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Nurses 1970's Uniform
Karen | Fairy
daphnie_1 wrote in little_details
For the most part my questions have been answered, thanks so much guys!


I'm setting a story in London during the 1970's. My main character is a female nurse, and as such I've been doing some research in regards too costume.

Basically I want to know if the following information is correct, plus a few other things:

I gather from here that a nurses uniform consisted of the following:

"Historically, a typical nurse uniform consisted of a dress, pinafore apron and nurse's cap. In some hospitals, however, student nurses also wore a nursing pin, or the pinafore apron may have been replaced by a cobbler style apron. This type of nurse's dress continues to be worn in many countries."

I've also found some pictures both here and here

Interestingly the first one talks about caps and pins. Since this source is outside the UK, I was wondering - amongst other things - if the UK also adopted that practice? Is there anything that a UK nurse at the time might have worn - like a watch pinned to there apron or something? Is this information accurate? And lastly - where the main dresses blue or white? No one seems to be able to agree.

I have searched the internet far and wide for the answers to these questions but to no avail. Any and all information would be much appreciated.

A/N: I used Google and Wikipedia searching under - 'Nursing in the 1970s', 'Nurse Uniforms in the 1970's' and '1970's medicine'.

Please edit to add a subject line that describes your question and some example searches you tried. (You don't have to include all of them, but the most obvious would be great.)

My mother was a nursing sister then, in charge of Casualty (ER).

She wore a royal blue fitted dress, knee length. Her apron was white, pinned onto the bodice and was cinched in at the waist with an elasticated belt (black shirring elastic about three inches wide) with a silver buckle with the caduceus on each side of it (it was one of those double buckles were one side hooked into the other). She definitely wore a fob watch, pinned into the apron at top left. Her cap was cotton overlaid with a simple lace - it had to be starched to keep its shape. Flat black shoes.

The other nurses wore a paler blue dress and their caps were plain.

I can't recollect Mum wearing anything that showed what nursing school she went to, I'm afraid, so if there was a pin it (a) wasn't in her cap and (b) was very inconspicuous.

Hope this helps.

From what I know, it was normal to wear a pin, usually silver and quite elaborate showing which hospital a nurse had trained at (in the 1970s few nurses were university graduates). The amount of lace on the cap was indicative of rank. My mother used to tat lace for nurses caps.

You see I read that, but I wasn't sure since the source was for the US. Thank you!

To be honest, my knowledge of the pin thing may be Australian. My ex was an RN trained at Royal Canberra. She wore her pin when she nursed in Canada too though. I'd be surprised if it wasn't the same for British nurses. For really good (and sexy!) nurse pics take a look at "An American Werewolf in London" which has Jenny Agutter (drool) as a nurse at a teaching hospital.

All I can say is that I don't remember Mum wearing one. You're quite right about nurses training at schools attached to hospitals, not at colleges or universities the way I think many do now. Mum trained at South Shields General.

It could be that by the 70s it was falling out of fashion and she just didn't bother any more. I know she still has her silver buckle and her watch, but no pin.

Thanks so much both of you.

That's EXACTLY what I'm looking for, thank you so much!

I'm old enough to remember when nurses wore the uniform of a dress, starched apron and the cap, which usually had a stripe denoting the nurses' rank or years of service. I also remember when the hospitals were run by the Matron and there were no MRSA scares when Matron ruled the roost! It was like a military operation - you had to sit in bed or in the chair next to it but not on top of the bed. Visiting times were at specific times too...

Srsly, the nursing staff always looked smart and immaculate - and to me as a six year old girl, that was impressive. Anyway, good luck with your research.:-)

Edited at 2008-08-16 08:35 pm (UTC)

I hadn't read about the stripe thing, interesting. I'll go and see if I can find anything about that.

Thanks for the luck!

Re the belts: at that date the buckle showed which hospital the nurse trained at.

The watches were pinned on so that there would be no wristwatches to interfere with hygiene etc, and distinctively were upside-down so that the nurse could tip them up and read them.

"Re the belts: at that date the buckle showed which hospital the nurse trained at." - oh! That's interesting, thank you.

As for the watch thing - I've seen it on TV and in Hospitals myself but when I posted I wasn't sure if they where around in the 70's.


My mother trained in the 1960s and she definitely had one of those watches then.

Thanks! Good to know I wouldn't be useing something outwith the time period.

There was a popular BBC TV series in the 1970s about nurses, called "Angels". Here's a page about it: if you click on the Production Stills link on the right-hand side, you can see some of the cast in costumes that are very typical of 1970s nurses.

Fantastic reference resource for my fic, thank you.

When I was in a large General hospital in 1973, the Sisters wore dark blue, the staff nurses wore white, the student nurses wore blue stripes and the agency nurses wore green. This was a LARGE hospital, serving several towns in Surrey. I don't know if a smaller hospital would have such an elaborate system

I'm basing this story in London so I figure this system would apply. Thank you! I'll keep all this in mind.

Idea! Why not write to one of the London hospitals?
Not all hospitals would have the same colour scheme - and not all hospitals, I supppose, would employ agency nurses
And institutions are usually proud of their history

There used to be that TV Series 'Angels' on BBC or ITV about nurses. You'd need to check the dates to see if it was on in the '70's or the 80's. This wasn't comedy so I'd think the research would be more accurate.

The only other references I can think of are comedy shows and films where the costumes may or may not be strictly accurate (60's & 70's)...The Doctor films, 'The Carry on' films, the TV series based on the Dr Films with a name like Doctor in the House or Doctor on the Go? (Dr Mainwaring, Dr Stuart Clarke and James Robertson Justice I think was in those too).

Hi I've been writing a personal account of my time in nursing from the 1970s in the UK. You may find some of the info useful for background.




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