Hospital gown gets a touch of style

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WE HAVE all heard the funniest joke from the Fringe about the hedgehog, but I think mine is funnier.

Question: Who invented the hospital gown? Answer: Seymour Butts. In actual fact, the name of the culprit behind that airy tie-back garment, that stripped us of our dignity, has been lost in the annals of time.

Second question: who has just reinvented the hospital gown? Answer: take your pick from a list of designers that includes Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, Vivienne Westwood, Giles Deacon and our fellow Scot, Christopher Kane.

For a simple piece of cloth, the hospital gown has to be the heaviest garment we will wear. We slip it on in the knowledge we will slip under the knife. We don't recognise it as a garment that will lead to healing, but as the sentence of sickness.

The latest designs, which appear in this month's issue of Vogue, are as colourful as a box of liquorice allsorts and come replete with bows and tulle. It is as if Gwendolyn the good fairy has fluttered in and sprinkled femininity and an arc of shimmering delight into the room.

McCartney's design is made of canvas and, like Frida Kahlo, she has saturated it with plate-sized vibrant florals. Mathew Williamson, has turned to his signature bird of paradise palette and made a silk gown with a multicoloured Ikat-style print that looks as if it has strutted straight from the catwalk.

Goth teenagers are not left out – Pugh has eschewed colour, painted his gown black and embellished it with draped rubberised folds. He notes: "I wanted to do something that was very chic and classy from the front and quite sexy from the back, but sexy hospital gowns are quite difficult."

The person behind the designer's brief was Susannah Temko, who at the age of 16 discovered the weight gain on her belly was not puppy fat but an ovarian tumour which, in three weeks, grew to the size of a watermelon. Today, after chemotherapy and surgery, she is a bright 18-year-old, with an excellent contacts book and a desire to help others through the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT).

To that end, she and her friends have organised a charity auction and concert in London tomorrow to raise funds for TCT. The centrepiece will be six hospital gowns reimagined by Britain's top designers.

"The original gown was the most depressing garment I have ever seen," says Kane, who has recreated a cerise pink mini-dress with his signature zip detail and Swarovski crystals.

"I wanted to replenish everything and make it bright and lovely – to make you laugh. Now, it's a colour that makes your heart leap."

The Teenage Cancer Trust funds units in which adolescents are treated together, where each patient is given an ensuite bathroom, plasma screen television and sound system, where the wards include communal space, patient kitchens and unlimited visiting hours.

At the moment, there are ten such units across Britain, including one at the Beatson in Glasgow, and a 1 million fundraising appeal is under way to build a unit at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

The charity is also due to open two interim facilities at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and at Yorkhill in Glasgow in the next few months.

Dawn says the charity has been thrilled by the designer gowns. She adds: "We're delighted such high-profile designers have got involved.

"It's so important that young people still feel like teenagers while they are in hospital."