How to Make a Civil War Nurse Costume

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Things You'll Need

  • Long dress with a full skirt

  • White muslin

  • Scissors

  • Hem tape

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Pins

  • Dark socks or stockings

  • Dark shoes or boots

Image Credit: bauhaus1000/DigitalVision Vectors/GettyImages

Creating a Clara Barton Civil War nurse costume for Halloween or a re-enactment can be done with some ingenuity and thrift store treasures. Clara Barton was a famous nurse of the Civil War who is responsible for starting the American Red Cross.


This costume takes very little, if any, sewing and is appropriate for young girls in a addition to adult women. You do not need to spend much on the outfit, especially if you are only going to be wearing it once. If you are planning on participating in Civil War re-enactments, you may want to make or buy a basic period dress for these occasions.


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Create Your Civil War Nurse Dress

Find a long, dark-colored dress with a very full skirt. A long, full skirt and coordinating blouse will also work. The dress should have long sleeves and a high neckline. If you use a skirt and blouse, find a blouse that buttons up the front and has long sleeves with a lot of volume.


Traditionally, dresses worn for working during this time frame were dark in color, which was a requirement for Civil War nurse dresses. To pouf out the skirt, you can wear other skirts or petticoats underneath it, or find a hoop skirt slip.

Make the Bib Apron

Image Credit: StellaMc/iStock/GettyImages

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Make a pin bib apron for your wartime nurse costume. Cut a square of white muslin that covers the chest to the top of the breast area. Cut a larger square that will cover most of the skirt, and a strip of fabric to make the tie for the apron. The tie needs to be long enough to wrap around you and still tie.


Add the Apron to the Dress

Pin the bodice of the apron to the middle of the apron skirt. Use hem tape to join these two pieces together. Using the iron, fuse the hem tape to the bodice of the apron first, according to manufacturer's directions. Fuse a section of hem tape along the top edge of the apron skirt. Then add the apron tie and to join the tie to the apron.


Wear the Dress

Put the costume dress on. Fluff up the skirt to amplify its fullness as much as possible.

Accessorize Your Civil War Outfit

Wear dark stockings and dark shoes or button-up boots. Tie the apron on, then pull up the bib and pin it into place. Don't add any embellishments or jewelry, which nurses were forbidden to wear during this point in history. Hairstyles were expected to be plain, unobtrusive and uncurled.


Image Credit: bauhaus1000/DigitalVision Vectors/GettyImages


You could add a red cross to the bib of the apron so others can more easily see you are a nurse. However, if you are going for authenticity, do not do this. Clara Barton didn't start the Red Cross organization in America until 1881, well after the Civil War. Wear your hair parted in the middle and pulled back into a low bun. Bangs were not worn during the Civil War.



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