Vail-based Cooper-Martin clothing ready to launch May 1

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— For a lot of people, surgery is sort of like being pregnant - a lot of your clothes aren't going to fit for a while.

Sarah Lindholm saw how limiting surgery can be when her boyfriend's father had a knee and hip replaced in the same year about three years ago.

"He was wearing sweats all the time, and he just wouldn't leave the house," Lindholm said. "He basically spent 10 months inside the house, and he started getting depressed."

What Lindholm noticed is that a lot of recovery time is spent in bathrobes or sweatsuits. For a lot of people, those are clothes to be worn at home or maybe the gym, but not to a restaurant or dinner party.

Looking around for suitable clothes for a man or woman in a knee brace or catheter, Lindholm didn't find much looking at medical-supply Web sites. "It's all just so sterile-looking," she said. "So much of it either looks like a moo-moo or a diaper."

Cooper-Martin clothing was born from that experience.

Not long after the experience with her boyfriend's dad, Lindholm quit her job as an attorney in Denver and started doing research into fashion and medical procedures. In addition to her own research, Lindholm began working with designers at a clothing factory in California - the factory where the clothes are now being made - to get the design just right.

Lindholm also checked with doctors, hospitals and rehab centers.

"I wanted to find out what people needed," she said. "Does it need to be larger? Should there be buttons? How do you tweak a normal pair of pants so they'll work?"

Lindholm's goal was to invent normal-looking pants - for men and women - that will come apart in a way that makes dressing easier for someone who's with limited mobility from back or hip surgery or who's navigating a knee brace or other medical equipment.

The result was pants that have zippers up the outsides of both legs. The zippers go from the waistband to the bottom of the cuff. The zippers go both ways, as on a ski parka, and there are plastic tabs that hook to the top of the waistband for a little extra security.

The result is men's khaki pants that would be fine with anything from a polo shirt to a sport shirt, tie and blazer, and women's pants that would work for anything from dinner out to Sunday morning at church.

After more than 2 1/2 years of work - and some testing with patients at Columbia University Medical Center - the Cooper-Martin clothing line is ready to roll. Lindholm expects clothes to start shipping about May 1.

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