Dr. Leslie Latterman wearing her Signature Lab Coat
Dr. Leslie Latterman, a hospitalist and board-certified internist, clearly remembers when she had her “Aha” moment. “I came home from work one night so tired,” she recalls. “I’d worked all night, and my neck was killing me from carrying things in the front pockets of my lab coat and wearing a stethoscope around my neck. I couldn’t keep the stethoscope on my shoulders like the guys, because it always fell off. My husband asked, ‘How was your night?’ and that was it. I went off on how much I hated my lab coat. It was shapeless and heavy, and it looked terrible. And what were those stupid holes on the sides for? They’re so that men can put their hands in their trouser pockets, but women’s clothes don’t have pockets, so what about us?"
Dr. Latterman says that far from being a trivial matter, the fact that women doctors are forced to wear lab coats designed for men is really part of a larger issue of women in medicine. “Half the people coming out of med school now are women, and there are women leaders in medicine,” she says. “The lab coat is important, it’s respected. A lot changes when you put on that coat—you’re a scientist now. It means a lot to women in medicine to wear that coat, so you don’t want to put on a coat that makes you look less professional."
So Dr. Latterman started thinking seriously about designing a lab coat especially for women doctors, a coat that she would feel good about putting on every day.
But deciding to make a coat for women was one thing. Actually developing and producing one was something else. “I worked on it forever,” Dr. Latterman remembers. “I started to ask women doctors all over the country, from every specialty, about what they wanted to see in a coat. I needed to make something that was flattering and efficient for us. It had to have a subtle hint of fashion, but also be professional. The same ideas and thoughts kept coming up, and I started to draw.”
At first Dr. Latterman tried to work with what already existed. She started cutting and sewing a “regular” lab coat. “Suturing!” she says. “I tried to make it more functional for women. But it couldn’t be done. I couldn’t take the coat I already had and make it work.”
She already knew what she wanted the coat to look and feel like, but finding the right fabric was a challenge. She consulted with experts at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. “I originally wanted brushed cotton, but that picks up lint. And the fabric had to be the right weight. The only place I could source what I wanted in the beginning was Italy, and it was insanely expensive. So an FIT professor helped me develop the fabric, which is a cotton/Lycra stretch that’s enzyme-washed to make it soft." The fabric is soft and light, wrinkle- and stain-resistant, and anti-bacterial.
Six years of work resulted in the Dr. Leslie Signature Lab Coat, cut to fit a woman’s body and full of so many women-friendly features that even non-doctors might covet it. A partial list includes:
--Shoulder epaulets to hold a stethoscope
--Large pockets that zip shut so personal items are safe and don’t fall out
--A clip inside the pocket to hold keys, rings or other jewelry
--A small fabric wallet, included with the coat, that’s attached to the coat by a thin gold chain
--Small pockets and hooks that can hold reading glasses, cell phones, etc.
--A double hem, so heels don’t get caught
The fabric wallet that is one of the lab coat's special features
Dr. Latterman wanted to make sure the coat was a little bit fun, too. “I decided to do a little color under the collar,” she says, explaining that women can choose to have the inside of the collar lined in pink or tan. There’s also a choice of ten colors for embroidery.
So far, says Dr. Latterman, the reaction to the coat has been universally positive, with orders coming in from all over the country. “Women doctors just love it; it works for them,” she says. “And that was the whole purpose, to make something that fit women doctors today—their work, their personalities, and how they want to be perceived.”
Right now the coats are sewn in Los Angeles, and Dr. Latterman’s husband and son help her manage the website and fulfill the orders. Eventually, a growing business may mean outsourcing some of the work. “I’ve thought about doing scrubs, too,” she says. “I think about that a lot.”
The custom fabric and design elements mean that the coat is a little bit pricey, but Dr. Latterman says that as soon as women put it on they’re convinced. “They say, ‘Wow, I look professional. This is how I want patients to see me.’”
For more information, visit www.designerlabcoats.com
. The coats are available for an introductory price of $200 (regularly $275) with free shipping.