As we reflect on the Platinum Jubilee, memories will have been made and evoked. The mention of Norman Hartnell certainly triggered my memory. Knighted for his contribution to the British fashion industry, he was famed for his royal dress designs including the Queen’s wedding dress as Princess Elizabeth and her Coronation robes in 1953.

As well as those dresses for grand entrances, he also designed some early NHS uniforms.

January 1 1969 was our first day of nurse training at the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing.

As we were measured for our uniforms we had no idea that, in the words of Nurse Jenny Lee of her uniform, in an episode of Call the Midwife, “they were designed by Norman Hartnell. They are practically couture!”

We were supplied with five dresses and 12 white aprons and paper hats. Brown shoes, beige tights and a blue/red cape completed the outfit.

First year students wore yellow, for those in second year, blue epaulettes were added. Third and fourth year students wore blue.


Linda Fords first ward, which show the different uniform colours. And the day she qualified, with her long cap

Linda Ford's first ward, which show the different uniform colours. And the day she qualified, with her long cap


There was no escaping our status within the ward hierarchy. It seemed years away that we would, hopefully wear the mauve staff nurse dress with the long linen cap.

We adhered to a strict uniform policy and non-conformance would find the nurse in Matron’s office.

A clean dress and apron was worn every day and laundered on the premises. Hats were changed daily and held on by white Kirby grips. And uniforms were never allowed to be worn outside the hospital premises.


How Amber and Eve think nurses dress

How Amber and Eve think nurses dress


It was always a disappointment to our group that we never got to wear the mauve dress, as the uniform changed to what we called “white overalls!” A poor substitute for the Hartnell design!

Just as uniforms evolve, each nurses unique journey is defined by its time in history and all contribute to the body of nursing knowledge.


WHAT NURSES WEAR: Thea and Jessicas contribution

WHAT NURSES WEAR: Thea and Jessica's contribution


Friends’ and families’ children are always willing participants in my stories. I asked four of them to draw a nurse. It seems this young generation still perceive a nurse as wearing a hat and dress!