Students at the Parsons School of Art and Design have partnered with hospital clothing company Care + Wear to design a solution to one of the world’s most talked-about hospital dilemmas. The design in question? A dignified medical gown that provides comfort to patients and functional access to physicians when they’re performing medical procedures.
Whether a patient is in the hospital for wound debridement, cataract removal, or childbirth, one complaint remains common: the gown. If it’s not the flutter in your back that shows off your backside, it’s the inability to provide warmth or comfort. “You’re at the hospital because something’s wrong with you — you’re vulnerable — then you get to wear the most vulnerable garment ever invented to make the whole experience that much worse,” says Ted Streuli, a longtime resident of Edmond, Oklahoma.

In spring of 2017, a course at the Parsons School assigned its students a real-world design project that would help solve a pressing issue. “The Parsons curriculum is focused on teaching students systems-based, user-centric design strategies that can affect real change in the world, and we are proud to partner with Care + Wear on this vital initiative,” explains Burak Cakmak, the school’s Dean of Fashions. Taught by fashion designers Lucy Jones and Brittany Dickinson, the students soon after began reimagining the traditional hospital gown design with the help of Care + Wear.

Founded in 2014, Care + Wear works with patients, clinicians, and designers to produce functional clothing for everyone in the medical sphere. “Our company was founded on the promise to improve the patient experience. When you visit a healthcare institution, your experience begins the second you’re told to put on a hospital gown. By partnering with Parsons and working together with patients and clinicians, we knew that we could create a better version of what’s available so that patients are protected and have a sense of dignity while they undergo treatment,” says Care + Wear Co-Founder and CEO Chaitenya Razdan.
While designing the new gown, students reached out to patients and industry experts from NYU Langone Health, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, Catholic Medical Center, Sentara Healthcare, and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. “A hospital gown is a user-based product; not only do you need to understand the gown itself inside and out, but all who would come in contact with it. The course demanded a systems-thinking approach to design: considering everyone in the system, from the people who make the gowns, the people who use them, the people who treat those who use them, to the people who clean them, and beyond,” says Irene Lau, a senior in Fashion Design at both Parsons and The New School.

After a year of collaborating and preparing the gown for production, the Patient Gown by Care + Wear and Parsons was launched on January 4th, 2018. Keeping individual needs in mind, the light blue gown offers five convenient designs in one, facilitating IV access and fitting snuggly on all maternity, telemetry, bariatric, and bedridden patients. It’s made from cotton and polyester and comes with snaps and ties to keep both your front and back sides covered at all times. Four plastic snaps on the sleeves allow physicians to easily perform IV insertions, and two snaps behind the neck give them quick access to the upper-back. As if all that wasn’t enough, this comfortable gown also takes your belongings into consideration by way of its three useful pockets. If these aren’t used for personal items, you can always attach monitoring devices to them.

The gown is now available for purchase online at $45 and will soon be available in a number of hospital systems, including MedStar Health in the Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region.