Nursing Voices

Friday, September 15, 2006

Uniforms on Parade

Anchors away! Our first group of nurses are wearing stylish government issue nursing uniforms from the turn-of-the-century, complete with corsets, high necklines, and white puffy skirts. Since these gals are the first twenty nurses appointed to the US Navy in 1908, it’s only appropriate that their nursing caps resemble little white sail boats perched on their heads. I bet these uniforms were a real treat to wear during hot weather and high tide.

Excuse me nurse, but are those swastikas on your scarf? This Latvian nurse is modeling a rare type of uniform, which was worn only by Liepaja Brigade of Nurses. Good grief, didn't she know that dressing up like a Nazi nurse is definitely a fashion don’t. Apparently, they didn’t have fashion consultants back then. This photo is from 1928.

This young woman is modeling the popular “Angel of Mercy” look, accessorized with a red cross on her apron, and real angels flying overhead. This uniform is a tribute to French fashion sense.

Our next model looks like a contestant from the old TV show, “Queen for a Day.” She is sitting on her thrown, wearing her cape and white cap that is perched on her head like a crown. There was a time when nurses were treated like royalty. Now nurses are treated like assembly line workers. And people wonder why there is a nursing shortage.

According to the back of this picture, Claudette is wearing a Christian Dior culotte “everall,” in white drill (whatever that is) with a long zipper. Designed by Jorn Lanberg, this outfit was not worn with white nursing shoes—everyone knows you never wear white shoes after Labor Day—or a real nurses cap. The reason this uniform never caught had to do with its price tag. If your patients were throwing up on you, would you wear something expensive? The photo is dated October 17, 1971.

It’s back to the future in this electric dress designed by avant-garde artist, Atsuko Tanakas. The first electric dress was made in 1956, and was a combination of the tradition Japanese kimono and modern industrial technology. The first dress was made entirely of wires and more than one hundred colored light bulbs and neon light tubes that flashed every two and a half minutes. Today’s electric dress would make a great nursing uniform of tomorrow. Nurses could check IV at night without turning on lights and waking their patients.


Anonymous Moof said...

Um ... I don't think I would want the electrified nurse giving me a bed bath ... *blink!* ... geeze, if enough nurses wore that one, they could blackout a whole city charging them up after work every night! ;o)

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how much heat that electric dress throws off? The anywhere-near-menopausal nurses might wanna rethink that one!

12:02 PM  
Blogger kt said...

omg! those are awesome...holy cow does that make me appreciate my good ol' scrubs!!

6:12 PM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Mother J. I must point out, once again, that you have exceptional writing skills. You should hone those skills and think about publishing. By the way, you are mentioned prominently on my blog from yesterday :-) I hope you don't mind.....

9:54 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

And then we have the contemporary nurse wearing scrubs with cartoon characters or baby animals on them.

I vote for the electric dresses. Oooh. . . .the possibilities. . . .

10:11 PM  
Blogger Mother Jones RN said...

Hi Mike:

Thanks for the kudos. I'd really like to publish a book, (don't we all), but finding a publisher and agent is a real headache. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

I saw your blog. I'm honored.

I also love the electric dress. Isn't it shocking?

12:01 AM  
Blogger RX850 said...

In the 70's I marched in a parade with other nurses from the hospital I worked at. We looked like the Queen for a Day nurse. We thought we looked so snappy while looking Clara Bartonesque!

I loved the way you described them all ~ very funny stuff!

12:42 AM  
Blogger Deacon Barry said...

How is the electric dress powered? Would you need to wheel about your own personal generator, or would you just have to have a long extension lead?

7:44 AM  
Blogger kario said...

My poor husband who is currently lying in bed with a morphine pump and hallucinating would be positively frightened out of his skin if someone came in wearing that electric dress. Yikes! Yesterday he was certain there were mice walking up the walls and he was terribly concerned that "the goat has rocks in his pants". Hmmm, can't wait until he doesn't need the morphine anymore...

1:37 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

That Dior uniform is hot hot hot, and I totally think you should reconsider it!

8:17 AM  
Blogger LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...

It I were in a hospital and seen swatikas on nursing uniforms, I would run. as soon as they found out I am of German-Jewish ancestory, they would make sure I didn't come out of surgery

4:27 PM  
Anonymous kim said...

Um....I like the "Queen For a Day" look...and I"m not sure I'm happy realizing I'm old enough to remember the show...... : D

4:07 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Could the Latvian nurse be associated somehow with the Latvian Air Force? They used the swastika from the early 20th century up to about 1930.

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your blog, and especially the "queen of the day" picture. You hit the point on how our uniforms reflect on our profession these days...well done.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the swastikas are reversed meaning the are the old indian peace symbol..

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Velmarie said...

My grandmother was a nurse in the 40's and looked like the 'queen for a day' which my mother was 'Queen for a Day' in May of 1961, I still have the picture:) Scrubs are okay, but too many look like they were slept in. I teach nursing and really think that we have become to lazy in the uniform area. Love your page, I am looking for pictures for our display we are creating for our new building. Thanks for your witty input.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dressed up as Nurse Ratched one halloween and was the hit of the party, I like the 'Queen for a Day' look, I think we had more respect then. Love your site, keep up the good work.

2:29 PM  
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9:56 AM  

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