Nursing is a profession that has existed for hundreds of years, where millions of nurses have managed to help the injured fully recover.
Nursing is seen by many as a form of art, requiring a very specific type of person.
Florence Nightingale put it best when she said, “Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.”
In fact, nursing was of the very few fields that women were allowed to pursue back before women’s rights were fully realized.weren’t a housewife, then they were likely a nurse, painstakingly working to keep the gravely injured alive and well.If they
Nurse’s outfits, along with the profession have evolved over the years, continually improving.Still, a nurse’s outfit still remains very iconic, always distinguishable from any clothing from that period.
Scroll down below to see the evolution of an outfit that has helped save countless lives.
During the 19th century, nursing was still fighting to be truly accepted as a legitimate profession.
Instead many treated it as a “street profession” and nurses were relegated to mere servant uniforms.The uniforms featured a full black gown, or a printed gown along with a cap and an apron. This uniform would stick until the 1900s came closer and closer.
Thanks to the work of the incredible Florence Nightingale the world was quickly being convinced that nurses, especially well educated and trained ones, were vital to keeping people, and especially soldiers during war, alive and well.
As Nightingale’s work began to produce results, trained nurses began updating the uniform. The gowns were now lighter-colored, featuring white aprons and caps to indicate to everyone around them that they were nurses.
As nursing was becoming more and more respectable thanks to Nightingale’s efforts, schools began to teach nursing and uniforms continued to evolve and become more standardized.
During the first decade of the 20th century, nurses began to wear hats with colored bands, along with capes that would help distinguish themselves and display their nursing rank. The dresses remained long and tight around the waists.
Then in the early 1900s, there were even more changes to the nurse outfit.
The outfit was now seeing changes every decade as opposed to the much longer period before.Here the styles featured a button-down top with pointy collars. A bib covered the torso of the nurse all the way down to the waist where the bib’s folds were gathered and let down as a giant, floor-length apron.
However more changes were on the way as World War I crept closer, which would bring massive changes to the uniform, allowing nurses to be fast and able to provide quick care with minimal stops. Pockets were added and sleeves were able to be rolled up, allowing for easier movement when needed.
As World War I had finally ended, the nurse outfit was brought back to the bulky dresses instead of the tight fitting clothing that allowed them to be quick on their feet. Head coverings and full aprons also made their return to the uniform.
One simple white frock that fell only to the ankles would replace the old, heavy uniform of the past. You may recognize this as what you would expect when you imagine a classic nurse’s outfit.
During the 30s and 40s the uniform got a few minor updates, now featuring a white collared dress and cap, which remained the standard for the next two decades.
Towards the mid-1940s some changes would finally update the uniform once more. The aprons became much simpler and less elaborate. Many could be boiled down to just a pinned bib with a long portion to protect the front of the dress.
These were changes were done because cleaning an apron that was contaminated was much easier than having to replace the entire uniform. Contaminated uniforms could spread disease and illness among patients which was dangerous.
By the start of the 1950s, it would be the hats of the uniform that would be changed. Instead of the large and elaborate hats, they would instead be replaced with simple folded hats, that were sometimes made out of simple paper.
The dress would also receive some much needed upgrades. No longer would long dresses and long sleeves be the standard. Keeping up with the times, the dresses became around knee height and the sleeves were much shorter.
During the 1960s, society as a whole began to upgrade to automated washing machines and dryers, meaning that clothing was no longer washed by hand. The outfits had to be updated once more to allow them to be easily cleaned by these machines.
The dresses were much looser, allowing them to be washed, ironed and worn much easier. No longer did nurses have to deal with unnecessarily tight fitting clothing during their long workdays.
After the cap was turned into a simple folded piece of paper, it was inevitable that it would soon be removed and in the 1970s the iconic nursing cap had finally been dropped by most nurses.
The uniforms continued to evolve ever so slightly, becoming closer and closer to regular clothing that focused on comfort. Some nurses would even forgo the dress complete instead wearing a white pant suit instead!