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HOLLENBECK: Designer hospital gowns should be wave of future

August 29, 2011

Nobody likes to go to the hospital.
Correction: MOST people don’t like to go to the hospital. There are hypochondriacs who thrive on such experiences, but I don’t count myself among them.
I have known such individuals, including one now deceased, who was in my fringe family circle. She was an interesting woman when you could get her to talk about matters other than those that ailed her, but this was no easy task since she thrived on what my spouse calls “organ recitals.”
But that’s fodder for another day.
What began this drivel is the thought of what people wear, at least part of the time, while they’re patients in the hospital.
I refer to the dreaded hospital gown. If there is any article of clothing (and I use the description loosely) that is more unattractive than one of these garments, I blissfully have been spared the pleasure.
Think of all the advancements that have taken place in the modern world, yet how much has the hospital gown changed?
Nary a twit in most medical facilities, at least so far as the attractive factor is concerned. There may have been fabric changes and occasionally snaps and ties have been replaced with Velcro (which invariably won’t stick), but overall it’s the same gown.
And there’s one basic word to describe it: Ugly. You spell that U-G-L-Y.
If you don’t feel depressed already because of the physical problems that have sent you to the hospital in the first place, just try wearing one of these atrocities for a little while. It’s more than enough to push you over the edge.
To begin with, the basic design isn’t flattering to any figure type. It’s a sack, pure and simple, with no redeeming features to make it seem less so. While it’s understandable that the gown must be made in a way to allow for the manipulation of things like IV lines and such, there’s still the basic color scheme.
Every hospital gown I can recall has been of a faded print fabric. And this includes gowns in doctors’ offices as well since they use the same basic garment.
Chic, they're not.
Not that the gown’s style would look good made of any fabric, but the fact remains that solid bright colors would be a step in the right direction. Something akin to what has happened with medical scrubs, for instance.
Perhaps it’s the potential for the similarity to scrubs that has created the standard for a repulsive print. Maybe there’s the possibility of mixing up the patients with the help, which is a pretty scary thought. (Remember Lily Tomlin in “9 to 5”?)
I also remember an incident that occurred in real life to a dear friend, the late A.V. “Rocky” Martin, one of the most talented artists and advertising men I ever knew.
A.V. was at a teaching hospital a number of years ago to have surgery on his hand. He was taken to the X-ray area and told to wait there until someone could come to get him for his procedure.
As he remained seated there in his pajamas and a robe, someone on staff at the facility suddenly rushed out and told A.V. to come with him.
“We need your help,” the man said excitedly.
“You want me to help you?” A.V. asked, perplexed as to what kind of assistance he, the patient, was supposed to provide.
“Yes, yes,” the man said. “We need you to help us try to find the bullet.”
When A.V. would tell this later to his wife, the late wonderful Winnie, she found it hilarious, as did others in our circle of friends.
Trying to soothe her spouse’s concerns, Winnie said to him, “Well, A.V., maybe they thought you were a doctor.”
A.V. failed to see the humor in the situation. “Do doctors sit around hospitals in their pajamas?” he asked, obviously exasperated.
Think about that one.
Back to the traditional hospital gown. Everyone knows that its back opening leaves one “exposed” because invariably all the securing ties or snaps won’t be there.
Men may find these gowns less objectionable than women, but then I’ve never heard any man take part in a litany of praise for one either.
Hospital gowns have a reputation for not quite closing completely and for being revealing. There have been efforts to modify the gowns to better suit patients by reducing how much the gown reveals of the body. According to an Internet account, some Muslim women find it embarrassing and shameful to have to reveal their bodies, so in 2004, a Portland, Maine, hospital with Muslim patients started providing new, less revealing gowns. (Wish they’d ship them south.)
In 2008, X-ray technician technician Tam Nguyen of Presbyterian Hospital of Allen reportedly created larger gowns with Velcro closures for use in mammograms. The gowns are pink, in honor of breast cancer patients. That’s the most commendable thing I’ve read about gowns.
In 1999, designer Cynthia Rowley created new gowns that were mid-calf length, had a mock turtleneck and three-quarter length sleeves with snaps for women. In the same year, state Rep. Sam Gaskill of Missouri attempted to push a bill that would have required hospitals to provide patients with gowns that would cover the body from the neck to the knee, a bill that never made it out of committee.
If I had any money and any influence — neither of which I have — I’d engage a real designer to come up with something attractive that would cover one’s back side securely and we’d put a new glamour gown on the market that hospitals would clamor to include as a marketing enticement.
I mean, you go to the hospital feeling yucky. You don’t look good. If you’re there for surgery or some particular tests, you don’t get to wear makeup, which only adds to the female misery. And just before you get on the gurney to travel to surgery, you have to put on one of those revolting gowns.
I’d like to make it mandatory that you could at least pick your gown color at the time you check in. There would be a form where you’d be asked “what color gown do you prefer? Please give a second choice.”
I’d answer Irish green first with fuchsia for my second choice.
If I’m going to dream, I might as well dream big.
Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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