Newcastle Uniforms - Construction
from Penny's personal collection.
This page seeks to show the construction of the nursing uniform dress worn by hospital nurses in the NHS Northern Region (including Newcastle and Sunderland, Durham, Hexham and Teesside) from the early 1970's to mid-1990's. Although many nurses in other parts of the UK at that time wore the "National" uniform dress, the Northern Region had their own distinctive design that was worn in all hospitals in the Region. The dresses were mostly made by J&R Parkin Ltd of Halifax. These dresses were made from a quite heavy polyester cotton with a heavy weave. Some dresses worn by nurses in Teesside were made by Florence Roby and were of an identical design but with a slightly lighter material with a finer weave. Grades of nurses were distinguished by the colour of the uniform: white for student nurses, stone for SENs, cornflower blue for SRNs and navy-blue with a white collar for Sisters. In some hospitals in Teesside (e.g. Middlesborough General) a matching petersham ribbon belt was also worn. Some sisters and SRNs in Teesside also wore white elasticated cuffs. The blue of the SRN dress made by Florence Roby was a slighty lighter shade than the J&R Parkin variety.
As can be seen the dress was had a "Peter-Pan" collar, a rear-zip and short sleeves. The front of the dress was made a plain yoke section across the bodice finishing just above the bust. Below the yoke the front of the dress was made from three panels - a front panel with two side panels - all extending into and forming the skirt of the dress. The skirt of the dress flared out in a gentle "A" line. At the bust there were two patch pockets on the side panels coming out of the seam with the centre panel- more easily seen on the bodice photos on this page. The rear of the dress was made from four panels - two side panels and two central panels. All panels extended into, and made up, the skirt. The side panel seam extended to the shoulder (as can be seen in the rear view photographs). A seam continued down from the end of the rear zip into the skirt of the dress. The dress had two internal hip pokets (not shown). The rear zip extended to the top of the back of the dress. As can be seen there was a split in the rear of the Peter Pan collar to accomodate the zip. The split in the collar is not flush with the zip and finishes about 1/2 inch before the zip on each side. There is therefore no fastening between the two sides of the rear of the collar which left the rear of the collar to often stand up from the rear of the dress.
There were no movement pleats in the dress. With the rear zip fully fastened there as no stretch across the back. Combined with a fitted bust and high bodice this made it difficult to stretch upwards or forwards in the dress. Often the zip was left unzipped a few inches when nurses needed to stretch e.g. making beds or moving patients. The wearing of a petersham ribbon belt (where worn) further restricted motion.
The "Newcastle" dress was slowly phased out from the mid-1990's onwards as hospitals moved to their own hospital styles - with the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle leading the way from 1993. White dresses were still worn at some nursing schools in the region until the late 1990's.
Penny, April 2013.