Active and retired nurses, faculty and students served as models at Vancouver Island University (VIU) for a presentation on the evolution of nursing attire Monday.

Members of the British Columbia History of Nursing Society presented a fashion show at Vancouver Island University with the help of VIU faculty and students from both VIU and École Pauline Haarer.


The Nursing Uniform Fashion Show featured attire from a collection of 25 uniforms developed for the British Columbia History of Nursing Society by Sheila Rankin Zerr, adjunct professor of the UBC School of Nursing.

This presentation addressed nursing attire from the 1600s to the present day. Many of the uniforms are authentic and have been worn and donated by nurses who practised in hospital, public health and in military service.

The show also touched on the way that attire worn by nurses throughout the ages reveals a great deal about their struggle for professional status.

“The nursing uniform and cap, from 1870s to 1970s, was a badge of honour that gave nurses a sense of pride in their profession,” said Zerr.

She added that the 1970s brought considerable change in the nursing uniform as nurses sought comfortable attire and institutions were eager to cut back on laundry service.

The nurses cap was discontinued in the 1970s but there were some regrets because caps clearly distinguished nurses among hospital personnel and the origins of their educational programs.

Nurses are mainly attired in serviceable “scrubs” in modern health facilities. Zerr said there is interest among nurses and the public in having the current uniform adapted to once again clearly identify nurses for the patients and the public.

With the help of other volunteer models, members of the B.C. History of Nursing Society give 10 to 12 presentations a year on nursing uniforms and their significance in defining professional status. Zerr and colleague Glennis Zilm will provide historical background during the presentation and the models will give a commentary on the uniform they are wearing.

The VIU History Department and VIU Faculty Association Status of Women Committee hosted the show.

For more information, contact: History professor Cheryl Warsh, 250-753-3245 Local: 2113, [email protected]


Presentations, Uniforms

One Comment

  1. Mrs. _____ Needs a Nurse. (video ) University of Wa. School of Nursing film (forgot that lady's name hence the ____) great video, still relevant . as is Nursing 1942 on Youtube. so many great videos …. so little time. Luvya.

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