Nursing Uniforms of the Past and Present
Belt was not back in the 1923-1960 U.S. Navy nurse uniform. The wide belt featured in the following photo was a part of the skirt itself. This time, the belt was secured by two buttons, which run three more buttons down the skirt. For style, the buttoned portion of the skirt was not aligned with the buttons of the top. To its right is a photo featuring another cape, a shorter one, worn over an indoor duty nursing uniform.
In this photo is a cape worn with indoor duty uniform, but with different nurse caps.
The U.S. Navy nurses have both indoor and outdoor duty uniforms. While those for indoor looked more closely like the typical nursing uniforms, those worn outdoors were a lot different as they look more formal. Navy nurses outdoor uniforms comprised a coat and tie for the top and skirt for the bottom. They come in one design but in two different colors, blue and white, and with matching stockings and shoes.
Working outdoors also put U.S. Navy nurses under heavy rains, hence they have another version of nursing uniform designed for rainy days. A navy nurse raincoat, with a storm cap, worn over an outdoor duty uniform is featured in the photo below.
Even before warm-up scrub jackets were introduced to the nurses, the U.S. Navy nurses were already using them. In the following photos are the blue knit sweaters used in1923 to 1930s. They may be worn with buttons closed or not.
In the following photo were the graduates of Good Samaritan Hospital Nurse Training School, probably in the late 1920s. Graduates wore the symbolic all white nursing uniforms and nurse caps. The design of the uniforms were similar to the U.S. Navy nursesí uniforms in the early 1920s, which were characterized by long sleeved button down top with wing collar and belted skirt. Even the caps also got the stripe similar to that of the U.S. Navy nursesí.
In 1936, 11 years after Florence Nightingaleís death, bib, apron and long sleeve cuffs were still standard in the nursing uniforms. But the more elaborate nursing caps gave the nurses a rather glamorous look. Instead of the plain nunís habit veil, nurse caps came out in different styles, with almost every hospital and nursing school designing their own caps to identify their staff and students. Most of these caps were too small that they can no longer hold long hair like the nunsí veil did. In fact, in the latter years of the nursing caps, they were worn simply as symbolic identification and not for sanitary purposes at all. Many times they were worn as mere ornaments.
Before long the sleeves of nursing uniform dress received major change. On 1942 in London, the long sleeves, which were also sometimes massive puff sleeves, were cut short. This was largely due to the clothing material shortage during the World War II. Supplies of fabrics were mainly reserved for the army and the war. However, the long sleeves didnít really totally go off because they made use of detachable cuffs as shown in the following image. And as for the massive puff sleeves, they remained in the scene. In the same image, the nursing uniforms were also noticeably shorter than their ancestors.
When World War II broke, the nurses of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps were dispersed to different locations around the world where there were battles, just like the American soldiers. Pictured in this photo is an American nurse serving in Queensland, Australia, in 1942. During that time, the materials and colors of womenís uniforms were similar as the menís to keep the costs low, regardless of where they were assigned.
Group of Army Nurses of the 10th Field Hospital, in 1943, wore military-inspired multi-pocketed tops and pants. The 10th Field Hospital served in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, French Riviera, and in the Moselle area.
An American nurse serving in Oujda, Morocco, in 1943, wore the blue cotton crepe nursing dress.
When the University of Pittsburgh was authorized to organize a unit of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps in 1943, a new uniform appeared. It was a gray wool suit or overcoat with regimental red epaulets, silver insignia buttons, a sleeve patch with a silver Maltese Cross on a red ground, and an adaptation of the famous Montgomery beret.
The World War II was an era for salvaging things that still have value and maximizing the available resources. In the U.S., the garment industry was controlled by the federal government, and all others supported such approach and made sacrifices, including the nurses who were also serving the America along side the countryís soldiers. This 1943 nurses duty uniform features a cut that was common in most of womenís garments in WWI. The hemline falls just below the knee, and the sleeves were much shorter than those of the previous nursing uniforms.
Two nurses in the front left portion in the photo below, who served in the Philippines, wore similar nursesí duty uniform as the nurse in the photo above. That particular uniform was the cotton seersucker, one that may be worn with a jacket or suit. See the beige seersucker in the following photo.
Inside camps where temporary hospitals were erected, army nurses continue to provide patient care to wounded soldiers and civilians of the Second World War. In this photo from 1943, two colors of the army nursing uniforms were worn in different ways, tucked and not tucked, and matched with complementary nurse caps.
It was during the Second World War II when the work pants were created for women as well. The practically of workwear pants proved to be significant, especially for those who work in the field such as the nurses. In the following 1944 photo is An American army flight nurse in Prestwick, Scotland. She wears a nursing uniform that comprises of suit, pants, and beret.
The army nurses also served in several Asian lands, such as Burma, China and India, where they had to work with patients and staff that had a very different culture, a huge obstacle that came in the way of administering care. Pictured below were the staff of Tagap Hospital in Burma, in 1945. They wore long sleeves nursing uniforms with tie, tucked in nurse skirts that fell below the knee.
As the World War II approached end, U.S. Navy nurses who fell as prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation in the south eastern Asian country, Philippines, were also liberated. In this picture are the rescued navy nurses, known as the Angels of Bataan, in their long-sleeved, button down blue cotton crepe nursing dress with lapel collar. Others wore the short sleeved version.
American nurses posed for this photo before leaving the Philippine Archipelago. They wore dark olive-drab elastic wool jacket, skirt nursing uniforms, and matching service caps for officers. Under the suit was a khaki wool shirt. This uniform was used from 1942 to 1951. (The following 2 more photos will show a clearer picture of this Army Nurse Corps officer uniforms and headgear.) One woman standing at the flight of steps with the beret wore the khaki uniform that was made of cotton poplin fabric.
Although, the supply of fabrics was controlled by the federal government during WWI, some companies managed to still create fashionable uniforms for nurses. The following photos feature the 1943 nursing uniforms designed and manufactured by Barco. The company decided to use what was available, the nylon fiber. And since there was shortage of materials during that time, Barco nursing uniforms also adopted the minimal design of the usual nurse uniforms. Wing collar was small, sleeves were short, and boleros were used instead of cardigan.
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK) or German Red Cross nurses basic uniform worn by the DRK helferin | helferinen (helpers) during wartime consisted of medium grey pleated-front blouse or a blue-grey pinstriped blouse and skirt with detachable white collar as shown in the following photos. Worn over the ward dress was the bib-fronted type apron, with hemlines that fell below knee length. The headdress is a starched white nurse cap with a woven band stitched along its front edge, showing a red cross or alternatively the letters RK. They also wore black silk stocking and black lace-up shoes. For the long sleeved blouses, a white armband with Red Cross emblem can be seen surrounded by the German translation of German Red Cross, in black Gothic script.
While the nursing uniforms in the United States during the WWII received major changes, those in the United Kingdom barely did. The British nurses still wore the cuffed long sleeved uniforms and aprons with the crisscross design at the back. And with the first aid kit hanging at the back of their waist, they surely proved to always be ready.
Canada was among the lands that adopted white nursing uniforms from head to toe. The photo, perhaps taken in 1947, shows two nursing students of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They wear short sleeved nursing uniforms, which became largely used in other hospitals around Canada.
During the Golden Age, the puff sleeves were gone and replaced with simpler ones, with sleeve hems about three inches above the elbows. The usual cuffs, with white trim at their edges, were folded by 2 inches. With other 1950 nursing uniforms, the folds themselves served to be the white contrast trim for the colored nursing dress. Back then, accessories were still restricted, but wristwatches that were necessary for time keeping were allowed.
When the sleeves were cut short, it started to also come in many styles besides the fold. The one shown here is a version used in Vale of Leven near Loch Lomond, Scotland, in 1955. Notice puff cuff at the sleeves of the nursing uniform. Besides the length of about 3 inches, the puff cuff looks like itís also detachable. Whether or not it has any practical functions, we canít easily tell, but it surely adds vibe, making it look more different from servant uniforms.
During the 1950s, clothing designers have enough material to create fashionable dresses for women, but a simple design was preferred for nursing uniforms. The image below shows fashion belted button-down nursing dress thatís tailored from Dupontís fibers by Barco. A pinafore may also be worn over this nursing uniform.
The following photo features a nurse that wears a WAC officerís overcoat that was used in 1942 to 1951. Itís an olive-drab wool doeskin cloth. Enlisted ones used the same overcoat style, but without the shoulder tabs and material was of wool serge cloth. The next photo provides a clearer look of this WAC officerís overcoat as well as of the service cap.
An American flight nurse steps out the U.S. Far East Air Force plane, in 1950, as she arrives in North Korea during the Korean War that ended on 1953. Flight nurses usually wear pants to pair with the military-inspired uniform tops, either for the long-sleeved button down uniform or the one worn with suit. Completing the military look of flight nurses, they also wear berets.
The end of the World War II opened for an enthusiastic clothing industry, even integrating fashion in nursing uniforms. The following art photo showcases four different nursing uniforms of the 1950s, all of which notable of sophisticated style. Each pair of nursing skirt and top features tight waist with belt, button closures, modest neckline, and either long or three-fourth sleeves. Skirts have distinct flair thatís complemented with a pair pockets for practical use.
In the 1960s, women dresses began declining in length again. However, this time, war was no longer involved. Shorter dresses started becoming customary, which would advance in shortness down to the new millennium. Modest cut remains a necessity with nursing uniforms, though. Fitted skirts that fell to the knees became popular. Fabric technology also had developments, brining wash and wear cotton as well as Dracon and cotton fabrics mix.
Different companies experimented on different materials for nursing uniforms, in which Barco came up with warp knits. Itís a type of fabric that enabled elegant look, comfortable feel, and easy laundry care come in every Barco uniform. In this photo, the belt was starting to disappear, and the neckline gone a little lower. But, the nurse cap remained a staple as you could notice.
In 1961, when nurses in Nova Scotia were still wearing long sleeved dresses with pinafores, students wore nursing uniforms comprised of short sleeved tops and skirts. In this photo, student nurses already wear nameplates. Also notice the rolled Peter Pan collar as well as the contrast trims to its rolled-up set-in sleeves, they match the skirts.
While sleeves were constantly changing, the hem of the nursing uniforms also gets higher. An employee of Prince Harryís Hospital poses in here nursing uniforms in 1962. This particular uniform can now be actually considered as standard uniform in the modern nursing profession. The sleeves were sleek, the shorter apron got patch pocket, and the neckline remained modest with the rounded collar secured by a button.
Although colored nursing uniforms have been in the industry for quite some time already, the white uniforms were still widely used. The following nursing uniform was the hospital duty dress of enlisted women and civil service employees alike in 1962 to 1975. Made from cotton poplin, nurses may wear the white duty nursing dress with black oxfords or optional white oxfords as authorized. They may also wear the uniform with green cardigan sweater, cap, and white stockings.
Uniform pants, which were specially worn in the field, became a thing of the past as pantsuits were authorized also as duty uniforms in medical facilities, in 1978. The said nursing uniform came with a beret, pins and name plate. This pantsuit became controversial when wearing the particular uniform was made optional fro those who want to buy and wear the uniform.
This nursing uniform, used in State University of Iowa School of Nursing, is almost identical to the above version. The only difference was the slimmer collar thatís got pointed tips. But as for the sleeves, sleeve cuffs and apron, they were unchanged. The picture was probably taken in the late 1960ís or earlier, for in 1971, nurse caps were no longer used in the State University of Iowa School of Nursing.
The two-decade long Vietnam War surely needed all the medical aid they can get as the war advances and many soldiers got wounded, losing limbs, and dying in battle. Some of dedicated nurses who have the heart to aid the servicemen during the mayhem are featured in the photo. Probably taken in 1970s, in Da Nang, Vietnam, the American nurses wore shorter fitted skirts, with hemlines just above the knee.
In 1979, bibs, which usually go with the apron as pinafore, were stripped of straps. Bibs were simply attached to the top section of the dress by using some pins. In the photo below, notice that the hem of the nursing uniform simply fell below the knees. Are we seeing dress-shirt button down collar here? And where is the cap? Photo taken at St .Maryís Hospital, Paddington, London.