In the early years, well before the nineteenth century, nursing was primarily done by females in their households and by nuns as a part of their religious callings; as such, there was really no reason for standard nurse uniforms. As time progressed, the treatment of illnesses and injuries became more formal, and this new style of medicine necessitated the need for consistency in nursing wear. Not surprisingly, the nineteenth century saw a dramatic change in nurse uniforms.

While in the past, the attire worn by community nurses was quite similar to that of a nun’s habit, the uniforms of this century took on a less rigid appearance. At the start, the nursing apparel resembled servants’ uniforms and generally consisted of a long dress, white apron, and a cap. Nurses outside of their workplaces were often recognized by their lengthy coats or cloaks and their outdoor hats.

Florence Nightingale and her efforts in the Crimean War put the nursing profession in the spotlight for the very first time. Doctors were no longer recognized as the only individuals capable of providing medical care. Nurses were commended for their contributions, and a system of hat bands was used to recognize their level of experience.

Over time, the hats were eliminated from the nurse uniforms, and the overall style of this medical professional’s clothing moved away from the servant’s closet. More details, such as pockets and buttons, were added to the dresses, and bibs were placed above the aprons. These alterations gave nurses a more flattering appearance.

With the arrival of World War I, the importance of being able to move quickly and efficiently was emphasized. As a result, the dresses were shortened so women could walk without encumbrance. Sleeves were either rolled up or clipped to make sure they did not interfere with patient care.

In the twentieth century, nurse uniforms were simplified even more. The skirts, which replaced the dresses, were eventually phased out as hospitals and treatment centers made an effort to recruit more male nurses. With so many people seeking medical assistance, it became imperative that the clothing worn by nurses be comfortable so that they could be as relaxed as possible during long work days. This requirement brought about the scrub apparel that most nurses wear today.

It is obvious that nurse uniforms have gone through serious changes over the years. From nun habits to servants’ outfits to the scrubs of modern times, the clothing worn by nurses has been transformed throughout the centuries for comfort and functionality.

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