Looking for Info on Vintage Nurse’s Uniform

One of the dangers of messing with old clothes is that one is bound to run across great things about which one has no knowledge but  which simply can’t be left in the store.  In my most recent case, I happened to be at my local Goodwill Clearance Center one evening shortly before closing time.  It usually is a vast wasteland at that point, all the bins having been picked through with no new merchandise for hours.  And it is pretty much the last stop for the leftovers in the bins, and after the store closes, fresh bins are brought out and what is left in the old is bundled for the raggers.

I was surprised to find a nice old nurse’s apron, and then, in the same bin, a blue and white striped uniform for a student nurse.   Now I really was not in the market for this sort of thing, but it was just too great to just leave.

My guess is that the set is late 1930s, but it might be as recent as the mid 1950s.  Uniforms don’t change as quickly as street clothing, but they do mirror the fashion of the time somewhat.   There is something about the puffed sleeve and the shape and length of the skirt that suggest late 30s to me, but I welcome other opinions.  I also would welcome any good sites on nursing uniforms.  I’ve looked but have come up empty.

Both the collar and the cuffs button on and off for laundering.  The bar pin appears to be either pearlized glass or mother of pearl.  Was it a part of the uniform, do you suppose?

This uniform belonged to Mary A. Kunde.  Are any of her relatives  out there, googling her name?

This is the back of the waist.  There must have been a belt, which I did not find.

All the buttons are mother of pearl and are attached like a stud with a little metal piece on the back.  Again, this was to make them removable for washing.

The label reads “American Institute of Laundering, Certified Washable.”

And finally, here is my mother, student nurse at Memorial Mission Hospital in 1950.

35 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

35 responses to “Looking for Info on Vintage Nurse’s Uniform

  1. susan patti

    I want it!!!! I love vintage nursing uniforms, I wish we still dressed like that.

    Like this

  2. Di

    Check out mynursinguniform.com also scrubs mag.com has information on the history of nursing uniforms. This is a wonderful find which someone will love. At one time you could tell what nursing school a nurse graduated from her cap.

    Like this

  3. Lovely photo of your mother. Not so very long ago, nursing students were not admitted if married.

    Like this

  4. Such a lovely photo of your mum. Thank goodness you were there to save that uniform too! :-)

    Like this

  5. What an amazing find – well done! I love you have the pic of your mum in her uniform too – great post, and good luck finding out more info!

    Like this

  6. Such an awesome find! And the photo of your mom just makes it better! Splendid!

    Like this

  7. In Edinburgh, Scotland, where I trained, first year students wore a grey dress with grey collar and cuffs. Second years wore a white collar and grey cuffs, thirds white collar and cuffs with the grey dress and when you qualified you kept the white collar and cuffs and got a blue dress.

    Like this

  8. My aunt trained as a nurse in the ’50s (not sure precisely where, but PA, I think) and we have/had a similar photo of her. Must attempt to locate it.

    I’m so pleased that you were there to rescue that uniform – have taken the liberty of tweeting with a link to your post and appropriate hashtags (inc. Kunde). Hope you get some leads.

    Like this

  9. I would say that dress found you and not the other way around!

    Like this

  10. I’ve never seen a nurse’s uniform with a separate belt. Is it possible that tab on the back was supposed to connect to the apron? Any evidence of buttons or buttonholes on the apron waist ?

    Like this

  11. oldrunner

    Judging by UK nurses uniforms I would put this at 1950s/60s or possibly even later. Until the universal standard ghastly artificial fibre workwear style worn with plastic disposable aprons were introduced here,not to mention the recent practice of wearing creased and unkempt looking scrubs (Aaargh!)

    How lovely is your mother in her uniform – and how similar to the one you found. Same collar and seemingly the same striped fabric. Though the apron is not as high as your mother’s, indicating to me that it is later – more modern. Interesting about the MOP bar brooch. Perhaps it was a sign of rank – maybe a final year student? At my old hospital ( see below) the Sister’s uniform had MOP buttons whereas mere students had simple white plastic ones. Actually all our buttons were separate from the uniform dress. We each had one set of buttons that were transferred between clean dresses with metal hooks like the one showing in your photo next to the label. Perhaps the same with this uniform dress?

    I was briefly a student nurse at The London ( now the Royal London) Hospital in 1963/4 and our uniforms were individually made for us in the huge dressmaking department. They had been re-designed in 1942 by the Royal dressmaker Norman Hartnell and continued the references to early 20th c ladies dresses, with puff sleeves and long(ish) skirts which were measured from the floor so that they were well below the knee – very unlike our 1960s knee-length clothes off-duty! We were told it was so that when we bent over to attend a patient, that other male patients would not get unduly excited by a glimpse of our upper leg. Oo-er.

    (BTW I’m a confirmed follower of your consistently interesting blog. I rather envy you your find and would happily pay the postage to the UK if you choose me to bag it!

    Like this

    • I really appreciate your input. It is truly amazing how much nursing attire has changed over the past 50 years.

      Actually, it was the apron style that was making me think older than say, 1950. I’ve looked at dozens of vintage nursing photos in the past few days, and that square bib type was worn here in the US even back to Victorian times.

      I’m going to hold on to it for a while so I can do some local investigation. It is very possible that this was used at the same hospital where my mother trained, so I’m going to see it there is a photo archive there.

      And your nice words about my blog are greatly appreciated!

      Like this

  12. You mother’s lovely photo seals the deal for me: 1950 seems like the perfect compromise date!

    Like this

  13. oldrunner

    Oo-er Jessamyn – good point that I read differently! As in, ” the industry research program started in the 1930s…(but the consumer label came later)”. Obviously I was wrong and have since found a 1937 and a 1949 advertisement with slightly differently designed labels, but both aimed at consumers and urging them to look for the Certified Washable label on clothing. More research of the Institute’s archives needed! It seems that the American Institute of Laundering (AIL) was initially concerned with professional/commercial laundering businesses before providing a service to the wider textile industry from manufacturers to end user. I am astonished by this discovery. The Institute was so very forward looking and decades ahead of the ubiquitous ‘care’ labels that began to be attached to clothing from the late 1960s/early 70s in the UK.

    As a vintage fashion and textile collector, I would be very interested in reading more about this if any kind person in the USA would initiate the research. I wonder if the AIL still exists and could be approached to find a definite answer to dating the use of their labels.

    Vintagetraveler – this is such fun – thank you!

    Like this

  14. Pingback: Pendleton Double Faced Wool Coat, Circa 1975 | The Vintage Traveler

  15. gail thompson

    My mother earned her nursing degree in 1946. Oh, how I loved her ‘cadet’ nursing uniform and it’s extravagant cape of red and navy wool, gold buttons. By the time I came along, it had been relegated to the cleaning closet, with other rags and ‘play dress up’ clothes. How sad!

    Like this

    • Yes, that is sad. I’ve run across a few of those capes over the years and they are so nice. I often wonder what happened to my mother’s uniform and apron, but she was not the type to save things. I’m lucky the cap survives.

      Like this

  16. My first nursing uniform as an aide was a green dress. Starched. With a belt. The next, as a nursing student, was a blue and white striped dress, covered with a white starched apron. And, finally, how good it was three years later as a graduate to wear white–a long-sleeved, knee-length dress with French cuffs. I’d worked very hard to earn wearing white.

    Like this

  17. The most important aspect of your uniform is how comfortable it is. It’s important to choose the right fit for your body type and work environment. Women nurses should think about how they will wear their hair–up or down. If you want more information contact thebuziness.com

    Like this

  18. chris

    this was very helpful, I needed to see what the uniform was like for a special birthday cake design for a lady who was a nurse aboard the Queen Mary Liner in the 60′s

    Like this

  19. Leslie

    Also wanted to add this broadcloth, if pink striped would be worn by hospital volunteers, many times wouldbe future nurses, and they were called candy stripers.

    Like this

  20. Leslie

    My mother is a retired RN, graduated in the 50′s, and she had an elegant navy blue wool cape with a satin lining. How I wish we could locate that now but too many moves I’m afraid. I’m sure it never survived. As an RN graduate from ’83 she and I loved to compare notes.

    Like this

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s