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.


Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

44 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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

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


  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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How interesting, and how convenient to be able to tell one’s level at a glance.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christi A Hazelton

      Thank you for that information. Nice system to be able to identify the seniority of the student by uniform. I graduated from Michigan State University College of Nursing in 1983, the first class to not wear caps in graduation photo. I bought one though because I had to. Was in Edinburgh in 2019 exploring the city of my greatgrand.


  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.

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

  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 ?


    • That is what I thought at first, as there is no reason to have a belt because of the apron. But, the apron fastens solely with pins, evidently. There are no buttonholes, no buttons.


      • I need to correct this. There are buttons on the apron waist, but not on the straps. I think there was a belt because there are belt loops.


        • Pat Corbett Keadle

          My University of SC (BS program) uniform was quite similar, but ours was yellow with an apron that buttoned to epaulets on the shoulders. This was in 1963 the 5th year the program was open.

          The waist of the uniform had a tab with a button hole. The apron had 2 small buttonhole like holes.
          A button with a metal shank went through one of the apron holes and then a cotter-pin held it in place.

          That cap is very similar to the 3 year Columbia Hospital (SC) Nursing School but theirs didn’t have so much of a brim. The puckers or pleats were formed by having a drawstring through the puffy part that connected to the brim.

          Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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!

      Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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

    Liked by 1 person

  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

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I know I am super late since the uniform has already been sold, but I was doing research for a similar nurse’s uniform recently (today; hence my finding your blog). I was thinking that mine may be from the late 30’s/early 40’s too because of the style of the dress and also because of the “look” of the tag. Luckily the Marvin Neitzel Corporation tag had the patent number for the “flexsleev” embroidered on that same tag. I was just able to search the patent number at http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm and the patent was granted on December 15, 1942 (thank the gods for accurate record keeping and the swift hands that transferred them to the internet). So now I’m thinking that the uniform I have, which looks similar to the one you photographed above, is from the late 40’s/early 50’s.

    You probably have already solved your query ages ago (I wasn’t able to read all of the comments), but if not, I hope this helps.


    Liked by 1 person

  22. Suzanne Van Gorder

    I was in Nursing School, Davis Hospital School of Nursing 1971-73 a 3 year Diploma Program. Our uniforms were white one piece. The buttons were like the ones in the picture. We removed them to take uniforms to laundry. I remember when we went to laundry to pick up we would get many girls at one trip. Then we could stand them ourside the doors, they were that stiff !!!! We had to put hands inside and separate sides to put them on. We were so proud to wear our nursing caps !!!! I have the opinion that nursing lost a great deal when we gave up white uniforms & our caps. Nurses today say they wouldn’t be able to work in the old style.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Jinny

    Hi love the story of your wonderful find with the nurses uniform. If you sadly do not find the original owner and decide to pass the uniform on. I work in a care home for the elderly, a lot of our residents have dementia in Norwich so we often have “Remember When” days and your uniform would be lovely to show them. Would be lovely if you would consider us if you don’t find the owners family.


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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.