How to Dress Like Nurse Ratched

October 13, 2023

Nurse Mildred Ratched is one of cinema's most famous characters, and deservedly so. 

The big baddie of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has been ranked the second-greatest villainess of all time by the American Film Institute, the character even netting Louise Fletcher a Best Actress Oscar. 

Let's just say this costume guide has been a long time coming. 

How to make a Nurse Ratched costume

The story of the Mildred Ratched costume is the also the story of the nurse uniform. It has evolved a lot since the 1975 movie, so much so that hospitals and healthcare institutions have abandoned the iconic white cap-and-coat combo seen on Louise. Most have traded it for medical scrubs since the 90s. 

Nevertheless, the nurse cap endures today as a Halloween costume staple. You can easily make DIY nurse caps with nothing but paper. Here's how. 

If you want to copy the Sarah Paulson version of the villain, as seen on 2020's Ratched, get crafty with blue-green paper. (Or "surgical-green," as Ratched costume designer Rebecca Guzzi would say.)

The Netflix version of Nurse Ratched borrowed a silhouette from the 1940s, with lots of shoulder padding and cinched waists, and colored them all green. While it's not unusual to see nurses running around in green scrubs today, their post-WWII forebears traditionally wore white. 

To show creator Ryan Murphy, this anachronism was fitting: Green represented lust, envy, oppression and violence

How to do the Nurse Ratched hair and makeup

The 1940s setting extends to Sarah's hair for Ratched. Here's how you can imitate her post-war updo, which fits snugly under a nurse cap.

In the 1975 film, Louise wears a variation of Victory rolls, among the most popular hairstyles of the 1940s, of course.

Red was pretty much forbidden from the Ratched set and makeup design except for two things: lipstick and blood. And not just any lipstick — makeup artist Eryn Krueger Mekash used Bésame on Sarah. 

She drives me crazy

While Nurse Ratched has somehow glamorized the image of the nurse, real healthcare practitioners have tried to push back against the stigma the character has brought to their profession over the decades. This just proves that Mildred is really bad medicine, even beyond the screen. 

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