How to Make a Vintage Nurse Costume

Nurse's uniform and cap
Nurse's uniform and cap (Image: Illustration by Karen Frisch)

While many modern nurses wear a variety of colors, nurses traditionally wore a prim white uniform with white shoes and a starched white cap. Nurses in the 1900s had a starched, professional look about them. You can sometimes find vintage nurse outfits on display in museums or hospitals. One common uniform was a belted white pinafore over a short-sleeved blue blouse with a white collar. Each nursing school developed its own cap design, so the cap is flexible. Complete the look with a navy blue wool cape and doctor's bag.

Things You'll Need

  • White pinafore
  • Blue blouse
  • White shoes with laces
  • Stockings
  • Navy blue wool cape
  • Doctor's bag with accessories
  • White paper

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Stitch together a white pinafore. Give it a square front with shoulder straps, belted waist and full skirt below the knees as shown in the illustration.

Buy or make a short-sleeved blue blouse with a white collar. Attach white paper bands around the ends of the sleeves for a touch of authenticity.

Make a white nurse's cap. Use stiff cardboard inside the frame of the hat to give the flared front that starched look. Wear your hair pulled back neatly.

Make a navy blue wool cape with a stiff collar. Buy the material or use an old blanket.

Buy a pair of white shoes with laces. Look for a pair of vintage stockings with the seams up the back of the legs. If they aren't available, use White-Out correction fluid to paint a white line up the back of pantyhose.

Find a black bag with a wide bottom that can serve as a doctor's bag. Fill it with accessories, such as a toy stethoscope, thermometer, pill bottle, notepad and pen.

Tips & Warnings

  • Other uniform styles were also popular. One had a long straight skirt, belted waist, and three-quarter length sleeves. Look for white shoes in church thrift shops or used clothing stores. Lining the navy blue cape with silk or polyester gives it a finished look.
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