I mentioned a while back that I was working on various Mess Dress and Ceremonial Evening Dress uniforms for all the services. These tend to be the equivalent of civilian Black Tie / Dinner Jacket / Tuxedo and full formal White Tie / full Evening Dress with tailcoats. They are not quite as highly embellished as full dress but do tend to follow something of the pattern of these uniforms. The Army versions evolved around the mid-1800s as alternatives to officers wearing full dress for less formal evening events.
The British tend to have two main types of mess dress; both are short, waist-length jackets but one is worn open over a shirt and bow-tie with a waistcoat/vest (and looks like the evening tailcoat, without the tails) whereas the other evolved from the short stable jackets worn by cavalry regiments and are somethimes still referred to as "cavalry-pattern" mess jackets (although they are also worn by many NON-cavalry regiments and corps). This pattern has a high collar jacket and is either worn over a high-closing waistcoat/vest with the jacket collar closed, or the waistcoat/vest itself also has a high collar and the jacket is worn open over this. The "cavalry"-type is often more highly embellished than the open type.
As with British army full dress, the mess dress uniforms tend to reflect the different traditions and customs of their corps and regiments; they are, therefore, usually made in traditional regimental colours and patterns and (usually) reflect the colours of their unit's full dress. It is usual, therefore, for line infantry regiments to wear scarlet jackets (open or cavalry-type) with regimental facing colours and dark blue trousers whereas support Corps tend to wear dark blue jackets and trousers with corps-specific facing colours. Cavalry mess dress (predictably!) is almost always the high-collared cavalry jackets with jackets waistcoats and and trousers in a variety of traditional regimental colours.
For the most part, these uniforms were originally worn by officers in the Officers' Mess for dinner and for evening social functions. Over time, they became the accepted military alternative to civilian formal evening dress. Over the years they also became accepted for wear by senior non-comissioned officers in the Warrant Officers' and Sergents' Mess. These tend to follow the general pattern of their officers' uniforms but are usually less decorated. In some units, officers and NCOs may wear different patterns of mess dress (ie one in cvalry-type and the other in open jackets with shirts and ties), but usually using the same main body colour and the same facing colour(s) for collars and cuffs, and so on. The wearing of rank markings on mess dress varies from unit to unit, according to traditional use. For some units, officers do not wear specific rank markings but their mess dress uniforms may still have differing degrees of embellishment between groups such as junior officers and field officers. In this hypothetical history, as with the other uniforms, Warrant Officers will wear what is essentially officer-pattern uniforms.
Please note that while I have maintained many similarities and traditional features from real historical uniforms of this type, some small changes have been made for these uniforms. Most are minor changes to the variations in the embellishments worn with increasing rank which keep the uniforms within the styles established for the rest of early period of this hypothetical history (for example, contemporary general officer mess dress jackets are actually scarlet with plain dark blue peaked cuffs and they wear plain scarlet trouser stripes). Some uniforms, however, are again confections of my own imagining.
Without further ado, here are the uniforms...1. Royal Navy
Note the full ceremonial evening dress of a Vice-Admiral on the left with tailcoat, white tie, white waistcoat/vest and Full Dress-type gold-faced shoulder boards. This would normally be worn only by officers of the rank of Commander and above. Historically, it would have included full bullion-fringed dress epaulettes but as these have been discontinued for Full Dress, so the Evening Dress follows suit.
An Admiral's less formal Mess Undress would look much the same as that of the Captain next to him, apart from the sleeve lace and the Flag Officer buttons. Officers of the rank of Commander and above (i.e. those with oak leaves on the peaks of their caps) have gold side seam stripes on their trousers, like full dress.
Lt-Commander and below wear plain trousers but, exceptionally, may wear wear their gold-laced full dress trousers at very formal evening ceremonial events, when they would also wear white waistcoat/vest and white tie under their short mess jackets if more senior officers are wearing full tail coats, although gold shoulder boards are never worn on short mess jackets.
The Warrant Officers had traditonally messed separately from the officers in the Wardroom but, with the development of the Warrant ranks' career progression, there was an attempt to merge the two messes - or at least bring warrant officers "in from the cold." This initially had varying success but, over time, it would eventually become accepted practice.2. Royal Marines
Following the merging of the RM Light Infantry and the RM Artillery into the single Corps of Royal Marines
, the full dress uniform was dark blue with scarlet facing (essentially based on the RMA uniform) but the mess dress was scarlet with dark blue facing (based on the RMLI) and essentially followed the standard Army pattern. Some minor differences: the cuffs are round cuffs, rather than peaked; officers up to and including Lt. Colonel do not wear epaulettes and rank is worn on the lapel of the shawl collar, above the Globe and Laurels. Senior officers of substantive Colonel wear bullion embroidered versions of the full Corps badge in place of the Globe and Laurels and they wear their rank on epaulettes with gold-lace edging. Other embellishments broadly follow Army pattern.
There is a full ceremonial evening tailcoat but this simply follows the Army pattern for Staff and General Officers, worn with RM buttons, as appropriate. For less formal "mess undress", the side caps in Corps colours became the preferred and traditional headwear. Substantive Colonels and above wear the same pattern side caps as equivalent Army senior officers with the Staff Officer or General Officer cap badges, as appropriate. The Corps side cap for officers and WO1 is all dark blue except for a scarlet crown. The sides have bullion piping for field officers.
As with the Royal Navy, officers attending formal ceremonial evening events without a tailcoat could opt (or indeed may be required) to wear short mess jackets with white wasitcoat/vest and white tie - in which case the peaked cap was mandatory.3. Army
A. General Officers and General Staff Officers
(substantive Colonels and Brigade Colonels)
This is the traditional Brtish Army scarlet with dark blue collars and cuffs. The mess jacket has no front buttons (or button holes) and is worn open over the dark blue vest.
The full evening dress is usually worn by officers of the rank of substantive Colonel and above. Those not of General Officer rank wear plain scarlet trouser stipes and have a plain gold lace on the cuffs in place of the oak leaves, in much the same way as the full dress uniforms.
Note that the head wear for Mess Dress may be full dress peaked caps or coloured side caps in regimental/corps colours. In practice, it rapidly became established that coloured side-caps were the preferred option for all but the more formal events. For full ceremonial evening dress with tailcoat / white tie then head wear was always the full dress peaked cap (with white gloves and cloak!). As with the RN and RM, officers attending formal ceremonial evening events without a tailcoat could opt (or indeed may be required) to wear short mess jackets with white wasitcoat/vest and white tie - in which case the peaked cap was mandatory. Obviously, those with cavalry-pattern mess uniforms would simply wear those without change.
Note that the side caps for Generals and Staff Officers are dark blue with gold seam/edge piping and scarlet crowns. They are worn with general officer or staff officer bullion badges and buttons, as appropriate.
B. Regiments and Corps
These are some of the units for which I've previously presented full dress and other service uniforms. From left to right:
Royal Artillery (field officer), two different line infantry regiments, Corps of Military Police (note the cavalry-pattern, descended from their origins as the mounted Provost Corps).
I haven't yet done the mess dress for the other units from previous posts like the various Lancer Regiments, the Royal Tank Regiment and the Rifle Regiments as these are all of the "cavalry" pattern and are somewhat more complex in their embellishments, so they'll take a while to complete...!
C. Royal Army Medical Corps
The RAMC uses the basic staff pattern but, like other support Corps, reversed into dark blue jackets with facing colours for collar, cuffs and waistcoat/vest. For the RAMC this is "dull cherry." As with the full dress, medically qualified officers wear gauntlet-type cuffs and other officers and Warrant Officers wear the standard peaked cuffs. Substantive colonels and above wear Corps pattern jackets but do not wear corps badges and have epaulettes with gold lace edging. Embellishments with rank remain the same.
Formally, medical corps staff and general officers wear staff-pattern side caps but with dull cherry in place of scarlet for the crowns. Informally, most continue to wear RAMC side caps with staff or general officer badges.
A version of the full tail coat is authorised, for substantive Colonels and above, in dark blue with dull cherry lapels and cuffs (standard peaked type or medical officer gauntlet cuffs, as appropriate).4. Royal Air Force
The youngest Service inherited various elements of tradition from its RNAS and RFC forebears. Like its other uniforms, mess dress and evening wear melds elements of Army and Navy. Mess jackets are worn with gold cuff lace like full dress. Epaulettes are not worn, except on tailcoats for Group Captain and above. Wing Commander and below do not wear gold laced trouers but do have silk grosgrain stripes in dark blue-gray to match the jacket lapels.
Side caps are again the usual headwear for less formal events. White tie and vest may be worn with short jackets and peaked full dress caps if so required.
Warrant Officers wear full officer pattern but with bullion badges on their cuffs in place of distinction lace.5. Finally...
Back to the origins of this topic and here are the Marshals of the Empire and the Grand Admiral of the Empire in full ceremonial evening dress, appropriate for a Royal Reception or State Banquet. White tie, tail coats, stars and broad ribands of orders of knighthood, neck badges, miniature decorations, aguillettes -- the whole nine yards...!!