Sunday, March 22, 2015

Caped Crusaders

OK all you whippersnappern's gather around the oldfoolrn's  Hoveround to hear a tale about Nightingale inspired capes that I once wore to a bloodletting procedure.

All that is one big lie. Nursing capes were before my time. They were phased out at our school in the early 1960's. We did have a large display of capes in our school library and we even had one available to try on. I thought that this garment really had a lot of utility. It was navy blue wool with a smooth as silk red lining and very warm. If you were in a hurry, you could run and it would stay in place. It could be worn a number of different ways-pulled all the way around for maximum warmth, open in the front or draped over a shoulder.  I can easily see why it was the garment of choice for Florence Nightingale.

Graduating classes just a few years ahead of me had their senior portraits taken with their capes. A very nice look with the dark cape contrasting with the white uniform and cap. A classic Cherry Ames nursing look. By the way, "Cherry" was a nickname, her real name was Charity. My favorite was Cherry Ames - Senior Nurse which was an inspirational classic.

Capes also gave the nurse a sense of presence. A couple of our instructors wore capes to impress upon us the seriousness of being a nurse. It did really make an impression. You cannot get away with much foolishness when someone wears a cape.

There were some really beautiful designs. There was usually the school's insignia or pin embroidered on the collar. Bellvue  Hospital had the school pin design on their capes. It consisted of a crane representing vigilance surrounded by a wreath of poppy plants (opium's source) signifying comfort. A ring encircled this for continuity. A very impressive garment.

I know that nursing caps will never make a comeback because they lack function. I think capes could be resurrected for use by todays whippersnappern's. I think they would serve to dress up the ubiquitous scrubs that everyone wears today. Capes  really do keep you warm and toasty.


  1. Just encountered your blog. Very interesting, as I, too, am an almost ancient diploma grad from NJ in 1966. Retired from the OR in 2010. We had capes when I was in nursing school. Lovely, long gray wool with scarlet lining. I still have mine. My son used to wear it for Halloween when he went out as a vampire.
    Also, we used to mention Cherry Ames quite often in nursing school, as in "Cherry Ames never had to do this!!"

  2. We dressed Mrs. Chase in a cape for an April Fool's prank and our instructors were not amused. We also had a son about Cherry Ames. The only lines that I can remember were; "Came here to get my pin...All I do is live in sin" and the there was a refrain about Cherry that kept repeating itself. Thanks so much for your comment.