During a clinical conference, Jessica Hatterman, a speech pathologist at the Lexington VA, started a discussion with other medical professionals. If a Veteran needs a protective cover over their clothing during meals, is there a better option than placing a standard towel over the Veteran’s shirt? It seems like a little thing, but it can rob a Veteran of their dignity and the towels don’t provide adequate protection. Was there a way to protect Veterans’ clothing and dress in a fun way?

Hatterman continued to think about a solution. She looked at blogs for inspiration. The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) communities had several ideas. By chance, her husband had started working from home and no longer needed many of his dress shirts.

Dressed up for dinner

The solution? With her husband’s dress clothes and a sewing machine, she created a functional clothing protector that allows Veterans to get dressed up and ready for meals. She brought her design to the Community Living Center. The Dress Up for Dinner Project was created to maintain the dignity of Veterans.

Community partners step up to the challenge

Dress Up for Dinner’s design was given to the Lexington VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement who partnered with civic groups like the Blue Star Mothers and medical staff to expand production of the design.

Blue Star Mothers’ member Angie Nelson is an experienced sewer. She volunteered to ensure there were enough garments so Veterans in the CLC felt dignified during meals.

The future of dressing up for dinner

Hatterman hopes the project will continue to pick up and expand beyond the Community Living Center. “By turning a dress shirt into a clothing protector, we can create something functional and fun that allows our Veterans to get dressed up,” she said.

By Matthew Benedict is a Voluntary Service specialist at the Lexington VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement

Share this story

Published on Apr. 10, 2022

Estimated reading time is 1.5 min.

Views to date: 634


  1. Sue Wheater May 1, 2022 at 11:38 am

    Great idea! Do you have directions for making them? Do you remove the sleeves and enlarge the armholes, and then the wearer unbuttons it to put it on? Or do you Velcro the sides under the arms and slip it on over the head? Thanks!

    • Jessica Hatterman May 4, 2022 at 4:36 pm

      I have a basic tutorial, if you want to email me (jessica.hatterman@va.gov) I can send it to you! I remove the sleeves, sew the back of the shirt to the front (or line it with a thicker material), and add a new velcro or large button closure to the back of the collar. That way it can easily be fastened around the veteran’s neck, as the individuals who benefit from clothing protectors would often have difficulty with small dress shirt buttons.

  2. David Houtchens April 20, 2022 at 11:42 am

    Great idea and implementation. Thank You for your thoughtfulness and persistence.

  3. Jeannie Cottle April 15, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you Angie!!!

  4. Pamela Williams April 14, 2022 at 10:03 am

    I LOVE it!

  5. Terry A Shackelford April 10, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    What a great idea !

    • Jessica Hatterman April 12, 2022 at 3:41 pm

      Thank you so much! I am excited to see this idea hopefully spread to other facilities!

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • “Art therapy sessions let Veterans find a space where they feel comfortable. Their art is making an impact. That is the goal.”

  • VA nurse Jim Roupe, at his son’s football game, saw a player collapse. He ran down the bleachers, jumped the fence, ran to the boy’s side and began CPR.

  • Houston VA swore in new honorary police chief 10-year-old DJ Daniel who is battling terminal spinal and brain cancer. “Welcome aboard, Chief.”