Keeping Up with the Joanies
By Danielle Cutillo
According to Lasell College fashion students, Joan Morris, a fashion design professor at Lasell College, is a friendly, funny, and kind person. She enjoys skiing, painting, gardening, and teaching her fashion classes. Sitting in Morris’s office, one can see her love for fashion, her affection for the color purple, and her support for breast cancer awareness.
Morris is a survivor of breast cancer. Over the last few years, she has become an inspiration to many people. Morris started her treatment at a small facility with a small mammography lab and later moved to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. At the hospital, Morris did not like the johnnies the patients were required to wear for mammogram scans. To Morris, the johnnies were uncomfortable, unattractive, and hard to tie up in the back. Morris grabbed one of her old johnnies and showed that two people could practically fit into one large-sized johnny.
Disgruntled, Morris had an idea: create new, stylish garments for women to wear during their mammograms. Morris stated, “I talked with the technician about the garments and asked her thoughts about a new design. She had a positive reaction.” Joan began brainstorming her plans for a stylish alternative in 2005, and production began in spring of 2006. By fall of 2008, her new Joanies were ready for distribution.
Instead of calling them hospital gowns, Morris’s students came up with the name Joanies to honor their professor. Morris stated, “As a breast cancer survivor, I was personally familiar with the process and stress of a mammogram, so the students named the new garment after me.” With their help, 500 Joanies were produced and shipped to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Morris said, “We had a lot of fun doing this. We would laugh in the afternoons. A lot of socializing, but a lot of work got done.” The students who helped were not all design majors. Morris described the extended enthusiasm of those who wanted to be involved, even if they couldn’t sew. With the support of many, Joanies became the talk of the town.
Joanies were produced in turquoise, cranberry, royal blue, pink, and of course Morris’s favorite color, purple. Joanies are attractive and tie in the front for the patient’s convenience. Morris believes they “add cheer with style and color to a stressful environment.”
Morris was invited to be a guest speaker at a Newton-Wellesley Hospital management team conference. After her speech, she was given a standing ovation. “It was quite touching, the whole experience,” Morris said with a smile. Morris was also recognized in two newspaper articles in The Boston Globe and The News Tribune.
There seems to be a bright future for the Joanies. A Florida nursing home recently contacted Morris to see if they could order some Joanies (Morris has yet to find out where they spotted her designs). Morris hopes to set up a facility to produce more Joanies and also to start an internship at Lasell College that would serve the designs. Morris believes that such an internship would be a rich learning experience for students interested in production and marketing.
This project brought together people who wanted to help make a difference. Joanies have already brought happiness to several breast cancer patients. Joan Morris is a strong and courageous woman who has beaten breast cancer and is now using her voice and talent to reach out and help other breast cancer patients. It would be just another accomplishment of Morris’s to see Joanies in more hospitals across the United States.