Mess Dress UniformSusannah Walbank
Mess dress uniform is not to be confused with full dress uniform. Mess dress is the semi-formal uniform worn by the military, police and other public uniformed services. The uniform is worn for certain ceremonies and celebrations on private occasions.
Design may vary but they mainly consist of a mess jacket, trousers, white dress shirt and are worn with medals or other insignia. Mess dress is seen as an alternative to black tie for evening wear and is sometimes known as half dress.
Mess dress is worn predominantly by commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers. It can however be worn by some senior enlisted personnel.
The Royal Navy has two forms of evening dress. Mess dress (No. 2A) consists of a mess jacket, plain navy blue mess trousers, white waistcoat and black bow tie. The mess undress (No. 2B) consists of a mess jacket, plain navy blue mess trousers, blue waistcoat or black cummerbund and a black bow tie.
Officers in the Royal Navy with the rank of Captain and above wear gold laced trousers and may wear the undress tailcoat with either mess dress of mess undress.
The Royal Marines mess differs from the Royal Navy in that the jacket is scarlet. The Royal Marines also wear a scarlet cummerbund.
The British Army mess uniform appeared in 1845, initially utilizing the short ‘shell jacket’. The original purpose was to provide a comfortable and inexpensive alternative to the full dress uniforms. After World War I, full dress uniforms mostly disappeared and mess dress became the most colourful and traditional uniform to be worn by most officers in the British Army.
The most commonly worn mess dress in the British Army is the No. 10 Mess Dress. It can differ slightly depending on the regiment or corps but mostly this includes the short mess jacket. The colours of the mess jackets and trousers reflect the traditional full dress uniforms of the regiments. Usually the jackets are scarlet, dark blue or rifle green and are worn with embroidered waistcoats. The jackets are worn with high waisted, very tight, trousers called overalls.
Ornamental spurs are often worn by cavalry regiments and traditionally mounted corps. Female officers and soldiers wear mess jackets over a dark coloured ankle length evening dress.
The Royal Air Force mess dress is similar to the Royal Navy, except the jacket and trousers are mid blue. The No. 5 Mess Dress is also worn with a slate grey cummerbund. For women the same uniform is worn except they wear their high waisted jacket with an ankle length blue grey skirt. Unlike the men’s jacket, which has a pointed lapel, the ladies jacket features a shawl collar.
Wyedean work along side military tailors by manufacturing and applying the braiding to the Mess Dress uniforms.
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