Lately I have been reading about the ‘uniform’ and how it has shaped social differentiation among classes in culture during the Industrial Revolution and into the Modern era of mid-nineteenth century Europe and North America. Diana Crane mentions in her book called Fashion and its Social Agendas that the uniform delivered the ability to distinguish occupations among the working classes such as that of the public servant, clothing of the factory labourer and that of the servant in upper class homes. Wearing the uniform is a form of social control. This subject is complex and wide in scope but for this blog entry I am sharing some clothing connections I have made with regards to the medical profession. I am in the process of creating my own designs of a Victorian Sci-Fi physician for the Florence Biennale and in my research I stumbled upon several images regarding the attire of a nurse. Haute couture designers are famous for culling ideas from other regions of culture. In this case I am sharing today, they have implemented designs from the medical industry which consequently blurs those boundaries of occupation with regular attire in the effort to democratize fashion. Let’s glimpse through the following images together…
The first image is of a help advertisement asking for Red Cross medical aids during WW2. The figure in the centre is essentially wearing a white apron and a cap with veil draping behind her head. This garment refers to the monastic scapular of the Christian order and is similar to the Nun’s habit. Nuns were known to take care of the sick or the injured hence the similar uniform however, their garments changed design after the 1940’s.
HELP THE RED CROSS
This is by Herman Roeg. A Soviet-like World War I-era poster from the Red Cross. (1917)The RED CROSS asks for help during the First World War. A poignant image projecting the mission that was needed at the time. The attire of the nurse still reflects the nun’s habit.
Above is a WW1 red cross nurse outfit. Prada Black suits below embody the uniform from the military medical world of both World Wars.
Prada Black Suits
WW1 nurse aids in full outdoor attire carrying the wounded to local hospitals off the battle fields.
This is an acrylic painting done by contemporary artist Richard Prince who did a series of works on the ‘nurse’ from around 2002-2008 (still finding dates on them). Projecting nurse imagery from pulp fiction novels into his computer which then get transfered via inkjet printers onto canvas, he explores the dark and racy side of the nurse stereotype.
A sailor grabs a nurse spontaneously and kisses her in Times Square celebrating the end of the WW2. The nurse uniform at this time changed to include more whites. What a fantastic moment of love!
U.S ARMY NURSE CORPS 1942 wearing Whites and masks during a military gas/smoke drill on the fields. In white they are visible on the battle ground and clean while fulfilling their duties.
Avant- garde fashion designer Pierre Cardin version of whites, 1970 hmmm…extra-ordinary for the operating room shall we say? Form presides over function obviously.
- The Budget Uniform Center. The Styling Peggy in 1955.
Below MArc Jacobs’s nurse attire: translucent white plastic lab coats with black lace masks for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2008 ready to wear collection. He too expressing the naughtier edge of the medical profession. Navy/ nurse headwear combo’s and Richard Prince texted bags as le ‘mode’ on the runway.
Prada examines the medical ‘scrub’ and implements this in her male and female collections Spring 2011.
Designers often catalyze standards of dress to change. Maybe one day nurses and doctors will come out in slimmer skirts, full scrub dresses and shorts. To me the point for Prada is that it is more fun blurring differentiation between regular attire and the medical uniform, where distinct edges are less visible and diminish categorical referencing that fashion be relegated to strict code. To put it the other way around as can be seen here with PRADA’s green and black stripe (middle) regular attire can include, liberate, adopt and fuse with conventions that spring from garments within the medical practice.