A prescription for style

Friday, May 10, 2013

Christine McKenna Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Fashion is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the words “health care”. Nurses may be, though, and in fact their connection with style goes far beyond those colourful, wildly-patterned scrubs. The history of nursing in Canada dates back as far as the 17th century, when French nurse Jeanne Mance settled in what would become Montreal, and founded its first hospital in 1645. The uniforms worn by nurses have continued to evolve over time, and their changes in style often correspond with changing historical contexts.

During World War I, for example, it is believed that nurses serving at the front lines found their long skirts too cumbersome for work in the muddy trenches, and began to hike them up. This trend eventually led to the hemlines of nurse uniforms being raised, and may have even influenced the flapper style of the 1920s.

Today, nursing uniforms are characterized by a simple design that facilitates hygiene and comfort. So, how did we go from this…

…to this?

Image courtesy of Andrea D Mueller.

On Friday, May 31st, the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing (CAHN) and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine (CSHM) are presenting a special Congress 2013 event. The Nursing Uniforms Fashion Show will take place in McPherson Library’s Maltwood Gallery from 5-6 PM. For your healthy dose of history, a series of Canadian nursing uniforms from the early to late twentieth-century will be modeled along with informative commentary, to reveal what women’s fashion can teach us about our society.

View this event on the Congress 2013 calendar.


Congress of the Humanities and Social SciencesCongress 2013