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Off-Duty Dress
(1942 - 1945)

Since the United States entered World War II in 1941, Army nurses have been required to wear the uniform everywhere, with minor exceptions. The so-called off-duty dress thus became a welcome alternative among women to the traditional service uniform of skirt, jacket, and shirt.

The off-duty dress consisted of a loose top fastened with three gilt buttons, a "V" neckline, and a collar to which the insignia was pinned. A caduceus with the letter "N" was worn on the left side of the dress collar, while the officer's cut-out insignia "U.S." was pinned on the right side.

Insignia Off-Duty Dress.jpg

There were two small pockets with flaps on the chest. The back of the dress is decorated with a pleated yoke. Loose sleeves taper to the bottom and are finished with decorative cuffs fastened with cufflinks. It has shoulder loops sewn on, fastened with buttons and edged with piping. The bottom of the dress is shaped like the letter "A". The waist is emphasized by a belt of the same fabric, fastened with a single button.

The dress was allowed to be worn outside working hours and for informal social events. It was a part of the uniform that Army nurses were not automatically issued, but could purchase or have made if they wished.


The first off-duty dress was introduced in April 1942. It was a dark blue dress made of rayon in the same color as the first type of service uniform. The rounded shoulder tabs and sleeve cuffs were finished with maroon piping.

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Dress, Off-Duty, Nurse's (Blue)

First model of the Army Nurse Corps off-duty dress in dark blue color. The dress has maroon shoulder loop piping and sleeve cuff braiding and a belt at the waist. The headwear consists of a garrison cap of the same color.

The dress was worn with beige seamed stockings, black service shoes, and gray or black leather gloves. A blue visored cap or a blue garrison cap with maroon piping may have been worn as headwear. No handbag was officially approved; however, nurses were allowed to wear a privately purchased black leather flat bag with their blue off-duty dress.

Hazel Dill - Blue Off-Duty Dress.jpg
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Cap, Garrison, Nurse’s, Blue

Dark blue garrison cap with maroon piping was initially worn without any insignia. Later, women began to pin the Army Nurse Corps insignia on the left side. The ANC caduceus pin was replaced by a metal rank in 1943.

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Shoes, Nurse’s, Black

Black oxfords are the only shoes approved for the blue service uniform. They have 1 ¾-inch high rubberized heels and leather soles.

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Gloves, Suede, Gray, Women’s

Privately purchased suede gray gloves were worn to complement the blue dress. Alternatively, black leather gloves could be worn with the same uniform.

Oran in wartime was an exotic multinational, multi-cultural city with always new and inter


In the summer of 1942, a different color variant of the dress, beige, was introduced for women serving in desert, tropical and subtropical conditions. For this reason, dresses were made of lightweight fabrics such as rayon or tropical worsted. The cut of the dress remained the same as that of the dark blue dress, the piping on the shoulder loops and sleeve cuff braiding were also maroon. However, on some dresses that were made overseas, these maroon elements may have been missing due to the unavailability of fabric in the proper color.

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Dress, Off-Duty, Nurse's (Beige)

The beige off-duty dress was an alternative uniform for nurses serving in warm climates such as the Pacific, North Africa or southern France. In the photo, the dress is worn in combination with the first pattern service cap.

The beige off-duty dress was worn with beige seamed stockings, white oxfords, white or beige gloves and either a beige service cap or a beige garrison cap with maroon piping.

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Cap, Garrison, Summer, Beige, Nurse’s

(first pattern)

The first pattern of the beige garrison cap had maroon piping which symbolized the U.S. Army Medical Department. A metal rank pin was placed on the left side.

Army nurse in beige off-duty dress.jpg
2nd Lt Evelyn Crew Kelley.jpg
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Cap, Service, Beige, Nurse’s

(first pattern)

The first pattern of the beige service cap intended for members of the Army Nurse Corps was decorated with a bow on the front. Officially, no insignia was worn on this cap, but wartime photographs show that some nurses attached their branch insignia to the front of the cap in order to emphasize their affiliation with the Army Nurse Corps. The cap was designed to be worn with beige uniforms. It was fairly loose and had a wide visor.

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Shoes, Nurse’s, White

White nurse’s shoes are serviceable oxfords with 1 ½-inch heels, rubber lifts and leather soles.

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Gloves, Cotton, Dress, Women’s

White or beige cotton gloves could be worn to complement the beige summer off-duty dress. The photo shows an example of such privately purchased gloves.

In 1944, minor regulation changes were made so that brown oxfords, brown leather gloves, a second pattern beige service and garrison cap, and the officially accepted brown leather handbag could be worn with the beige off-duty dress.

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Cap, Garrison, Summer, Beige, Nurse’s

(revised pattern)

The second pattern of the beige garrison cap is characterized by a different shape. The maroon piping has been replaced by an officer's black and gold braid.

Gloria Sonalio.jpg
1st Lt. Sally B. Cowan, March 1945.jpg
ANC Beige Service Cap (revised pattern).

Cap, Service, Beige, Nurse’s

(revised pattern)

At the end of 1942, the design of the service cap for Army nurses changed. The bow was removed and the United States Coat of Arms was officially approved as the cap device. This new design was available in blue, beige and olive drab to color match all available uniforms.

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Shoes, Service, Women’s, Low

Low women’s service shoes are stylish brown oxfords built for comfort. They have 1 ½-inch heels, rubber lifts and leather soles.

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Gloves, Leather, Dress, Women’s

Brown leather gloves were worn to complement beige off-duty dresses beginning in 1944.

Louise Matchett - Beige Off-Duty Dress.jpg
Leah T. Willis poses outside at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, while on leave
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The rectangular leather handbag for army nurses was introduced in late 1942. It had a detachable shoulder strap and a wallet inside. The color of the leather matched the brown color of the oxford shoes.  The strap could be adjusted for over-the-shoulder wear, shortened for hand carry, or completely removed for under-the-arm wear. The brown handbag was worn with beige and olive drab off-duty dresses.

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Bag, Utility, Nurses’

A leather handbag with pockets and a change purse. The lining is made of cotton poplin, OD in color. The strap can be adjusted for wearing over the shoulder or shortened for carrying in the hand, or can be removed altogether to allow for carrying under the arm

(The bag in the photos comes from the collection of Victoria Pageot)

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The last type was the olive drab off-duty dress, which was introduced in 1943 as part of a unification of uniform colors among men and women serving in the Army. The original intention was to phase out the dark blue uniforms and replace them completely with olive drab. Eventually, however, an exception was made for women serving in the United States. There, both colors of service uniform and off-duty dress: dark blue and olive drab, remained authorized.

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Dress, Off-Duty, Nurse's (Olive Drab)

The third and most popular model of the off-duty dress in olive drab color. In the picture the dress is shown with the second pattern of the service cap in matching color.

The first OD dresses were made of rayon, with the shoulder loop piping and sleeve cuff braiding in the same color as the dress itself. In the autumn of 1944, innovations were made, the dress was made of wool crepe, the shoulder width increased, while the waist width and the size of the pockets decreased. The piping was removed from the shoulder loops and their shape became more pointed. In addition, the officer's braiding was removed from the single sleeve cuffs and they were replaced by double (French) cuffs. The beige version of the off-duty dress underwent the same changes.

The olive drab dress was available in both summer and winter versions, the only difference between them being the thickness of the fabric. Among the dresses you can see the variety of shades, which is due to different periods of production, different manufacturers and the way of washing.

The accessories used were regulated by the same rules as those for the olive drab service uniform. Their specific choice depended on the season, but above all on the instructions of the commanding officer. They included beige seamed stockings, brown oxfords and a brown rectangular handbag. Either an olive drab service cap or an olive drab garrison cap could be chosen as headgear. Plain brown leather gloves could be worn in inclement weather.

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Cap, Garrison, Wool, Women, Officers’

Women's garrison cap in olive drab color. The characteristic curved shape perfectly matched the hairstyles of the time. This headgear was available for nurses from July 1944.

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Cap, Service, Wool, OD, Nurse’s

The cap which can be seen in the photo, was designed by the private New York company Knox Hats and was intended exclusively for nurses serving in the Army.

In September 1945, civilian brown leather pumps were officially authorized for wear with beige and olive drab dresses instead of oxfords.

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Shoes, Service, Women’s, Low

Low women’s service shoes are stylish brown oxfords built for comfort. They have 1 ½-inch heels, rubber lifts and leather soles.

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An example of the brown pumps that Army nurses could wear in their spare time as of September 1945. The women purchased these shoes at their own expense.

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Gloves, Leather, Dress, Women’s

Women's brown leather gloves, made of plain leather, and without any decorative elements, could be worn with olive drab off-duty dresses.

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Stockings, Cotton, Beige, Women’s

A medium weight mercerized lisle stocking. It is full-fashioned with 4 ½-inch garter top and reinforced foot (reproduction).

1945 from Pvt Richard Goodwin from Anoka, MN. He was a baker with the US 3rd Army, 26th Di
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