The summer of my 7th year, my brother and I were wrestling and he accidently stabbed an ice pick in my side. Having to spend the rest of that day and the night in the hospital, I was able to watch the nursing staff and to remember how they were dressed. The uniforms were a white dress with a white apron that was gathered at the waist. They also wore a white cap.
Webster's dictionary definition of a uniform is: The official or distinct clothes or outfit worn by members of a particular group. Why tell you about Webster's definition? Over the next 18 years I was in hospitals to visit friends and family and for the birth of my own children as well as for two stays myself. In those years from 1959 to 1977, I saw no major changes in the uniforms. But over the next few years, beginning in the 80's, changes began to happen quickly, from the standard white starched uniform dresses to scrubs.
To get a background history on nurses' uniforms, I read many articles and talked to many friends and my spouse about the changes from uniforms to scrubs and paraphrased this information below.
As nursing came into being and they began to work for local health facilities or the cities, nurses began to wear uniforms that were derived from the nun's habit. Later, to show more professionalism, nurses began to wear a servant's uniform, with a white gathered or banded cap and a long print dress with a white apron. In 1860, thanks to Florence Nightingale School for Nurses, the nursing uniform became more standardized world wide. The breast and collar of the dress got more detail. A bib covered the torso and was gathered at the waist with an apron below. But thanks to the World Wars, uniforms became more functional with less importance on appearance. Bulky aprons disappeared and skirts hem lines were shortened for better mobility, while sleeves were shortened or rolled up. This need for functionality and a desire to keep a feminine look produced the most familiar and the most attractive nurse's uniform in history. Nursing uniforms changed little until the 1990's when scrubs begin to appear.