Military Formal Attire – Mess Dress

In 1845, the British military introduced evening dress intended for formal occasions held in mess halls and elsewhere.  This new concept of mess dress was later instituted by armed forces in other Commonwealth countries and eventually in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century.

Mess Dress Trouser Galon

Mess Dress Trouser Galon

Readers who are curious about the military equivalents of Black Tie and White Tie around the world will find an excellent summary of international mess dress in Wikipedia’s “Mess Dress” article.  Generally speaking, while there is a wide variety of styles used by different military branches – and sometimes even within a given branch – some common themes emerge across the board:

Evening Dress Uniforms - U.S. Marine Corps Uniforms 1983 -1984.jpg

Evening Dress Uniforms – U.S. Marine Corps Uniforms 1983 -1984.jpg

  • mess dress for officers generally includes a mess jacket, waist covering, bow tie, trousers, and dress shoes
  • mess jackets are waist-length jackets that can have shawl or peak lapels or no lapels at all (the latter are known as cavalry style mess jackets and their upright collars require them to be worn without neckwear); unlike civilian formal jackets they usually feature epaulets and rank insignia
  • American mess jackets are most commonly blue or white, the latter typically reserved for warm climates or summer months
  • in the militaries of the British Commonwealth, red is also a popular color for mess jackets, often with black shawl collars
  • bow ties are usually black, with white generally reserved for White Tie equivalent uniforms
  • waistcoats and cummerbunds come in many different colors although the white waistcoat is generally reserved for White Tie functions
  • White Tie equivalents are only for officers and even then they are optional for some junior officers; lower ranks use a Black Tie equivalent for all formal functions
Mess Dress in 2011

Mess Dress in 2011

Specific Regulations Surprisingly, the tailcoat remains optional mess dress for a number of military branches even to this day.

For further details of national mess dress, including its historical development, see Wikipedia’s individual articles on the uniforms of various armed forces.  For the most precise details possible, readers should consult official regulations issued by the corresponding military organizations.  The following are online versions of some of those regulations:

Mess Dress and White Dress Uniforms - U.S. Marine Corps Uniforms 1983 -1984

Mess Dress and White Dress Uniforms – U.S. Marine Corps Uniforms 1983 -1984

Australian Army Mess Dress L-RMess Dress officers, winter, Mess Dress White Jacket, Mess Dress White Jacket variation, Scottish Mess Dress, Mess Dress White Shirt

Australian Army Mess Dress L-RMess Dress officers, winter, Mess Dress White Jacket, Mess Dress White Jacket variation, Scottish Mess Dress, Mess Dress White Shirt

  • Australian Army Standing Orders for Dress – see various Mess Dress uniforms
  • Royal Australian Air Force Insignia and Uniforms – see Mess Dress in chapter 1 of document
  • Uniform Instructions for the Royal Australian Navy: ABR 81 – see Orders of Dress and Regulations for Wear in chapter 3 of document

Summary
Military Formal Attire - Mess Dress
Article Name
Military Formal Attire - Mess Dress
Description
Learn more about Mess Dress in a Military setting around the globe.
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Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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