Fashionable PPE

Less than a year ago, Emily Gartner ’84 was participating in the first Indiana Fashion Week, along with two of her young seamstress students. Today, the Indy-based business-major-turned-art-entrepreneur is fighting the COVID-19 battle by stitching personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis.

Three people stand in gowns made by Emily Gartner in front of Eskenazi Hospital

Gartner, who owns and operates Art Threads Studio & Emily Gartner Designs, learned of the project organized by Stitchworks, an educational sewing facility, from her Indiana Fashion Week connection. “Stitchworks is moderated by Dlang Ferguson, the creator of Indiana Fashion Week. They are in the same building as my studio, and they started a face-mask conversation,” she says. “Eventually, there was a need for the gowns [made by] more experienced sewists.”

The surgical-friendly fabric is cut by Dallara, an Italian chassis manufacturer for Formula Three cars with a factory based in Indianapolis. “I thought it would basically be like sewing a raglan t-shirt (but a really long one). I was wrong. There are a lot of additional requirements so it will hold up to at least 40 washes or more,” she says. “The fabric is difficult to work with, as well.”

Emily Gartner in her studio with sewing machines

The gowns require two sewing machines: a serger and a straight stitch. Gartner has six straight-stitch machines in her studio for students, but no serger. Her little Delta Zeta sister, Kristine Pursell ’83, however, did have one and drove it down from Westfield, Indiana, to loan it to Gartner.  

Upcycling garments into fashion is Gartner’s forte, but the PPE gowns are strictly functional. For an artist who loves color and redesigning the old into the new, she finds herself embracing this new challenge and getting excited about the fabric’s color each week. “Last week was blue week. This week is lime week,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the color change.”







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