Evolution of a Nurse’s Look

Did you ever notice what the nurses in a hospital wear? Most if not all answers would be no. When people think of nurses, fashion is the last thing that comes to mind. Many would be surprised to know that nurses have gone through many fashion changes, their uniforms are a form of fashion. Believe it or not nurses want to do their job and look good as well. Variety is key- it keeps them motivated, sets the atmosphere. The nurse’s uniform was primarily designed for women since women made up most if not all of the profession. These uniforms were seen most commonly on the big screen so when you see someone wearing that particular attire you knew the person was of the nursing profession.

Uniforms did not surface until 1860 with the recognition of nursing as a professional career. The nursing uniform got recognition with the opening of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London. The uniforms at this time were floor length dresses, long sleeve with white collars and cuffs. Long, white pinafore aprons aligned the front of the uniform. They also wore caps which are described as “frilly” and tied under the chin.

The World War in 1914 brought about military nurses. Women were held in high regard to care for the wounded. Military nurse uniforms consisted of tippets or capes to cover the shoulders, bearing the symbol of their station (badges or stripes).

In the 1920s the nurses uniform became more modern with its mid-length skirt and station defining caps. The time of the tied caps came to an end. The 1950s brought about short sleeve uniforms to accommodate for the warmer hospital environments. Cuffs were used to disguise rolled up sleeves to project a more professional look. Bib-aprons (as described by Philswords) replaced the pinafore aprons and all nurses wore the tippets as well as cloaks.

Open neck tops, scrub vests and pants surfaced in the 1960s. Nurses did away with their stockings and replaced them with tights.

The 1960s also marked a milestone in the profession as men began to take up nursing. Trousers were made to make it through cold winters. Meanwhile the 1970s made way for disposable caps. The stripes on the caps illustrated how many years they studied as a student. The traditional dress changed from a basic coloring to blue and white checkard pattern.

The 80s brought about the disposable aprons to replace the traditional aprons. The caps ceased to exist and fashionable handbags replaced the standard nurse shoulder bag. Restrictions on a nurse’s appearance were lifted as they were able to wear makeup and personal jewelry. Dresses were reduced to action pleats and kimono sleeves.

The 1990s brought about what is now the norm in today’s nurse’s uniforms. The dresses have disappeared and have been replaced with tunic and pant sets. Although scrubs are less fashionable than earlier styles, they are more comfortable and come in various colors and patterns so each nurse can project their unique personalities.