Friday, March 13, 2015

Artifact Spotlight: School of Nursing uniform cape

We have so many intriguing, illuminating artifacts in our collections, but there is a special place reserved in my vintage-loving heart for textiles. We recently had occasion to photograph several of our favorite nurse uniforms, including this incredible blue wool c. 1940s University of Oregon School of Nursing cape from the School of Nursing Archives collection. When we pulled the piece out for its fashion photography shoot debut, I was first struck by its excellent condition and sensory appeal: The smooth blue wool, the soft crimson lining, and the sturdy, simple closures all complement one another and make quite an impression on the handler. 
Clean, elegant lines in this School of Nursing cape
Ta-da! This lining is in great shape and makes quite a sartorial smash, wouldn't you say?
 Upon placing the cape on a dress form for display, I was further compelled by its combination of style and practicality: Details like the "U.O. S.N." embroidery on the collar, the elegant tailoring, and the interior pocket lined with the same deep red lend the cape a flair beyond the normal associations with "student uniform," while the employment of insulating, naturally water-repellent wool and an additional closure near the knee really make the garment quite sensible for winter weather!
Collar detail: "U.O. S.N." stands for University of Oregon School of Nursing

You can imagine my delight when I spotted these very similar capes in an illustration from an Oregon State Board of Higher Education leaflet form 1948! Even better, the image depicts School of Nursing students reading fireside in a lounge in the Old Library, where the cape is currently on display our History of Medicine room! (More information about this illustration is available in OHSU Digital Collections)
Students in School of Nursing uniforms, Oregon State Board of Higher Education leaflet illustration, 1948
 I was so excited to see the capes in action that I just had to share it to our new Twitter account, where you can now follow along with even more of our HC&A adventures.
Have more questions about the SON cape, or want to see more artifacts like this? Email or tweet us! hcaref@ohsu.edu | @OHSUHistColl

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