How to Wear Scrubs Fashionably in Every Season [A Practical Guide]
Just because you have to wear scrubs as a uniform doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable.
In fact, a good set of medical scrubs shouldn’t be the baggy pillowcase most hospital scrubs feel like. Too baggy and they’ll end up being uncomfortable or hindering movement on the job.
Today, we’ll talk about just how to wear scrubs to dress up fashionably through the seasons, going over:
- How to choose scrubs that are flattering (for both men and women)
- How scrub fabrics affect style
- How to wear scrubs tucked in or layered
- How to accessorise with scrubs
Let’s get to it!
Why Do Nurses Wear Scrubs?
Besides being an easy way for patients to identify healthcare workers, scrubs are simply practical. The designs are usually simple and easy to launder, with few places for bacteria and other contaminants to hide.
Many scrubs these days are made of wrinkle- and stain-resistant fabrics, which makes maintenance even easier. (If you’ve ever tried to wash blood out of your clothing, you’ll appreciate this part.)
Scrub suits also often have multiple pockets to store the many things healthcare professionals need on a day-to-day basis -- pens, trauma shears, alcohol swabs, and so much more.
How to Choose the Right Scrubs
Dressing fashionably begins with choosing the right outfit. As your professional uniform, your scrubs should look good to convey the right impression to your patients. And since you’ll be wearing them all day, it’s just as important for them to be comfortable and allow you to move freely.
Here are the main factors to take into consideration:
Your scrubs should fit you well but still give you maximum range of movement.
Every manufacturer has a different sizing chart, so don’t assume you’ll fit into the same size you typically wear. To be safe, take your measurements and look up the brand’s sizing charts before purchasing your scrubs. If you’re in between sizes, we recommend sizing up.
If you’re buying online, check for authorised local distributors or that the brand itself has a decent return policy in your local area. This will help with easy exchanges in case the sizing is off. Many U.S.-based scrub brands like Figs, for example, aren’t able to accommodate international customers well with returns.
Choose styles that will complement your body’s natural shape.
For example, if you have a shorter torso, pairing low-rise scrub pants with a longer top will give the appearance of elongating your upper body.
But what if you have a longer torso and shorter legs? Crop tops or platform shoes are obviously out of the question in a healthcare setting, but you can always go for high-waisted pants or a flowy scrub top that goes to hip level.
If your shoulders are wider than your hips, flared bottoms will balance out your lower body. Alternatively, you can wear a breezy top with a more structured or skinny pant style for an A-line silhouette.
If you have a rectangle shape (aka athletic or straight figure), accentuate your body’s natural curves by adding volume on either the top or bottom. If you go for a flowy, flared look at the bottom, put on a more form-fitting scrub top. Or if you prefer a more voluminous top, wear skinny scrub pants or joggers instead.
C. Scrub Fabric
The material for your scrubs affects how well they drape over your body, whether they’re structured or flowy, and the overall level of comfort and stretchability.
For instance, purchasing scrubs with a little bit of spandex (about 3-4%) adds a bit of give to the cloth. But too much spandex may mean scrubs that stretch out and lose their shape over time.
Or if you want a more structured look, choose scrubs that have a higher polyester content. This type of material is good with resisting stains/wrinkles and adds durability to your scrub suit.
We go into more detail in the different types of scrub fabrics in this guide: Medical Scrubs Fabric - Which One is Best?
This really depends on your hospital’s policy. Some hospitals give their staff total leeway to choose the colours they’d like to wear. Others specify a certain colour for each ward for easy identification.
If you happen to work at a healthcare facility that gives you more freedom in creative expression, then your best bet is to pick a colour that matches your skin tone. (Stitch Fix has an easy guide on identifying your skin tone here.)
This also applies to any layers you wear under or over your scrubs. Ideally, the colours of any scrub jackets or undershirts should complement your scrub top. Neutral colours also work well.
The caveat is that if you choose something that’s too lightly-coloured, it might be more noticeable if there are any stains or discolourations on your uniform!
And of course - your underwear should be neutral-coloured to prevent anything from showing through the scrub fabric.
How to Wear Scrubs Fashionably
Now that you’ve purchased your scrubs, let’s talk about how to dress them up.
Should You Wear Scrubs Tucked In?
Most of the time it depends on the area you’re working in and the design of your scrubs.
Most nursing scrubs are designed to be more form-fitting and don’t need to be tucked in. Other times, the nurses prefer not to tuck in because they need the two front pockets on their tops.
But many who work in the OR prefer to tuck in their scrubs so there isn’t a chance of the cloth accidentally grazing a sterile field -- or letting a freezing cold draft of air go up their top.
That said, unless your dress code (or work culture) specifies one way or the other, the question of whether or not to tuck in is usually a personal preference.
What to Wear Under or Over Scrubs
...provided you’re allowed to wear anything other than your scrubs.
If you work in or around the operating room, it’s likely that you won’t be able to wear anything beneath your scrubs for hygiene reasons.
But in other situations, it’s usually all right.
If you’re wearing inner layers to keep yourself warm, go with something form-fitting with good stretchability -- like leggings. These should be made of a warming material that isn’t too thick. This will ensure that your scrubs can go over it easily while not looking overly bulky.
And if you’re concerned about sweating in your scrubs, be sure to avoid 100% cotton base layers. Cotton, while breathable, is highly absorbent and takes a long time to try. Synthetic materials like polyester do better at wicking moisture so you get that dry fit feel.
Wearing sweaters or a sweatshirt over your scrubs isn’t recommended. Not only does it look unprofessional and make it harder for patients to identify you, but the apparel wasn’t designed to undergo the high-temperature sterilising washes that most scrubs can withstand.
Instead, use a scrub jacket in a colour that complements your existing scrubs -- and preferably one with enough pockets to hold all the tools you’ll need.
Accessories, Tattoos, and Piercings: Yes or No?
Again, this is up to your healthcare facility’s dress code guidelines.
A simple hairpiece (or perhaps a designer scrub hat?) may be fine, but most discourage the use of accessories or piercings for sanitary reasons. Some even ban watches, since dirt and bacteria often get under the strap.
Tattoos are generally out for the sake of professionalism. But if you’re dead set on emblazoning your significant other’s face on your body, pick a spot that’s easy to hide.
What Shoes to Wear with Your Scrubs
Last but not least, your shoes should blend comfort with fashion. You could potentially be on your feet for hours at a time, so you want something that won’t kill you at the end of the day.
Enter Crocs, which have risen back to popularity for their comfort and bold colours. They’re easy to wipe blood and other stains off of as well, making them a good choice for the OR.
Alternatively, consider low drop sneakers or slip-ons -- colour-coded with the rest of your outfit, of course.