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From Medicine to Fashion: Hospital Gowns and Personalized Healthcare

Claudia Shi | May 9th, 2023

Despite the growing recognition of personalized healthcare, few studies are paying attention to the effect of medical hospital gowns on patients despite their layering onto patients’ psychological burden.

A mixed methods study from The Lancet showed that hospital gowns may contribute to patients’ sentiments of exposure, discomfort, disempowerment, and embarrassment during medical treatment. This suggests that there is a need to challenge current norms surrounding healthcare as dehumanizing aspects of care, such as gowns, can negatively impact patient well-being. The study highlights the importance of addressing these issues to promote better patient care experiences during a time of potential vulnerability. Their online survey demonstrated that 58% of adults questioned the necessity of a hospital gown, 61% struggled with putting one on, and 67% expressed concern about their gowns not fitting correctly (Cogan et al., 2019).

To address this issue, a team of Vanderbilt students, staff, and faculty, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), and other universities collaborated on a project aimed at redesigning ill-fitting hospital gowns. This project was proposed by Noah Thompson Orfield, a student at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. He explained that the goal of this project was to “design clothing that encourages autonomy, trust and compassion while also respecting the uncertainty, vulnerability and grief that come with hospitalization.” With such thoughts in mind, Orfield put together a team and collaborated with the Wond’ry’s Fiber Arts Build Lab (FAB Lab).

Participants of the project found the integration of art and medicine to be an inspiring combination and a unique source of influence. By collaborating their ideas and designs, participants altered their prototypes, acquired proficiency in 3D software programs to streamline organization of their prototypes, and were enlightened by guest speakers in both the fashion and medical industries. Gina Yu, a Vanderbilt student, noted that such a blend between arts and science associated with problem solving is a very rare opportunity.

The team is currently in the process of developing full-scale prototypes of their hospital gown designs. The next step will be to present these prototypes to doctors and nurses for feedback and testing. The aim is to have testers wear the gowns, providing valuable input that can help improve future prototypes. By involving healthcare professionals in the design and testing process, the team hopes to create hospital gowns that are more comfortable, functional, and patient-centered.

Dr. Ryan Buckley, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt, stated that it would be necessary to continually innovate in terms of production and entrepreneurship. Fortunately, Wond’ry has the resources and expertise to support innovators throughout the entire process.

Works Cited

Cogan, N., Morton, L., & Georgiadis, E. (2019, November 1). Exploring the effect of the hospital gown on wellbeing: A mixed methods study. The Lancet. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from

Gaskin, K. (1970, April 4). Wond’Ry Fiber Arts Build Lab hosts interdisciplinary sprint to design dignity-centered hospital gowns. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from

Image Credits

Lauren C. Design Group B with their hospital gown presentations [accessed 2023 Apr 13].