Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hands on History: WWI Dress Up - A Nurse From the Great War

While I was a Penhurst place the other week they were having a bank holiday weekend special. Hands on History (and here for their facebook group) were visiting for a WWI themed dress up and photo gallery and a bit of paintballing. They had a mix of authentic and replica costumes and naturally since dress up is a passion of mine I decided to have a go.

This was an authentic WWI uniform:

The one that caught my eye was the replica nurses uniform.

My mum, aunt and grandmother are/were nurses so nursing has always been a big part of my family life. So naturally I am drawn to old nurses uniforms. In fact so is my mum, she has a replica blue nurses uniform from the 1940s and she wants me to make a cape for her to go with it.

I couldn't help but be inspired by these women who served in both of the great wars, or in fact any war, it must be such a tough job I can't even imagine. And the uniforms, while designed that way for very specific reasons, they do not look like the most comfortable outfits.

Image Source
So here is me in the uniform. It was about 4 layers (depending on what you count as a layer) and it was made of quite a thick heavy cotton. I didn't have appropriate shoes to wear in this instance but I was reliably told that the nurses would have worn simple lace up black boots, but you'll have to use your imagination on that front.

Layering wise there was the grey dress, the thick cotton apron, the gauntlet sleeves, the removable cuff, the cape, the hair cover and the hat...

As I was thinking that all of those layers must have been inconvenient I realised that they were there for a reason. A really sad reason. These nurses were dealing with so many injured soldiers that they needed elements of this outfit that could be changed quickly. It really did make me think long and hard about nurses in war. Not that their job is any harder than an one else's in the war, but its something that feels a little closer home than others.

I can say from first hand experience that dressing the part really makes you think about history in a new way! I hope that I manage to encounter Hands on History somewhere else in life as I'd really like to do something like this again!


  1. This is so cool! These types of events are always so interesting because it really helps you connect with history.

    1. I completely agree! I find that the same thing is true with science too (my other love). Any way of getting hands on makes it so much more memorable.

  2. What a neat group and initiative, not to mention a wonderful way to make history relevant to new generations.

    1. I know, its amazing, I'm secretly hoping I might be able to arrange to visit their warehouse and look at all their costumes, that would be sooooo amazing!


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