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How to make a Florence Nightingale costume

Updated August 10, 2017

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is best known for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War and her subsequent reform of the nursing profession in Britain. Nightingale's reforms still have a huge influence on modern nursing, and she is one of the most instantly-recognisable characters of the 19th century. A Florence Nightingale costume creates an immediate response and is easy to make from a few simple pieces of clothing and props.

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Begin with a long dress in a dark colour. Most images of Florence Nightingale show her dressed in black, but contemporary portraits also show her wearing blue, green or even red. The dress should be long, with long sleeves and a high collar.

Put a white apron on over the dress. This practical garment helped to keep Florence Nightingale's clothing clean while working in hospitals, and remains a symbol of nursing into the modern day.

Add a white headscarf, handkerchief or headdress. Formal photos of Nightingale show her wearing a delicate white lace cap, but a simple white headscarf was probably more common in hospital conditions.

Complete the costume with a lantern. The lantern is an important part of the Nightingale image, and should be a simple rectangular or cylindrical metal lantern with a handle at the top.

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Things You'll Need

  • Long dress
  • Apron
  • White handkerchief
  • Lamp

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.

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