A Dash of Style - The Evolution of Nursing Uniforms

Published: 07th January 2006
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If you ask a first grade class to describe a nurse, they'll almost invariably describe a lady wearing a white uniform and a 'nurses' hat'. White dresses and starched caps are still an icon, even after thirty years of nurses turning to less distinctive and more comfortable, functional clothing.

In the earliest days of nursing, there was no uniform. Florence Nightingale, who was greatly responsible for defining the profession of nursing in the 1800s, is often credited with having established the importance of nurses wearing uniforms. When she headed the nursing units during the Crimean War, her nurses wore dark gray, full-length dresses covered by white aprons to distinguish them from other female camp followers.

Most nursing uniforms of the 1800s seem to have been based on the attire worn by most female household servants modest dresses covered with aprons. It was not until the late 1800s, with their emphasis on sterility and cleanliness, that white became the color of choice for nurses uniforms. And while we often think of 'nurses uniforms' as being well, uniform the truth is that nearly every hospital designed its own nursing uniforms, from starched cap to shoes.

The nurses cap has a unique history of its own. Beginning as a modified nun's coif, it was both functional and symbolic functional in that it kept hair out of the way, and symbolic of the status of the nurse as an 'Angel of Mercy'. As time went on, however, many hospitals began to modify the nurses cap into fanciful shapes and folded patterns. The white cap was often decorated with a colored stripe to indicate a nurse's level of training and position within the hospital hierarchy.

In the 1970s, nurses began to demand a voice in the clothing that they wore to work. Starched caps and white dresses and hose were impractical and difficult to work in, many complained. White dresses gave way to white tunics and pants, and eventually to colored uniforms and nurses scrubs. According to many critics, the move away from white nurses' uniforms is confusing for patients and makes it difficult to pick out the nurses from other hospital staff. Many hospitals are reinstating all white nurses uniforms and turning to designers to come up with stylish, functional and comfortable designs. For lovers of nurses uniforms, that's great news!

Gayle Simper owns and operates scrubbugs.com Nursing uniforms , Offering large selection of medical uniforms.

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