Rachel Zinny Class of 1992
Designing a Better Hospital Gown
by Emily Groff
When Rachel Zinny ’92 was expecting her first child, she was excited about meeting her daughter, but she was not looking forward to one detail of the experience: wearing a standard-issue hospital gown. “The traditional gown is designed to fit everybody,” she says. “It was falling off my shoulders and open in the back. Plus, it was used.” She adds, “After a baby is born, people e-mail a photo to their friends and family, but the mom is always wearing a boring gray or blue hospital gown and she looks drab and washed out. I wanted something brighter and cheerier.”
Before the birth of her second daughter, Zinny decided to put her idea into action. Using a regular hospital gown as a template, she designed an improved version that was sized to fit and snapped down the back for modesty, in fun cotton prints with ribbon trim. In the hospital, she says, “The nurses loved my gown, and I received a lot of compliments. When I came home with my daughter, I looked online for similar products, but I found that no one out there did this.”
Zinny had worked as a recruiter for an accounting firm and directed the master’s program in accounting at Boston College, and she saw an opportunity to run her own business while staying home with her daughters. In October 2005, she launched dearjohnnies (www.dearjohnnies.com), with the tag line “Special gowns for special deliveries.” Over the next year and a half, word spread in maternity wards and at baby showers. Soon, women began requesting gowns for their friends and family members who were not pregnant but were sick or needed surgery, and Zinny expanded her line beyond the maternity market.
Today, dearjohnnies sells hospital gowns and robes in several sizes for women and children and coordinating swaddling blankets, under the new tagline, “The (get) better hospital gown.” The gowns, which are available online and in select retail stores around the country, have appeared in magazines like O: The Oprah Magazine and Pregnancy. Several hospital wings and clinics provide them for their patients, and celebrity fans include Tori Spelling, Samantha Harris, Mariska Hargitay, and Ana Ortiz. The gowns have even appeared on network television.
Zinny brought a full set of dearjohnnies monogrammed gowns, robes, and blankets to the hospital for the birth of her third daughter. She says, “Our gowns are a luxury product, but they’re not just about vanity. Being in the hospital can be very difficult, and something special like your own gown makes you feel more secure and confident. It’s a small difference that brings brightness and cheer to an otherwise challenging situation.”
She adds, “My daughters are now seven, five, and three. dearjohnnies allows me to stay home with them, but also still be active in business. It sets a good example for the girls and keeps me sane. When I started my business, no one else was doing it, but now we have lots of competitors. It’s flattering—people saw my success and imitated it.”