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You've just checked into the hospital. What's the first thing you have to do?

Take off your clothes, put them in a canvas bag, and put on an itchy old hospital gown, of course.

There are practical reasons (well, sometimes) for those hideous, unisex creations. But few people like wearing hospital gowns, and it might be about more than them just being ugly.


In fact, recent studies have shown that being forced to wear an ill-fitting, nondescript gown can contribute to a feeling of stress and vulnerability for patients. These gowns may also cause doctors to see people as just patients rather than people, which ... isn't great.

That's why one group came up with a 100% improvement on those boring gowns.

All photos courtesy of Starlight Children's Foundation Canada.

They're called Ward+Robes and they design hospital gowns for teens — gowns that they'll actually want to wear.

Why teens? Trevor Dicaire, the senior vice president of development at Starlight Children's Foundation Canada (one of the organizations behind the project), says sick teens are often forgotten and underserved in hospitals, with so much charity going to younger kids.

And when it comes to identity, we all know how important it is for teenagers to be able to express themselves as they figure out who they are.

Ward+Robes teams up with volunteer artists, including heavy-hitter Izzy Camilleri (she used to design for A-list celebrities), to produce eye-popping creations.

The robes are then delivered to children's hospitals where teen patients can trade in their blegh-blue garments for something a little ... livelier.

Every teen in the program receives a gown for free, and Ward+Robes operates mostly on donations and volunteer services.

"Anything that we're able to do to bring some positivity, some distraction, some joy to children in hospitals is pretty much what we're all about," Dicaire says.

"I was amazed to watch the teens walk in in their standard issue gowns and get super excited that they could go to this rack of robes and pick something that felt more like them," Dicaire says of the first time he saw the program in action.

"And the change in their faces — their smiles, they lit up."

The project kicked off at The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, but Ward+Robes has plans to expand soon.

And the coolest part? The teenagers get to keep the custom gowns, just in case they have to go back to the hospital again.

Or better yet, they can keep them as a reminder of recovery.

Dicaire says almost all of the people at hospitals he's spoken to have jumped at the opportunity instantly as a way to improve patient care, and the designers have really brought the project to life.

"All the designers went over and above and made numerous wardrobes for us. And the great thing about that was that it offered us to offer a true array of designs for kids to choose from."

The new robes won't make illnesses go away. But the morale boosts they give are super important.

Krista Raspor, one of the creative minds behind the project, says the robes are game changing for a lot of the kids she's worked with. "I spent time in the hospital as a teen and it sucked," she said. "Like, a lot."

"Wearing a hospital gown makes you feel like a number ... a sick, disenfranchised number. And I never really understood why it had to be that way."

Thanks to the hard work of Krista and her peers, it might not have to be that way for much longer. And that is no small feat.

Learn more about the impact a sweet-looking hospital gown can have and how you can help support the project, in the video below:

Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

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