"THE WHITE DRESS"
(Original article dated 13/3/2002 - thanks to Graeme for finding it)
In this week's New Yorker in the department called Annals of Style, the question of "What should nurses wear?" is addressed.
"As anyone who has been in a hospital in recent years knows, the white dress, which was for decades the emblem of a registered nurse, has all but disappeared. These days, R.N.'s wear "scrubs" (which have) become the standard hospital attire for nurses, orderlies, technicians, and maintenance personnel alike, patients have no easy way of knowing when the person putting in the I.V. is a nurse, a nurse's assistant, or a groundskeeper."
You would be shocked to find out how few nurses are available in hospitals today. It is a calculated move on behalf of the powers that be to dress every category of employee in similar attire so that it is not obvious to the casual observer that most of the "caregivers" are unlicensed, unskilled, and uneducated.
"Putting everyone in scrubs makes it possible for hospitals to hide the fact that there aren't many nurses on the floor. People who wear uniforms work for people who don't."
"Why did nurses stop wearing the white dress? During the nineteen sixties, an era that was hard on uniforms in general, feminists began to read its whiteness as a sign not of power but of diminishment ... some nurses started to see the white uniform as a symbol of the angelic, demure, dependent woman - not the tough, resourceful professional."
Why indeed did we stop? The uniform was the visible symbol of our office. The uniform alone commanded respect and gave authority to what we said and did. It lent weight and importance to the instructions we gave and the tasks we performed. There were times when your entrance into the room could stop all conversation. Everything could wait to be said until the nurse was finished with her important work.
The act of preparing to go to work - putting on the uniform, complete with white support hose and flat, sturdy shoes, was like preparing for a role. There were standards of conduct and it was understood that you were now not just a person doing a job - you were an icon. A professional nurse. The nurse's cap was a unique design that indicated which nursing school you attended. The black stripe was a symbol of mourning for Florence Nightingale. The cap is now an artifact. It no longer exists.
"Around the same time as hemlines went above the knees and nurses' dresses got sexier, the naughty nurse - that authoritative yet submissive female - began to appear in Playboy cartoons, among other places. As the actual uniform has vanished from hospitals, this fantasy nurse seems to have grown in the collective id; she is a fixture of countless randy postcard displays in magazine stores everywhere."
It's true - I have to admit that the only place the uniform exists today is Halloween costumes, porno flicks and 'Hee Haw' reruns.
I am an R.N ...a Real Nurse.