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.