August 24th, 2010
04:57 PM ET

Von Furstenberg's non-runway project: Haute hospital gowns

It sounds like a "Project Runway" challenge.

Design a gown that fits all shapes and sizes. Don’t use buttons, zippers or Velcro – only snap buttons. The fabric should be soft, but not too warm. Unlike the universally reviled hospital gowns with its open back side, modesty is a must.

Major fashion designers have taken a crack at redesigning the hospital gown: Nicole Miller, Donna Karan and Ben de Lisi. Most recently, Diane von Furstenberg, a Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, worked with the Cleveland Clinic to fashion its latest hospital gown, which began its trial run last week.

Von Furstenberg, known for wrap dresses and bright prints, created a hospital gown that will be familiar to her fans. There is a wrap element (a string tie) and a vibrant print (albeit a blue and green Cleveland Clinic logo of interlocking C’s.)

The fashion company did not return CNN's request for comment.

Von Furstenberg: 'Beauty is health'

The partnership formed after von Furstenberg and the Clinic’s chief executive officer and president Dr. Delos Cosgrove met at a conference in 2007.

The traditional hospital gown with its open back makes it easy for physicians to assess the patient, listen to the chest, make incisions, but it’s not exactly patient-friendly.

“When the patient comes into a hospital, it’s not something they’re looking forward to,” said Jeanne Ryan, a nurse who led the redesign efforts with the Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Patient Experience. “They give up a lot of their security, because of that gown. It’s giving up their modesty or dignity. Every time they move, they are exposed. That was really one of the main points. We wanted people to feel comfortable and provide modesty. We wanted to make better product for patients.”

The V-neck gowns made of 100 percent cotton twill have IV sleeves with snaps, pockets to make space for monitors and drains.

The Clinic is not the first to try to re-invent the dreaded, flimsy hospital garb. The British health department in a search for a better hospital gown settled on a much more modest, blue-striped gown with a V-neck designed by Ben de Lisi. But change hasn't come to the United States fast enough.

The standard hospital gowns are hideous, said Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville, Tennessee, resident.

Ferrier, a blogger for the Stir, said during her first pregnancy, she was told to put on a hospital gown and walk around the hallways before she could be checked into the maternity ward.

“I was mortified,” Ferrier recalled. “I asked to keep my regular clothes. I was told if you’re walking the hallways, you must put them on.”

Ferrier didn’t want to go on “the walk of shame” with her backside fully exposed in a hallway crowded with patients. So she put wore two gowns to fully cover her body.

To meet demands of women like Ferrier, who’ve been mortified about parading around hospitals in flap-happy, translucent garb, designers are also creating special gowns for expectant mothers.

Read about it here: Would You Buy a Designer Gown for Your Hospital Stay?

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Oliver


    August 24, 2010 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claire

      Obviously Oliver has never had to wear a hospital gown and walk down the corridors in the hospital. I agree with Ferrier. It's mortifying. Unlike Ferrier though I refused to do it. After a lot of fuss the nurses finally let me wear my own clothes. I say Kudos to Cleveland Clinic! Now when will my hospital and doctor have them. The thought of putting on a skimpy gown makes my blood pressure and pulse skyrocket – literally.

      August 24, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
    • nemo

      i worked hard for this tush, if i cant show it off at the hospital than this is a disservice to women everywhere, they deserve to see my firm tush!!

      August 24, 2010 at 21:37 | Report abuse |
    • andrea

      Nemo... LOL! awesome.

      August 24, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse |
  2. Katy

    Why not just a nice, thinnish, robe. Very nice, concierge clinics do that, they should all that. Really, what's the difference except the idea that "I know this." Wearing a robe is normal. Wearing a hospital gown, no matter what it looks like, feels medical and foreign. If you need "rear" access, the robe can be put on backwards.

    August 24, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mel

    When i was in the hospital for a week, last year, they let me wear my own pajamas. The only time i had to switch to a regular gown was when i was having an MRI and stuff done. Other than that, they were really good.

    August 24, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tilly

      My heart just breaks for her, for you two that you have to watch her go thguroh all of this, and for your family. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice everything to take care of her. God knew you guys would do it. My husband and I were talking about how God clearly provided for her to be taken care of- by a family. Not to be left alone with no one during a terrible time. And just like anything else, you should not bear that alone. Of course God provides for all of your needs- which includes us all doing our part. To pray and support you guys in every way needed. I am begging God on her behalf to heal her. Thank you again for being more than willing to sit with her and keeping her from feeling like she is alone. What a blessing to that sweet girl. More importantly thank you for introducing her to Jesus! You could have chosen not to listen to God calling you to her and just moved on. Thank you for not doing that! It is so neat to see how God works and that he does actually have perfect plans- he doesn\'t just say he does. I am just sitting here crying for all of you. Hang in there. You all are not along either!

      October 13, 2012 at 23:55 | Report abuse |
  4. E. E Felder, SA TX

    Great News....much is needed to be done for Patient Rights, modesty, dignity, and class go hand in hand. We pay good premiums for good care and treatment. Proper fitting hospital garment-covers for exams, etc. needs to improve. I went to Gyn Appointment at a Military Base in San Antonio with my wife per her request. She was given half a paper sheet to barely cover 1/2 of body and the back was exposed to the cold exam table. We had to asked for another half paper sheet to provide comfort for a most intimate exam. Patient modesty and dignity are still important–it makes for better visits and more connection with your physician w/o the embarrassment the out-bak ill fitting gowns present. We got wise...we request what we want....if they don't have it, we bring our own hospital ware and gown.

    August 24, 2010 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. nursenessa

    I seriously hope that the design makes this gown work for both the patient and the healthcare team. Back in 2007, Cleveland Clinic came out with "new and improved!!!!" gowns. They were, by far, the most awful things for patients and the staff. Working in post-op, patients generally came in with the gown on all sorts of wrong, leaving them far more exposed than traditional gowns. This was because the gown was not made for pre/peri-op patients. To get the patient in the gown correctly required all sorts of movement, which is exactly what fresh post-ops feel like doing, right? When the gown was on correctly, there was a huge slit in the front (for cardiac wires, of course), however, this left a nice gaping hole that I'm sure all of the female patients appreciated. I can guarantee you that every patient that had those "new and improved" gowns would have LOVED an "old" hospital gown. I hope this change is for the better. But, when I'm in the hospital, I don't mind the old fashioned gowns...and if I need to get up? Just put another on backwards, as a robe. I've never had any trouble. Oh well.

    August 24, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dali

    Hmm... Am I the only one that could not care less about hospital gowns? When I am in the hospital, what I wear is certainly the least of my worries,,, I do not like the ones you get now and it is true that all exam rooms and hospitals are pretty cold and the gowns do not help much to keep you warm. But, what does anything have to do with modesty and dignity and such? Just make them comfortable. To me it makes no sense to be embarrassed by wearing a gown in a hospital.

    August 24, 2010 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dali

      And, as Mel pointed out, most hospitals encourage you to bring your own pajamas/robes and only make you wear gowns for specific procedures.

      August 24, 2010 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • Sick Puppy

      I'm too busy vomiting out of my eye sockets to care.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
  7. reality check

    REALLY? A health care crisis and hospitals are now spending money on DESIGNER gowns? Maybe we should be more concerned about spending money to improve the QUALITY of health care that patients receive and making sure more people can afford to receive it. Just what Diane von Furstenburg needed, MORE MONEY!

    August 24, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dali

      Finally a sensible comment...

      August 24, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
    • Sick Puppy

      I could care less what quality the gowns are. All sick people who visit the hospital want is a caring and compassionate nurse. They are a rarity these days. I don't care if they wrap me in a potato sack. Let's focus on finding E.R. doctors that aren't complete buttwipes!

      August 25, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
  8. SFN

    One problem. Using snaps means that the gown will not be able to be worn for X-ray exams. Even plasic snaps can show up and hide a problem, particularly in the lungs during a chest x-ray. Might also create problems for CT & MRI exams.

    August 24, 2010 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JR

    As someone that worked as an RN in ICU, there is no way to make them fashionable or really cover more or even better looking over the long term. When you think of this stuff, think that you have to be able to wash it at high heat to kill germs (so much for 100% cotton ), and as a result, it's going to immediately fade, especially with darker colors, as well as shrink. You cannot imagine having access as a fully ambulatory person, you have to consider someone being large, unconsicious, and unable to help themselves move into position, let alone walk. Snaps on the shoulders, and open in the back, allows you to remove the thing completely with ease. A pocket in the front, can hold a portable heart monitor and takes the stress off of the wires that are attached to the body. If you have a gown with shoulders that have no snaps and they have intricate central IV lines or the like, and someone is foolish enough to put that type of gown on them, the only option at times is to slice the gown up the sleeves so as not to risk the tubing. I've had to do it on the rare occasion, and now what you have is something to throw away.

    If you want to ambulate in one of the old fashioned ones, you don't just wear one, you wear two. One as a normal gown, the other backwards like a robe. Nothing will show if you do it that way.

    If you have a leaky situation, blood, incontinence, drainage, and you wear your own stuff, all it takes is one 'episode' and your lovely stuff from home will immediately be trashed. You may have none of those things going on, but still you may have a leaky IV start and that's enough to do it. I've been a patient myself several times, and I would NEVER bring my own stuff. Especially not anything like slippers, either. Any random cootie on the floor is now going to be taken from the hospital into your home because doubtful people are going to wash those things with bleach on hot when they return. Btw, if you are a larger person, they do make larger gowns, but they're harder to come by.

    I will add that the only situation that I can imagine is if these 'new and improved' gowns were used in an outpatient, non-surgical setting. Having something spiffy to have a bunion or the like removed, and they would work. Any invasive situation, frankly it would be a ridiculous waste of money.

    I say all of this only because I don't think that many people understand the reasoning behind why they're made the way that they are in the first place. The object is total patient access, with safety in mind. They were never meant to look good, only to function.

    If they are truly able to come up with a design that works and looks good, I'll be impressed. That's a pretty tough design order, and I'm not being facetious.

    August 24, 2010 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. karen

    That's why the health system is going down the drain. Congrats to the masterminds who found a new way to milk the system. $100 for a single dose aspirin, $10 for a ply of cleanex tissue, $1200 for a designer gown... Farfetched? Check the books next time.

    August 25, 2010 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mel

      It's called "overhead". There is a tremendous cost that is necessary to keep the hospital doors open which includes the many non-billable facilities and personnel required to run the operation. Did you park a car outside in a parking lot or garage? Did you walk down the sidewalk? Do you expect the parking lot and sidewalk to be free of snow in the winter? Can you imagine healthcare without electricity and water? Did you have a phone and tv in your room? Do you expect up-to-date equipment such as beds, wheelchairs, gurneys, iv pumps, etc? What about all the personnel in the kitchen, cafeteria, administration, security, housekeeping, etc? How would the hospital operate without them? Where do you think the money comes from to pay for all of this? When you pay for an aspirin, you are also paying for every person that had a hand getting that aspirin from the supplier to your mouth as well as all the other utilities and facilities that are required to get it to you.

      August 25, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
    • Underwear

      Mel? Shut up.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse |
  11. G.W. Dupree

    SOLUTION: Wear a gown in bed and a robe when out walking the hall ways. Duh !

    August 25, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aryda

      smurphyMy fiance came with me to LOOK at dsreses. He did let me know what he liked and didn't like. I tried on the ones he wanted to see me in but he agreed with me that they didn't look good on my body type. In the end I picked out two that we like but then took my bridal party with to try both on & pick out the final dress. He doesn't know exactly which one I picked out (but I think he has an idea). So he will still be surprised on our wedding day. We picked out tuxes together but I have yet to see him with it on. I cant wait for that day.

      August 1, 2012 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  12. pinkcelebrities

    Having just spent 2 days in the hospital for a surgery, I was embarrassed by the "one-size" gown. I'm a petite 115 lbs., 5'3 woman, and the arm holes were so huge that reaching for anything like my water or tv remote gave anyone else in the room a full view of my chest through the arm hole, not to mention the deep v-neck that I kept pulling up higher to try and remain somewhat modest in front of my children. I had requested a kid size gown but was told this was all they had (doubtful!). Can't they at least make two gown sizes such as a small to medium, and then a large-xl?

    August 25, 2010 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Indira

      A guy at my hospital did that, and they fired him. Now, he just sells the BIPAP, masks, etc that the paitents need. Our hospital does the testing and he gives them what they need .that's where the money is anyway. Good luck!!

      October 11, 2012 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  13. radioactivelady

    Having hospital gowns with metal snap buttons is ridiculous. Anything metal shows up in x-rays/CT scans. WHy distribute these gowns to patients who are most likely having routine x-rays on a daily basis - they just have to get changed AGAIN each time.


    August 25, 2010 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Maria

    Ask for two gowns. Put the first one on with the opening in the back, then put the second one on like a robe, with the opening at the front. Then you are fully covered if you have to walk in the halls.

    August 25, 2010 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. adam

    Wow! I never would have know that the people in the picture were wearing hospital gowns if the story had not explained. They are so dressy and stylish you could accidentally leave the hospital wearing them and no one would know the difference.

    August 25, 2010 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bambi

      Hahahaha. Good one Adam!

      August 25, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
  16. Clara

    I wonder what the rate of disease transmission is because of inadequate sanitation/laundering of hospital gowns in third world hospitals/medical centers. Now, I wonder how much it would cost to either provide more hospital gowns or better laundry facilities in comparison to what is being spent on designer hospital gowns.

    August 25, 2010 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. KJF

    If you are suffering anxiety from wearing a hospital gown, it is time to re-evaluate your life.
    I have been hospitalized a handful of times and in my experience, if you have to walk somewhere, you are given a second gown as a robe. It is not a concept you have to invent.

    August 25, 2010 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KJFK

      Leave it up to some dumb egomaniacal fashion designer to come up with this drivel. This is why the rest of the world laughs at us.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  18. Jena

    Oh, please. These aren't even cute. If you want a truly fashionable designer hospital gown at an affordable price, you should check out: http://annieandisabel.blogspot.com/ These are practical and gorgeous! And they were designed by real, live RNs.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kathy

    My husband recently spent a week in the hospital and for several day, all he had on was one of those hospital gowns., not even underwear. He had been running a fever for several days and did not have blanket or even a sheet over him, just the hospital gown which he had at mid thigh so he thought he was covered. He was NOT. I went into his room after being out of town for 3 days and I got a surprise. The door is at the foot of the bed and when I went in, I could see EVERYTHING. NOTHING was left ti my imagination and he had been like this for 2 to 3 days. No one offered to give him PJ bottoms, no one told him his genitals were fully exposed and at least a couple of dozen female staff were in and out of his room during that time. He had no idea that he was fully exposed and all he could say when he found out is that at least he was too sick to get an erection but he was also too sick to enjoy their reactions if he did get one. I know if I have to go to the hospital, I will make sure I have something on other than that gown. I do have to admit, I find it rather enjoyable to know my husband was on full display to so many other women. They can look (and some may have touched) but he is ALL MINE!

    August 25, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mao

      They can look and some may have fully touched and you find that enjoyable? I would have been raising hell in that hospital that they would never let another patient have his PRIVATE frontal area on full display ever again....All the nurses at this station would definitely be reprimanded!!! And for you to think it enjoyable that the love of your life who was sick and helpless was treated with such disregard and put on display like some kind of sex object for them to enjoy,... something is truly wrong with you, your mind is twisted.

      September 9, 2010 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
  20. Mao

    Most of the offices let you wear 2, one opened in the back and one opened in the front then when you get to where your going you take the top one off....I will say Van Durin your front opened gown joke was tasteless as all your sexual themed jokes are you want to be a comedian get another job, its about the weather not your frontal instrument.

    September 9, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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