The History of the Nursing Uniform: Part 1



When you think of a nurse, what image comes immediately to mind? A lady in a crisp white frock, with a starched white cloth apron in her hair, wearing white rubber shoes, white socks and white belt; the quintessential image of standard nursing uniform for nurses worldwide. However, the concept of nursing uniforms has changed now, with nurses wearing scrub sets and other flexible clothing. Still, it’s the everlasting image of the perfect nurse in her pristine, starched white uniform that remains with us. Wouldn't you like to know more about how the white nursing uniform came about? What’s the history of the nursing uniform? We have put together a few facts gathered from the pages of history for you to read, in this article.

Nursing Uniforms in the 19th Century

Nurses in this era wore servants’ uniforms, which consisted of a full black or printed gown with a white gathered or banded cap and a white apron. Nursing was still a street profession, though some nurses worked as private health caretakers for wealthy households.

People started feeling a greater need for nurses around 1840 and nursing as a career started gaining more respect. Nurses were trained to some extent and made to work at city or local health board. these nurses did not wear servants’ uniforms; rather, they wore ladylike gowns with white aprons and caps to indicate that they were nurses. The starched white cap became synonymous with the nursing profession at about this time.

Florence Nightingale paved the way for the ultimate recognition of nursing as a superior, compassionate profession. Nursing in the post Nightingale era turned into a more respectable job, with schooling systems and uniforms for nurses. Nurses had to wear a hat and band to distinguish themselves as nurses and display their nursing rank. Fresh nurse students would wear ribbon bands of pink, blue, or other pastel colors. Senior nurses and nursing teachers would wear black ribbon bands to indicate seniority.

In part 2, we will move into the 20th Century and its impact on nursing uniforms. Stay tuned!