TriCity News – A stitch in time to help doctors in COVID-19 pandemic

Tri-City women team up to sew colourful, reusable gowns for doctors in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, New Westminster and Burnaby

Original article posted in the TriCity News on April 20th, 2020 – Diane Strandberg

Spring fashion shows may be cancelled but Tri-City, New Westminster and Burnaby doctors may want to hit the runway when COVID-19 is beaten back so they can show off their handmade colourful gowns.

Thanks to a coordinated effort by the Soroptimist International of the Tri-Cities to sew and deliver more than 200 gowns, the local doctors have reusable gowns to keep them safe during the current pandemic.

And these aren’t boring gowns in bland pastel fabrics you might usually see on your family physician, according to organizer Cindy Paddington, who is also the the president of the local Soroptimist club. They are colourful, even zany, made from donated fabric, sheets and bright patterned socks that are used to make cuffs.

Her years working in the clothing manufacturing business were key in the effort because an assembly line had to be created to bring together delivery drivers, pattern cutters and sewers.

A volunteer cuts fabric for one of the gowns in the Dress the Docs

A volunteer cuts fabric for one of the gowns in the Dress the Docs

The pattern was sourced from a Dr. Charles Best home economics teacher and altered. After several tries, the best way to cut sew and produce a gown was identified.

Paddington said 35 volunteers quickly jumped to the task when they learned from a Soroptimist member that there was a shortage of gowns, and before long, Paddington, Darlene McCann and Bridget Fox had enough of a supply chain to turn an idea for gowns into a practical reality.

“It’s like the kind of gown you’d wear if you were patient in the hospital that if you weren’t wearing underwear your bum would be hanging out,” explained Paddington of the doctors’ garb.

There were challenges, of course, a few mistakes, and planning meetings had to be done outdoors, using social distancing.

Dress the Docs

A Tri-City doctor wears one of the gowns made by volunteers with the Soroptimist International of the TriCities

But the results have been stunning and meet an important need in the community, according to Paddington, who said several of the colourful handmade gowns have already been delivered to Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Burnaby and New Westminster doctors, with more to be delivered in the coming week.

“We’ve received some of the most beautiful letters from the doctors,” commented Paddington, a local realtor.

It’s not every day a group of women can come together to create a sewing bee, but this effort came together at just the right time in the pandemic, reinforcing the old saying “a stitch in time saves nine.”

“What the byproduct has been is that in a time when we’re all feeling so helpless and powerless and our lives have been kind of put on pause I think it’s given everybody a purpose,” said Paddington.

Bundles of gowns ready for delivery.

Phase 1 – Cutting the patterns to go onto the next person in the assembly line


For more information about the Dress the Docs project, visit the Soroptimist International of the Tri-Cities on Facebook.