The top 5 scrubs fashion blunders

Nursing can be very physical work, from leaning over your patients to take their blood pressure to administering an IV to lifting a patient to a gurney. It’s all part of the job.

No matter what you’re doing at work, looking professional is a necessity. No matter where you work, you’re representing the hospital or medical office. Looking like a competent and qualified nurse is essential.

Here are five tips (with helpful visuals…ahem!) to help you be mindful of fashion blunders!

1. V-Necks Aren’t for Everyone

Are you wearing one of your favorite V-neck scrub tops? They look great on almost everyone—except if you’re very busty. Then your V-neck is putting you in danger of looking like the cover of a pulp fiction novel.

The same V-neck scrub can cause havoc with you male nurses. Let me put it bluntly: If you have a hairy chest and your chest hair shows with your V-neck scrub, choose another style. Whether it’s cleavage or chest hair, no one wants to see it. Save the V-necks for after work.

2. Stained Scrubs is a Big Flub

Working with patients means your scrubs can get splashed with anything from food to chemicals to blood. There’s no getting around it. Yes, great cleaning products can get most stains out, but they’re not perfect. Some stains are just too stubborn. Take a good look: Do you see stains on your scrubs that you think no one else will notice? Think again. When you’re bent over a patient (with your cleavage covered), that’s all they’re gazing at. Your stained scrubs. And not only do stains look unprofessional, but they also appear unhygienic. This is a look that should never be associated with the medical profession.

3. Too Tight is Never Right

Have you gained some weight? Do you think only you see that your scrubs are getting tight around the middle and thighs? Wearing tight clothes is uncomfortable for anyone, especially if you’re active and on your feet during most of your workday. Furthermore, wearing tight clothing doesn’t make a good impression. No one wants to see your pants split open with one unfortunate move. It’s time to get a looser-fitting pair of scrubs.

Speaking of weight, some people who have gained a bit extra around their middle can find themselves in an awkward situation: do you wear them high or low? To ‘solve’ the problem of the expanded middle, you commit one of the scrubs fashion blunders by wearing your pants above the waist or below it. Not good! It’s time to shop for a bigger size whilst you work off the extra pounds. You can affectionately call them your ‘holiday’ scrubs.

4. Scrubs Shouldn’t Peek-a-Boo

This brings us to the subject of butt cracks and “whale tails.” No one, and I mean no one, wants to know what kind of underwear you have on in a work environment, even if they’re the pink lacy kind.

It’s way too much information and totally unprofessional.

If you wear your pants below the waist, you’ll inevitably end up with them slipping down, setting yourself up for a view that nobody wants to see. The hem of your pants will drag on the floor and become nothing but a dust mop. Don’t let your low-riding scrubs stand in your way of looking like a trained expert.

5. Low Marks for High Waters

If you’re the type who wears your pants too high, you not only risk having high waters and looking nerdy, but also end up having the reverse problem of the butt crack. It’s not pretty. You don’t want your scrubs to look like someone just gave you a wedgie. It’s unflattering.

So remember, first impressions do count. Often you’ll be the first person who will have contact with a patient, and the patient will want to feel that he or she is in the hands of a skilled professional. And I admit I was a bit harsh here, but I believe that honesty is the best policy. The question is, how are you going to anonymously forward this article to the nurse on your team who is the real “don’t” in the group? :-)



[Editor’s note: Katie Sparks is actually a very nice person, but you can count on her to tell it like it is! Even when you’re not in scrubs but wearing, say, a really dumb outfit, she’ll save you from yourself. Really, we know from experience.]

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Want scrubs like these? Find a retailer near you!

Katie Sparks

Katie Sparks has been a renowned television show costume designer for more than 20 years. She received a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild for excellent costume design for Arrested Development. When she's not dressing movie stars, she loves to write, and says, "Writing for Scrubs gives me the opportunity to write and give fashion tips! A perfect combo."

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70 Responses to The top 5 scrubs fashion blunders

  1. I love this article. There is a girl in my class who is a 14 but she wears a medium top.

  2. Lorilo

    Just because you can get it on , doesn’t mean it fits,,,,I see it ALL the time, not sure how people can work with their clothes that tight!!!

  3. Shawnee

    I think this article needs to be made a part of every hospital employee handbook! Great tips!

  4. Crystal

    This is so true! Also, people should be cautious when wearing white scrub pants…..I once worked with a nurse who wore polka-dotted thongs under white scrub pants.

  5. shenetha thomas

    i so agree with this article!! i hate to see nurses with too little scrubs on. that is so not cute!

  6. Stephanie

    Help for the cleavage issue…

    I wear a camisol or tanktop under my scrub top. One that is higher on the chest (not a low-cut or v-neck). Also, another way is to wear a thinner, crewneck shirt underneath (great for guys with hairy chests)

  7. Wanda

    I worked with a male nurse whose rotund, hairy belly showed below the hem of his scrub top … still having nightmares!

  8. Marie

    Her points are valid, but has she noticed the great majority of scrub tops are V shaped only? The current trend for the “empire waist” (belted or tied or elastic right under the bust line) looks good ONLY on young, fit, thin people. If you’re older, or busty, you’ll be asked when your due date is. Yet, all the big scrub brands follow this trend/fad…..

    I want more in the way of regular tops, perhaps with some differing type neck shapes. I like mock wraps without the tie, obviously, but they run tight and you have to buy up, usually. I’m also short, which limits me, too. Very few if any “petite” tops, and I do agree that a petite or short person, is short all over, and the clothes should be made to reflect that by the major scrub makers. I wear mostly Cherokee workwear, as it wears well, forever, does NOT need ironing, if you take it out of a dyer immediately, and they have petite/ short pants….but not tops.

    For men (or women) with underarm hair, a tee shirt is required in the OR, due to what is called scruff or body hair flaking around. Same with chest hair on men. A tee shirt under a scrub top, great in the OR for warmth, and also does away with V neck/ bodice problem. However, where I work now, is too warm for tee shirt under the scrubs, even in winter.

  9. Kat Jensen

    I truly appreciate these articles. With being a new nurse myself its wonderful to learn the important things from the vets. Thank you.

  10. Lyric

    Good for you, YES, PLEASE be bluntly honest.

    I start new “career” in ED on Monday so I am perusing the Net for such articles as these. I may be at work, but I can certainly be:

    Stylish; AND,
    way cute

    with my grandmother self.

    Thanks for this!

  11. Laura Borud

    I’m not sure if this is allowed but about wearing white scrub pants, Koi pants are thick enough that I have not had ANY color of underwear show through. Believe me my CNA’s would let me know! You may still want to reconsider prints and thongs.

  12. carol

    oh, yes, i agree with stephanie…i always wear a tank or camisole under my scrub top or any top that may compromise my modestly/make a patient uncomfortable. i think this is a simple thing and right thing to do. if nothing else, these items tend to help us stay cooler anyway, in a busy environment! I can think of all sorts of things patients could complain about (i.e.; long wait times at the clinic, etc..), but my professional appearance should not be one of them.

  13. Dianne Rhinesmith

    Good grief in the 14yrs I’ve been nursing my pet peeves are: Nurses with breast implants wearing tight knit shirts, “to show them off”, guys without tee shirts with all kinds of hair sticking out, yuck, those stupid G-string panties under to tight pants, push up bras with low neckline shirts. People your at work not dancing a pole. Be more professional please.

  14. Lisa

    Nothing makes me as nauseated as watching my cna’s transfering a pt and you could actually see the hair on their behind. I mean who wants to see that. I would rather go topless than everyone see my butt crack. We have a no crack policy where I work

  15. Cynthia

    You missed a big one, Katie. Every day I see nurses coming on the floor with scrubs that look like they slept in them. You don’t have to iron them, but please hang them up while they’re warm!!! You look like you might be homeless!

  16. OneDave

    Having worked in and around hospitals for quite a while, I concluded long ago that female nurses who wear low-cut tops, see through materials, low-slung pants, etc., etc. know EXACTLY what they are doing. Trying to attract a mate…

  17. nursehemi

    You Guys Looked ! You should be ashamed

  18. nursehemi

    That is why I got into nursing to see some of these talked about here in this forum

  19. Kathryn

    So disgusting! Makes me want to gag seeing that nasty thong go up in her smelly ass!

  20. Gina

    My mom was a nurse too and always taught me to wear beige or tan underwear under white pants or skirts … you always match to your skin tone when wearing white! White underpants or bras under white clothes looks so awful, you might as well wear them on the outside of your uniform, and it’s all anyone notices when they see you! If you wear bright color or surgical blue, you’re fine with colored underthings, but please if you wear white, get beige or brown bras and panties, depending on your skin tone!

  21. Tes

    How do you remove permanent marker stains on uniform? Someone should invent one.

  22. Kimberlee

    UGH!! I worked with a new hire Tiffany that was “snug” in a size 18 but wore size 12 pants, she always wore a thong even though her scrub bottoms wouldn’t cover her hips, let alone her bum!! NO ONE wants to see that during a code or trauma in the ED……ick

  23. gayle

    being a nurse for fifty years and still working some, I am amazed at the uniforms they have now. somehow tweety bird on your pants and shirts do not get it for me unless you are in peds. then maybe. and the tanks under the lab coat with pushup bra is another no. now I do not advocate the white hose white uniform and cap that I had to wear for years, but clean shoes clean unifroms pressed I might add, and please don’t make them look like p.j.s/

  24. Billie

    Tes, you can remove permanent marker stains on anything with a product called “Goof Off”. It is amazing!

  25. Pat Jankowski

    Nice thread with helpful topics, funny too! I have seen some butt cracks in my time…most notably when people are trying to get meds from those med drawers that are very low on the med cart!

  26. ginger

    How come there isn’t a button for “Don’t like”?

  27. willa martin

    I’ve walked in all nurse’s shoes from Cna, Lpn, RN,supervisor,D.O.N.and even home health.My belief and practice is number one go to work clean everyday and i mean body clean with out any smell other then the good old Ban,Scrubs clean and that fit.No showing of boobs or buns.Shoes should always be white and clean. Nothing looks any worse then to see a nurse come into work looking like they slept in the scrubs the night before,and by all means have clean hair and teeth.After all what do we want to see walk into our room if we were the patient?

  28. I”ve been in nursing for over 20 years. New young nurses dont always realize that they can”t show their thongs; cleavage, bulging flesh, etc .Or that they need to look neat and clean. Do they not teach this in nursing school anymore? If you try to point this out to them, they laugh it off. Ultimately, it is up to their manager to discuss this with them. I wish they would!

  29. CecilB

    I totally agree with dressing professionally at all times. Since I tend to be warm most of the time, I cut off the sleeves of a lightweight t-shirt and ALWAYS wear that under my scrubs, hospital-issued and my own. Re: thongs, I basically think they are disgusting as well as unsanitary. I don’t care about lines…if my lines are visible, great, I want people to know that I am, indeed, wearing decent underwear at work or in public!

  30. Mike Tinsley

    From a patients standpoint, and as a husband of a critical care RN, only # 2 & 5 are objectionable. The rest stimulate patient recovery !

  31. yoshiki56

    Call me old, call me ” big turn off”. I go for granny panty under my light color uniform. There will be no line to show, no area to cut and definitely stay on no matter what.

  32. misschris

    I work in a correctional environment and learned very early on the do’s and do not’s! I do wear thongs under my scrubs bc no matter how loose scrub pants are there still can be a panty line and working with teenage boys they will def. notice! However my scrubs are loose, not falling off loose to where you can see straight down my top, but loose enough so that my figure is not an issue

  33. Shalana

    I have tried many, many uniform brands. By far the most comfortable and best-fitting are Greys Anatomy. They are cute, the material is soft, the shirts are long enough, and the pants are not low waisted.

  34. Mel

    So ditto to most mentioned but what about too big scrubs? You know the new nurse, who doesnt realize that a medium/small person does not wear a medium/large scrub top (in most brands that is!). I see a lot of new nurses at my hospital with HUGE baggy tops, and it looks like pajamas! Most uniforms businesses have dressing rooms, do use them as some brands are different sized than others!

  35. Amy

    I dislike the fact people dont take the time to iron their scrubs. The wringkle afect is not professional and it drives me crazy.It really dosen’t take that much time, and starch is 99 cent at the dollor store.

  36. JNURSE

    Sorry….as a male, seeing little booties/whale-tales is a perk. If you don’t want me to look, then don’t stick your ass in my face.

  37. Rita

    I work as a CNA in a nursing and rehab facility. We are allowed to wear any color scrubs and prints in all styles. I am very old school as my first CNA position many years ago, we had a drill sargent charge nurse. I am so very grateful to her as she had influenced me to what I am today. I would not dream of walking on the floor, in anything but professional, pressed, properly fitting clean scrubs with WHITE Clean shoes. Clean pulled back hair and NAILS! My residents always comment on how professional and cute my scrubs are. They like the bright colors as they say are not institutional. They feel more at home. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, would I want to see someone like me,coming at yourself to provide very person care?
    Be proud of yourself if you can answer yes to this question!

  38. prsrn

    Another thing that was not addressed. Make sure your pants are not too long. Get out the needle and thread and hem them appropriately. It’s disgusting to see nurses walking around with 3 or 4 inches of material dragging on the ground. Imagine what you are carrying home to your family.

  39. Heather

    I have seen some of all of these examples. The worst part is, most of it was in nursing school. I am short and plump, and it’s hard to find things that fit my size, but I do what I have to do to not look ridiculous. #1 I have body length mirrors in both bathrooms, and am not afraid to use them. My mom and aunts are nurses, and I have seen people wearing scrubs most of my life. My mother actually kept an emergency pair of scrubs in her car just in case. Come on people, nursing is a profession to be proud of, you don’t go through nursing school (which was no walk in the park) to become a bumb.

  40. anita

    We had a woman back in the 90s who would wear white, see through tight scrubs in the ER. You could clearly see her underwear and just about anything else- that was her agenda. I guess she figured she had to be a “turnon” to the cardiac patient. Sadly it was more of a joke than anything else.

  41. Ellen Algava

    For the cleavage, don’t wear a scrub top too big. I had to do that one time, and my ID clip barely covered. In the OR, you cannot wear sweaters under your scrub top. For the bottom, if you have trouble bending down to pick things up, or sitting after you hike up the legs(yeah, circulators do sit down during cases, and everyone during a hand case), it’s too tight. Size is nuthin’ but a number; you can be one size in one brand, and two sizes larger or smaller in another.

  42. Great article. Wish the uniform shops carried more talls, or longs. Seems like the only way to get the pants long enough is to buy mens, or the few very plain to ugly selections that come in talls. Tall women like cute pants too. Please someone make cute pants for us tall girls. Thank-you.

  43. Your name

    I see the “whale tale” everyday at school and its gross ladies can we cover up please no one wants or cares about your business!! Tie the draw string!!

  44. GJJohnson

    In answer to the question about what students are taught: I have been teaching nursing clinicals for more than 10 years. No matter how strongly we emphasize professional appearance to students, once they graduate it all disappears. It doesn’t help that the nurses the students see are not following common sense let alone a dress code. People need to realize that not only are patients and the community seeing them, so are the future nurses.

  45. Tamara Crooke

    It am a hospice nurse and my patients like to see us in pretty scrubs(I have WAY too many) but I enjoy wearing them and looking nice for my patients. They deserve that. NO NO NO thongs for me. I’d be pulling them out of my crack all day!! And, by ALL MEANS, PLEEEEZE iron your scrubs. You will look so much more professional and feel better about yourself,knowing that you look nice and not like some drunk alley bum!!! Have a good day and God bless you all.

  46. Latina

    No white underwear under white scrub pants and this goes for all ethnicities but especially for my darker skinned people. White undies on dark skin under white pants sticks out like a sore thumb. Dark brown panties are available; I should know because I wear them and nary a panty line or undergarment goes seen.

  47. Wendy

    I work with a gal who has had breast implants and wears a VERY tight scrub top. We work in the Dental field and sometimes our patients faces are right there with the girls! It’s no wonder she gates flowers EVERY week from different male patients!

    • Niamh

      I have a friend who’s a dental hygienist and I can’t believe how tight she wears her scrubs. She has a fab figure but to go to work wearing something that’s almost sprayed on head to toe I don’t think is right. She thinks its hilarious and says she gets lots of compliments but seriously, she can hardly move! She says she always buys 3 sizes too small. Ouch!

  48. Kem

    Does anyone know why scrub makers insist on making small scrub tops so short. I am slender on the top and would prefer a fitted top, but I have a long torso. So it’s either look like I’m wearing a sack or have a top that is too short. Does anyone have any suggestions? Oh, and to make matters worse my facility requires eggplant color scrubs only, very limited choices.

  49. sandi

    ok great topic! I have seen so many of these fashion fas pauxs in my career! One of the best was the new nurse who was young but not that young (about 30) who thought not only was it a good idea to wear tight t-shirts but scrub pants worn very low and then fold down the waist for even more effect! And had thongs on and a very large tattoo! When talked to she couldnt understand why that was inappropriate. Now shes a nurse practitioner… scares me sometimes..

  50. Vicki

    Well…I’m not so young and I’m not saying we should go back to what RNs used to wear. But I do talk to my patients. They don’t like our uniforms. They think the RN (and the MD) should not look like the CNA, dietary aide or housekeeper. They like us in white!
    So I wear colored scrub bottoms, but wear a plain white crew-neck t-shirt under a white lab coat and white shoes. If I wear any colors on top, I make sure my lab coat stays on. The last patient who told me this said once she had spoken extensively with the CNA and was upset to find out it wasn’t the RN because she shared things the CNA didn’t need to know.
    Many times, walking past a room, patients will call out to me “Doctor, can you come here a minute!” and I’m just an RN. The doctors are even worse according to them! They want ties, lab coats, etc on them even more, instead of looking like they jumped out of bed to see you before heading to the gym!

  51. Lorraine

    The best scrubs for the $$ are SCRUBS from 3 pocket tops to keep all the stuff and they last 4 ever!!!

  52. Danielle

    Of course we do more laundry…. I wash my scrubs separate from my daily clothes. I don’t want anything I may bring home from work on anything else.

  53. Steven

    I’ve seen this view before!!! Please leave it to the imagination!

  54. What’s your favorite color? white or do you prefer prints?

  55. I have been a RN for over 40 years and I am annoyed that nurses don’t wear white much anymore, plus the fact everyone from the delivery boy to the MD’s wear scrubs. There’s a good reason why we worn uniforms in the first place…to look professional. scrubs were only worn in the OR and the NICU/newborn nursery…because you put them on once you got to work to keep germs out of the workplace. it’s hard for patients to know who’s who in the hospital, including me! I actually liked wearing my white uniform…I worked darn hard to get it.

  56. Gavkeij

    As RN we should set professional standards in everything we do. Our patients get an impression by the way we look,and conduct ourselves. I really believe we should wear scrubs that are not too tight so that we can do our jobs properly. Also that what we wear should compliment our figures. We should not give the impression that we are immoral or available sexually. After all, we are not there to sexually harass our patients.Hospitals should have dress codes that gives a corporate image even if we work in areas that requires us to wear scrubs for practical reasons.
    I do agree with the previous writer who stated that RN should not look like the CNA’s. Wear a lab coat be professional, look professional please, we owe it to our clients. Uplift the profession.

  57. Nick Nakatack

    I like to wear nothing at all under my scubs! I sometimes bump my junk on other nurses… such fun!

  58. Rene Neville

    OK. So I am going to show my AGE and EXPERIENCE now. ‘Letting it all hang out’ was a song from the last century! NOT a fashion statement! I do not WANT to see your ‘sisters’ (real or fake), your butt crack, purple undies, chest/belly hair, etc.whether I am a colleague or your patient.
    Honestly, do we NEED to go back to all white from head to toe, hair above the collar, Clinic shoes and ‘inspection’ before being ‘fit for duty?’
    Because, people SHED. Skin cells, hair, funk, etc.
    Want to be taken seriously? Look the look!

  59. Matt M

    We are not “in tha club”.we are pros who need to look and act like it.As a patient,I do not want to be addressed as “bud”,”guy”,especially no “dude”!look like pro and act like a pro.

  60. Nothing worse than seeing one of my Cenas or Nurses in scrub pants so tight and small that I can see the cracks of their butts or am able to tell you what kind of panties they wear. How unprofessional can you get…really. I wonder what they are looking at when they see themselves in the mirror before they leave the house.

  61. JN

    My pet peeve is nurses and CNA’s that wear scrubs so much too long that they are walking on the bottom-don’t they know what they bring home on that? Yuck-

  62. Kim

    First off, I’d like to address the “MY CNA/PCT and NURSES” crap. Stop it, you did not own us nor do we belong to you; you just happen to dictate and supervise for the organization/institution that we are both employed by. As for the scrubs, as a PCT, I am enjoying the individuality of wearing different colors/prints as a means of expression (some of us happen to LOVE what we do and what’s going on around us), but appearance is necessary for professionalism: clean, pressed and well fitting is a must! What is failed to be mention with the distinguishing of the RN and the PCT, BEFORE entering into an interaction with the patient, “name, title and relationship to function” should be stated before any care/procedure is done as so to not confused or disrupt patient care. They may not remember your name or face, but I also know that patients DO NOT remember scrub colors either, so its really up to us to cue them in on what’s going on as it should be at any time.

  63. Destiny

    Yeah yeah floods look bad but after my first day on the floor as a new grad I can tell you why you don’t want pants a little extra long. A patient calls me that she had an accident. I go running in as I notice fluid running under her door. She was experiencing urinary retention post surgery and her bladder finally ‘let go’. As I splashed into the room finding urine running from the bedroom & bathroom out to the hall: my pants, shoes and parts of my socks were soaked, anyone with really long pants would have been mopping the floor with their fashion forward wardrobe.

  64. Charise

    I like the bottoms that cover the shoes (you know, the ones with the slits at the bottom) but not dragging the floor; but I have to get a Medium-Tall in the Cherokee to achieve this. The problem is…what the heck is with the drawstring front and elastic back??!!??!! Do they not realize that tying it tight enough is pointles bc it just streeetches in the back and you end up showing your crack if you bend???? On top of that I’m muslim and there are no long-sleeve, above-the-knee length, tunic-style scrub tops for modesty! So I end up wearing those colored lab jackets with a safety pin in every-other button space (I am NOT adding a t-shirt underneath, I’m already warm as it is).

  65. AaronLPN LPN

    I was flashed by a co-worker the other day. I really don’t need to know she wears a black lacy thong. Considering who it was, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I might just print this articleout and post it at work.

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  67. Joslyn h

    Any suggestions, I currently work in as a nurse, the place I work supplies our uniform which is either a mock wrap vneck or standard vneck scrub. My problem is that we are not allowed to wear any shirts under or over our scrubs, and our scrubs have deep vnecks. While they are comfortable, they make me nervous wearing for long periods of time.

  68. Pats

    Women showing a little thong in workplace or wherever is such a non issue! It’s actually attractive, at least according to every guy I have ever known. Men like it and for most part other women hate it. Not sure why as its only underwear showing. U visit beaches and beach areas in Europe and thongs in public is common. People need to relax about this

  69. busynurse1130

    Don’t forget pants too long and dragging on the ground while being walked on and often ripped. ARGH