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Professor Jill Carey Gives Annual Arnow Lecture on History of Nursing Uniforms

May 8, 2013

JillCarey, Joan Weiler Arnow '49 Professor and Associate Professor of Fashion, presented her research on Associations between Historic Nursing Uniforms and Prevailing Fashion Modes for the 2013 Arnow Professor Lecture on May 8.

Carey conducted the research along with a group of fashion design, communications and merchandising students to also produce an exhibit of historic nursing uniforms now on display at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Carey's research centered on the symbolic evolution of standardized nursing attire as a means of exploring the rise and fall of uniform culture including varied perceptions of women within the fashion arena.

"Uniforms are a mark of female progress," said Carey during her lecture.

Carey explained that the evolution of nurses' uniforms can be used as a lens through which to discover connections between female identity and societal dress codes.

The lecture began with the formative stage of the healing arts, when non-secular women wore traditional religious attire in the 17th century that provided an acceptable barrier between caretaker and patient.

She went on to say that nursing attire paralleled society's progression through industrialization toward modernity. These uniforms advanced into a means of classifying educational level, status, and professional association.

Carey also outline the contributions of important historical figures such as Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, and Mary Seacole who provided a platform for women who were taking an increasing role in the evolving field of health care.


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