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The Nurse Jackie style guide

Image: Showtime

As a costume designer for television, I have to study the psychology and background of the characters. That way I can tell their story with their costumes.

I always have a lot of questions for the writer. When and where does the story take place? What season is it? Where does each character live? What’s their educational background? Are they married, divorced, single? Children? Pets? Any hobbies or interests? What kind of car do they drive?

The more information I have about each character, the easier it is for me to begin designing the look of the show. Even shows such as Nurse Jackie, with most of the actors in uniforms, can be complicated to design. In that case, you have to emphasize the slightest nuance, using a certain style of clothing or jewelry to tell the audience a little more about a character.

I’ve been avidly watching Nurse Jackie on Showtime. There hasn’t been anything on TV like this edgy nurse’s drama. I was a big fan of Edie Falco from The Sopranos, so I knew I would like Nurse Jackie. Yes, the show’s representation of nurses is controversial – like most good dramas, it’s the exaggerated, complicated personalities of the characters that make the show compelling. And from my perspective as a costume designer, the more complicated the characters, the more fun it is to observe the actors and the clothes they wear.

Each character on Nurse Jackie has his or her own style. Falco, as the lead character, Jackie, is an ER nurse in New York City. She’s a veteran straight-shooter whose experience shows in the authority and ease she has at work. Her scrubs and entire wardrobe are the shorthand to her personality. With one look at her, you take in more information than you may realize!

Jackie wears blue scrubs. She favors an empire-style top. Her scrubs have great subtle details that make her stand out from the other nurses—the mock-wrap top, side slits, front pockets and the side bands with buttons are a hip version of the traditional blue scrub top. The blue is a great color on her; it intensifies her beautiful blue eyes. The simplicity of Jackie’s uniform makes her seem reliable, and the simplicity and severity of her look makes it clear she’s not soft and fuzzy. She not harsh, but it’s clear that she’s intense, articulate, smart and caring in her own way.

Jackie’s accessories are minimal. She wears small silver hoops; occasionally, a small drop earring, but nothing fancy. Again, her jewelry is part of her daily uniform. Jackie’s inexpensive white watch has a big white face that reminds her patients of a time when nurses wore all-white uniforms. The watch is stylish, but not distracting. White always looks clean and fresh. Jackie’s staple is her necklace of—who knows—the Virgin Mary? Another patron saint of nursing? We don’t know yet if Jackie is religious. Does she wear it to comfort her patients? Or is it just a necklace her husband gave her as a gift? It keeps one guessing, which is good costuming and good writing.

The few times we see Jackie out on the street, she wears a feminine, light green version of an army jacket. Her tan satchel worn over her shoulder shows us again that she is practical. The bag she carries can even hold socks that she buys on the street for her husband. Jackie’s shoes, a comfortable running/walking sneaker, are practical, too. On the other hand, her infidelity is completely impractical. The on-again/off-again gold wedding band represents her double life. It’s complicated and pulls us in.

Jackie is the rock of the ER. It will be interesting to see her character evolve as the show continues.

There are other nurses in Jackie’s world. Her new assistant, Zoey, wears loose-fitting scrubs. She wears pink bottoms with either a pink floral print or (my favorite) a bunny print top. As soon as we see Zoey, we know she’s emotional, naïve and young. Her scrubs are a great contrast to Jackie’s look, which is fun.

Jackie’s other friend, male nurse Mo-Mo, has his own look. Even with his traditional green scrubs, he looks intense, like Jackie. His close-cropped hair, beard and pierced diamond studs immediately tell us he’s not afraid to be different. But underneath this hard exterior is a vulnerability I hope to see more of in upcoming shows.

All of these nurses on Nurse Jackie have come to the profession for different reasons. We don’t know yet what these are. We see that they all wear scrubs, but from the eyes of a costume designer, this is only the beginning.

Editor’s note: The original version of this article had a reference to the scrubs worn on HawthoRNe (we’re watching all of ‘em!). We removed the reference from the body of the article.

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Katie Sparks

Katie Sparks has been a renowned television show costume designer for 22 years. Her credits include Just Shoot Me and Arrested Development. She received a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild for excellent costume design for Arrested Development. Katie writes, "For the last year and a half, I have been freelance writing for the Palisades Post. I loved the TV business, but writing gives me the flexibility I need to raise my daughter. Writing for the Post has been great, but I haven’t been able to use my expertise in fashion. Writing for Scrubs gives me the opportunity to write and give fashion tips! A perfect combo."
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17 Responses to The Nurse Jackie style guide

  1. “Another one of Jackie’s coworkers wears traditional green scrubs, has a great head of hair and a beautiful smile. We don’t think twice about her. Then a disturbed knife-wielding civilian stabs her in the leg. Surprisingly, there is no pain on her face, no blood. The cute paramedic who has a crush on her sees this and isn’t fazed by her prosthetic leg. Realizing the paramedic’s reaction, the nurse is finally ready to say yes to a date with him. For her evening out, she wears a dress and heels. She doesn’t hide her prosthetic leg. She wears it proudly and looks sexy because of her beauty and confidence.”

    This nurse that you are referring to is Bobbi, from HawthoRNe, not nurse Jackie.

  2. Joe

    I am wondering who the designer of the distressed leather jacket that Eddy Walzer from Nurse Jackie wore??? I am looking for it

  3. Jeff

    I too would love to know some info on the brown leather jacket that Paul Schulze as Eddie Walzer wore in the season finale of Nurse Jackie. Anyone know ? Love the show, am looking forward to season 2 !!

  4. daniel

    The medalion Jackie wears is The Infant of Prague a devotion of St Theresa of Alvina .whose statue by Bernini’ depicts her floating in extacy.

  5. Lisa

    Can you please tell me where to find the brown leather crossbody/messenger Nurse Jackie always wears? Thanks!

  6. Ladona

    Does anyone know where I can buy that leather satchel Nurse Jackie has?

  7. Alocasia

    I just love and want the white blouse that Dr. O’Hara wore at the birthday party last week at Jackie’s house. Anyone have any idea?

  8. Jill M

    I LOVE the watch that Zoey wears. The pink one. Anyone know the brand?

    THANK YOU!
    Jill

  9. natasha

    I would also like to know who the designer of the distressed leather jacket that Eddy Walzer from Nurse Jackie wore??? I am looking for it

  10. Debbie

    Does anyone know where I could get a necklace such as the one Nurse Jackie wears…

  11. Where can I buy a nurse jackie neckless. I had found one in a thrift store but is was made cheaply and rusted out. The neckless is silver and the Virgin Mary is in color. The infant of Prague is a male saint.

  12. steph

    Salut à tous

    Je recherche la veste que nurse jackie porte à la fin de l’épisode 6 saison 1 veste beige courte à capuche elle la porte avec une écharpe en crochet Aidez moi à la trouver

    merci par avance

  13. charlotte yarnall

    i want to know where I can buy nurse jackie’s winter coat, the empire waist parka.

  14. Gail O

    The medal is a color depiction of the Miraculous Medal. It can be bought in various Catholic and Religious Gift shops, including mine, http://osmungifts.com

    • BoltWalt

      I checked your Miraculous Medal and it is not the same as Nurse Jackie’s.

  15. Your name

    the virgin mary? it’s the infant of prague. i found this article while i was googling to see if the watch jackie wears is a Swatch… i guess you’re not catholic if you make an error like that…