an assistant professor and the program director of the Systems and Materiality pathway at Parsons, whose students helped design the gown. The purpose of the pathway is to expose students to all of the interrelated parts of fashion design, including the sourcing of materials, labor, production practices, waste management and recycling.

The light blue gown MedStar is testing features ties on both sides of the body, one inside and one outside; wide sleeves with plastic snaps that allow the upper arms to be easily exposed when, for example, an IV is needed; a front pocket with a slit for devices that monitor vital signs; side pockets for personal items; and a specially designed pleat in the back to address the aforementioned backside problem. It is made out of a cotton and polyester blend that Rachel Sax Ramos, the head of product at Care and Wear, described as a “hospital chambray” and that can stand up to multiple rounds of laundering.

Irene Lu, a student from Parsons who worked on the gown, said that a challenge the entire class struggled with was how to make a gown that would give clinicians easy access but also allow for modesty. “With the original gown, there’s a reason the back is so open,” Ms. Lu said. The students’ solutions — the box pleat and the plastic snaps — impressed Dr. Smith.

“With the snaps, you take it down and half of their chest is exposed,” Dr. Smith said. “You can examine the front of a patient without having to cover them up additionally. It gives you terrific access, and the patient feels safe and protected and comfortable.”

The box pleat in back “operates like a giant skirt slit that you can open up to have full access, but if you’re walking around or waiting in the E.R., you’re not hanging out, which was everybody’s biggest pain point,” Ms. Sax…

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