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Candy Striper

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Cissy on duty in Family Affair, Barbie's Cousin Francie, and a Paper Doll Book from the 1970's

Hey! Why's that nurse wearing a snazzy striped outfit instead of a white uniform with a red cross? Chances are she's not a nurse, but a hospital volunteer known as a Candy Striper.

In real life, in the United States, the Candy Stripers were a group of young, majority-female hospital volunteers whose name was derived from the distinctive striped uniforms they wore to differentiate them from nurses proper. The red-and-white stripes of the fabric resembled a candy cane, hence the moniker "Candy Stripe." The term eventually became a generic name for any hospital volunteer, not just the ones who wore the cutesy uniform. The actual Candy Stripers performed various tasks around the hospital; from assisting with administrative duties, to helming the gift shop, to visiting with patients. In fictionland, Candy Stripers are Always Female Hospital Hotties who generally fall into one of two groups, depending on the target audience:

  • The Cute: If the target audience is children or the work is intended for the whole family, Candy Stripers are portrayed as model teenagers or young adults who volunteer at hospitals because they're Good Samaritans. Elevated rates of Cute Clumsy Girl antics are common.
  • The Sexy: If the target audience is adult or the media is risque, the Candy Strip(p)er uniform gets deployed as a blatant Fanservice Costume. In this case, the Candy Stripers themselves are basically interchangeable with sexy nurses.

The term "Candy Striper" has largely drifted out of common parlance in the 21st century, as the use of untrained minors as unpaid labor in the health care sector has decreased. As such, it's rare to see this trope played straight (or used at all) in media produced during the 21st century. Most uses of this trope date to the 1950s-1970s, with a few instances cropping up in the '80s and '90s. The legacy of this trope can be seen in striped nurse uniforms that appear from time to time in modern media, hearkening back to the distinctive peppermint garb of the Candy Stripers.

Compare and Contrast with Naughty Nurse Outfit.


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    Comic Books 
  • In issue #12 of the Betty & Veronica Spectacular (published in the early '90s), Veronica volunteers as a Candy Striper when Betty is hospitalized for exhaustion. Veronica inadvertently causes havoc at the hospital while trying to take care of Betty.
    Veronica: Guess what Betty? I'm your Official Candy Striper!
    Betty: [to herself] Now I'm really sick!

    Comic Strips 
  • Nurse Nancy was a recurring strip in the weekly girl's Comic Serial Twinkle (published between 1968 and 1999), with the title character Nancy being a little girl who helps out at her grandfather's hospital for dolls and stuffed animals. Nancy wears a blue and white striped dress, white apron, and nurse's cap.

    Fan Works 
  • The Loud House fanfiction A Second Chance has the “Candy Stripers” arc. Lincoln, Lynn, Ryan, Lucy, Lisa, and the twins joining Kathleen’s charity group, “The Teens of Tomorrow”, and spend a whole day working at a kid’s hospital and later at Albert’s retirement home in order to make enough money to pay for Renee’s hospital bills. They even wear vertically-striped shirts for the occasion, and Ryan tells stories to the hospitalized children.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Candy Stripe Nurses is a 1974 sexploitation soap opera/comedy about Candy Stripe hospital volunteers Marissa, Sandy, and Diane getting into raunchy shenanigans with their patients and doctor mentors.
  • Candy Stripers is a 2006 horror/porn B-Movie about aliens taking over the bodies of Stripperific adult Candy Stripers at the small-town Wucaipa General Hospital.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, when young conman Frank poses as a doctor a number of Candy Stripers are seen working in the hospital. Brenda, a naive young Candy Striper (played by Amy Adams wearing pigtails and a set of fake braces to appear even younger) becomes Frank's Love Interest while in his doctor note  persona.
  • In Fight Club, the unnamed main character ("Jack" in the script) is trying to get Marla to leave the support group he's attending. He tells her, "Look, I can't cry with a faker present." Marla replies "Candy-stripe a cancer ward. It's not my problem."

  • In Barbie's Candy Striped Summer, the eponymous Barbie volunteers at a hospital as a Candy Striper, finds romance, and learns the value of community service.
  • In The Bean Trees, protagonist Taylor mentions that many of the girls in her Kentucky hometown became Candy Stripers in high school as an extracurricular activity.
  • Candy Stripers is a 1958 book written by Lee Wyndham. It follows the adventures of a teen girl volunteering at her local hospital.
  • Nancy Plays Nurse is a children's book published in 1965 (written by Diane Sherman, illustrations by Dorothy Grider). Nancy is a young girl who idolizes her big sister Lisa, a Candy Stripe volunteer at a local hospital. Wanting to be just like her sister, Nancy plays nurse to all the children, pets, and stuffed animals in her neighborhood. For her birthday, Nancy's parents gift Nancy her very own Candy Striper costume to match her sister.
    Nancy knew all about what nurses do, because her big sister Lisa was a Candy Striper. (That's what some teen-age hospital volunteers are called.) Every day after school, Nancy and her dog Chipper watched Lisa put on her pink and white candy-striped uniform. They waved goodbye when Lisa left to help the nurses at the hospital.
    Every night, after supper, Nancy would ask what Lisa did that day. Lisa would tell how she ran errands, or filled water pitchers, or fixed flowers. Sometimes she helped wash patients, or feed sick children or tiny babies. Lisa told Nancy many of the things nurses have to know.
  • Downplayed in Nurse Nancy, a Little Golden Book published in 1952 with illustrations by Corinne Malvern. This Nancy is a little girl who wears a blue-and-white striped dress under an apron with a blue-and-white cross emblem on it, but the sentiment is identical to that of the red-and-white stripes of an authentic Candy Striper uniform. Interestingly enough, "Nurse Nancy" was one of several Little Golden Books created to promote the sale of Johnson & Johnson's Band-Aid brand bandages. Aside from the Product Placement of little Nurse Nancy using brand name Band-Aids to treat her neighbors' scraped knees, a sampling of real Band-Aids were included in the back of the book.
  • Judy and Carla are a pair of Candy Stripers assisting at the University of Maine at Orono's campus health service in Pet Sematary. The two are present as Louis Creed attends to Victor Pascow's mortal wounds, though they're too traumatized by the extent of Victor's injuries from the hit and run to be of much help. Judy even vomits down the front of her uniform at the sight.
  • Under the Dome: Gina and Harriet, two teenaged hospital volunteers who get thrust into the role of actual nurses when most of the experienced ones get stuck outside of the Dome.
  • Vicky Barnes, Junior Hospital Volunteer: The Story of a Candy Striper, by Alice Ross Colver, was published in 1966. It follows the adventures of 9th grader Vicky as she transfers to a new school and takes up volunteer work at the local hospital.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Season four of American Horror Story, American Horror Story: Freak Show, premiered in 2014 but is set in 1952. The first episode, "Monsters Among Us", sees the trope deployed twice. Freak Show proprietress Elsa Mars enters the hospital where conjoined twins Bette and Dot are being treated under the pretense that she's looking for her sick aunt. She charms information on the twins' room from a Candy Striper named Penny, inviting Penny to visit Fraulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities. Elsa then infiltrates the secure wing having disguised herself as a Candy Striper, complete with uniform, goody-cart, and balloons.
  • Downplayed in Season 5, Episode 13 of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, "The Tale of the Night Shift," which aired in 1996. Teenager Amanda is a volunteer at United Hospital, and though her uniform's silhouette is identical to the Candy Striper's standard striped-jumperskirt-over-blouse ensemble, her uniform consists of a pink jumperskirt with white piping over a white blouse. The male volunteers wear solid pink polo shirts.
  • In Season 2, Episode 3 of Baby Daddy, "The Wheeler and Dealer", Riley takes an interest in volunteering and accepts a job as a Candy Striper at the hospital. The episode premiered in 2013.
  • During the third season of Dragula (2019), episode six — titled "The Operating Theater" — featured a Hospital of Horrors photoshoot challenge. Contestant Louisianna Purchase invoked the image of a sexy Candy Striper with a creepy twist. Aside from a pink-and-white striped dress with matching candy-pink bow and heels, Louisianna's look was accessorized with blood-stained lips, a curly bubblegum-pink wig, tattered pantyhose, pink latex surgical gloves, and bloodied or burnt props from a hospital gift shop or goody cart.
  • The 1967 Family Affair episode The Candy Striper sees 15-year old Cissy wishing to join her friend Sharon as a Candy Striper at the local hospital. The minimum age for volunteers is 16, so Cissy needs her Uncle Bill to meet with the hospital administrator to give permission for her to work. Cissy nearly causes an incident when she brings an old woman a glass of water before surgery, but she makes up for her earlier misstep when she helps a pregnant woman on the maternity ward deliver a baby.
  • Santana dresses as one in an episode of Glee as part of a plan to transfer mono (the kissing disease) from another student to herself, then to Finn, then to Quinn, in order to prove that they're cheating with each other. In her monologue, she mentions that getting the outfit was the main reason she volunteered at the hospital.
  • Downplayed in Season 6, Episode 2 of ''The Golden Girls", "Once, In St. Olaf", which aired in 1990. The elderly Rose volunteers at the local hospital, but the hospital's volunteer uniform is a solid pink pinafore.
    Rose: Ever since I've been a Candy Striper, I've been giving all my patients the traditional St. Olaf "fun pack." Each one has a pack of gum, a bar of soap, and sock puppets!
  • In Season 2, Episode 2 of Laverne & Shirley, "Angels of Mercy", Shirley convinces Laverne to join her as a hospital volunteer as a way of trying to win over Laverne's crush, Jerry, who is undergoing knee surgery. The two wear the traditional striped pinafore and hat as they get up to silly shenanigans while on duty. The episode aired in 1976.
  • Played more realistically in Leverage, in the episode in which Parker pretends to be a candy striper to get close to a patient. She wears an unflattering pinafore rather than the sexy version of the outfit, and her role seems limited to offering books to read and listening to stories.
  • In the 1964 The Lucy Show episode "Lucy Plays Florence Nightingale", Lucy needs to get some money from the bank to buy Chris a dress for her first formal dance. Finding out Mr. Mooney is in the hospital with a broken leg, Lucy dons a Candy Striper outfit in order to get him to sign a check.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the first host segment for "Bride of the Monster", Joel connects a machine to Crow's brain to see what he dreams about. He's assisted by "Nurse Servo," who wears a red-and-white striped apron and nurse's cap. Crow's dream involves piles of money and Tom Servo in the same Candy Striper outfit. Upon waking up, Crow sees Tom Servo really is wearing a Candy Striper's outfit, and panics.
    Tom Servo: Joel, this nurse's outfit makes me very self-conscious and embarrassed - and yet, I don't seem to mind.
  • In Season 2, Episode 21 of The Nanny, "Close Shave", Maggie starts volunteering at a local hospital as a Candy Striper because her father doesn't want her to take "a paying job that someone who needs the money would be better suited." When Maggie wants to have a night out with her boyfriend, Fran covers her shift at the hospital and dons the red-and-white striped uniform. The episode aired in 1995.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ron's predatory and terrifying ex-wife, Tammy One, was a candy striper assisting at the hospital during Ron's birth.
  • Season 3, Episode 12 of The Patty Duke Show, "Patty, the Candy Striper" sees Patty bumbling her way through her usual Candy Striper duties as she tends to her father, Martin, who is stuck in the hospital. The episode aired in 1965.
  • Pretty Little Liars was fond of utilizing this trope:
    • In Season 1, Episode 11, "Moments Later", Hanna has a painkiller-induced hallucination of Allison appearing in the hospital room where Hanna is recovering from a hit-and-run. Hallucinatory-Allison, who is dressed in a Candy Striper outfit, drops subtle hints about the night of her disappearance. "Moments Later" aired in 2011.
    • In Season 2, Episode 8, "Save the Date", Spencer and Aria sneak into a hospital's morgue while disguised as Candy Stripers. "Save the Date" aired in 2011.
    • In Season 2, Episode 9, "Picture This", Emily, Hanna, and Spencer disguise themselves as Candy Stripers while searching the hospital morgue for the missing page of Alison's coroner's report. "Picture This" aired in 2011.
    • In Season 3, Episode 23, "I'm Your Puppet", Emily and Hanna sneak into a hospital's morgue while disguised as Candy Stripers to determine whether or not the dead body recently found in the woods is Toby. "I'm Your Puppet" aired in 2013
    • In Seasons 6, Episode 1, "Game On, Charles", the Liars wake up stripped and lying on tables in the "morgue" of the Dollhouse, having been knocked out by a gas bomb in retaliation for their escape attempt. Mona, who now demands to be called "Ali" appears in a Candy Striper uniform to offer them aspirin and juice for their headaches. "Game On, Charles" aired in 2015.
  • ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?: Carmen and Sharon get jobs as candy stripers. However, Carmen's grandfather Antonio, who does not speak English, manages to get the impression that they are strippers. When the girls come out in their modest striped smocks, Antonio, who was expecting a more Stripperiffic outfit, grumbles, "Oh, sure, they start out all covered up."
  • Namedropped in the hospital-centered second season of Scream Queens (2015), where one notable member of the staff is Chamberlain: a Rare Male Example of a Candy Striper. Chamberlain shows up at the hospital with a goody-cart and the pink-and-white-striped shirt and is never questioned about his position. It turns out he was never formally hired in the first place but decided to volunteer at the C.U.R.E Institute Hospital in order to make people happy.
    Chamberlain: How you doing, pretty little lady? My name is Chamberlain Jackson, and I'm your friendly neighborhood candy striper.
  • The "sexier" application of the trope is deliberately Invoked by Carrie in Season 6, Episode 11 of Sex and the City, "The Domino Effect", which aired in 2003. With Carrie's on-again-off-again fling "Big" in New York for "minor heart surgery," Carrie tracks him down at his hotel and drops by for a visit the day he's released from the hospital. When she arrives, she's wearing a Candy Striper's matching cap and pinafore over a tight, skimpy camisole. Big tells her they can't engage in any activities that would raise his heart rate. Carrie responds by pulling out a set of dominoes for them to play with, stating the two can have lots of PG-rated fun.
  • In the Sweet Valley High Season 1 Episode 19, "Kidnapped", sisters Elizabeth and Jessica volunteer as Candy Stripers at the Sweet Valley Community Hospital. Jess schemes to get herself on TV by sucking up to hospitalized talk show host Frank, while Liz finds herself on the receiving end of unwanted attention after showing kindness to lonely orderly Peter.
  • In Season 3, Episode 4 of WKRP in Cincinnati, "The Baby", which aired in 1980, Arthur Carlson is in no fit state to drive himself to the hospital when he hears that his wife Carmen has gone into labor. His coworker Andy Travis gives him a ride and sticks around to provide moral support while Mr. Carlson tries to work up the courage to enter the delivery room. Andy ends up having a humorous conversation with a pretty Candy Striper at the hospital, with the trope starting out "Cute" and flipping unexpectedly to "Sexy" at the last moment:
    Andy Travis: You a nurse?
    Candy Striper: Oh no, I'm just a volunteer. I wanted to be a nurse, but not anymore. They don't pay nurses anything, and most of the doctors are real rude to the nurses around here because they have a Christ complex... the doctors, I mean. So that's why I've decided to go out to Hollywood and do a Playboy spread. Because I really like making other people happy.

  • Barbie:
    • In 1964, a Candy Striper Barbie outfit was released (800 series, #889). The ensemble featured a red-and-white striped jumperskirt over a white blouse, with sensible white sneakers, a nurse's cap, and a tray filled with items for Barbie's patients (orange juice, a hot water bottle, a washcloth, etc.).
    • Mattel also released a 1973 Candy Striper set (#7709) for Francie Fairchild, a doll marketed as Barbie's cousin. The outfit was nearly identical to the Candy Striper set released for Barbie a few years earlier, with a few differences in the included accessories.
    • In 2009, a "Barbie Fashion Doll Career Clothes" Nurse outfit and accessory set was released (model #R4259). The set featured a white dress with pink-and-white candy-striped fabric accents on the pockets, pipping, & hem, and an illusion neckline/ under-shirt of the same material.
  • Madame Alexander Dolls Co.:
    • During the 1960s-1970s, Madame Alexander released an 18" Vinyl Elise fashion doll dressed as a Candy Striper. The doll's outfit consisted of a white nurse's cap, pink-and-white striped dress, white apron, and a pin reading "American Jr. RC."
    • In 1998, they produced an 8" "Get Well" doll wearing an outfit evocative of the Candy Stripe jumperskirt, with a few extra ruffles and ribbons thrown in. The doll included a flower pot accessory and a "Get Well" card with an illustration of a girl wearing the same striped dress.
  • In the 1960s, Horsman Dolls released an 11" tall Candy Striper doll in a pink-and-white striped pinafore with "nurse play accessories," including a nurse's satchel, thermometer, stethoscope, and adhesive plasters.
  • The January 1965 issue of The Golden Magazine for Boys and Girls included a cut-out paper doll page featuring the character of Polly the Candy-Striper (illustrated by Neva Schultz). Polly's Candy Striper outfit includes the striped jumperskirt over a white blouse and a tray holding a snack for a patient.
  • In 2009, Takara (in partnership with Cross World Connections) released a Petite Blythe doll wearing a Candy Stripe jumperskirt, marketed under the name "Intensive Care."
  • In 2010, Vogue Dolls released a Candy Striper Clothing Pack (No. 10CP119), sized for the 8-inch modern Ginny Dolls.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 3 features pre-War posters advertising positions for Candy Stripers, along with other jobs like "Interminable Blood Donor" and "Bedpan Unsullification Technician".

    Web Animation 
  • In the Pucca episode "A Leg Up," Pucca volunteers as a Candy Striper so that she can take care of her cruh Garu after he ends up in the hospital with a broken leg. It first aired in 2007.

  • The Princesses (and one Prince) who make up the Cursed Princess Club do community service at a local hospital. Though the trope is never named, their volunteer uniform borrows heavily from the Candy Striper look book: a pink-on-pink striped jumperskirt over a white blouse (or pink-on-pink striped trousers and vest over a white shirt for Prince Saffron), with a neat red bow at the collar and a white nurse's cap.
    Princess Jolie: Like Princess Panda says, "A charitable princess is a sexy princess!" And I guarantee that after you read to children today, you'll be glowing!
    Princess Syrah: I don't really care what you want me to do as long as I get to wear this cute little outfit!

    Western Animation 
  • In Season 2, Episode 4 of All Grown Up!, "Miss Nose it All", Susie and Angelica both volunteer at a hospital and wear Candy Striper outfits. With the twist that the red stripes are actually a reward they can earn for doing a good job. Susie, who tries her best, already has an outfit full of stripes, thus looking like a classic candy striper, while Angelica, who is only there because her mother forced her to, has a white outfit with only a single red stripe. She earns another stripe by the end of the episode. The episode aired in 2004.
    Nurse: Today's duties include delivering meals,
    Angelica: Yeah yeah!
    Nurse: —collecting bedpans,
    Angelica: Let's go, wrap it up!
    Nurse: —and most importantly, interacting compassionately with patients!
    Angelica: Meals, compassion, bedpans, got it!
  • In the 1984 Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "Operation Theodore", the Chipettes volunteer at a local hospital. Their Candy Stripe uniforms include pink blouses, striped pink nurse hats, and striped pink pinafores with extra lace and bows.
  • Doc McStuffins: Although Doc's assistant Hallie the Stuffed Hippo is referred to as a nurse, her outfit more closely resembles that of a Candy Striper — Hallie wears a red-and-white striped apron over a white blouse.
  • King of the Hill: Didi Hill, Cotton's wife, was one of these when they met at a hospital, and was an inadvertent sexy example when Cotton saw her butt through a glass in between them making it look even bigger.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Code Yellow" has SpongeBob becoming a candy striper, only to eat the stripes like they were actually candy. This causes his uniform to turn completely white and him to be mistaken for a doctor.

    Real Life 
  • Real-life Candy Stripers were young women who volunteered at their local hospitals. From the other wiki: "Candy Stripers originated as a high-school civics class project in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1944. The uniforms were sewn by the girls in the class from material provided by the teacher— a red-and-white-striped fabric known as 'candy stripe'. The students chose East Orange General Hospital as the home for their class project."
  • Some organizations in the UK still operate "Candy Striper" volunteer projects, where young adults can volunteer to visit with elderly hospital residents. Instead of striped dresses, volunteers are given a striped jersey/ bib to wear. Their responsibilities are rather strictly limited in modern times, being confined to serving patients some tea or handing out donated books, and possibly pushing their wheelchair to the chapel or the snack bar.
  • "Sexy Candy Striper" Halloween costumes are still marketed to adults, right alongside the "Sexy Nurse," "Sexy Fireman," and "Sexy Ladybug" costumes.