We conclude our trip back in time to Edwardian America courtesy of The Blue Book of Men’s Tailoring with a summary of dress uniforms for the U.S. Army.
It seems somewhat remarkable that military uniforms were once manufactured not by a single authorized supplier but by any tailor who wished to provide the service to his customers. At least that’s what I deduce from the plethora of vintage tailor guides that provide highly detailed instructions on the topic. With 11 pages of comprehensive descriptions and illustrations of uniforms covering every rank from general to chaplain The Blue Book of Men’s Tailoring is no exception. Military and sartorial historians will likely want to read the chapter in full but for everyone else here’s a topline synopsis of the formal garments.
There were two classes of evening wear for officers, explained the authors:
The commanding officer will designate the uniform for evening wear on all occasions of a general or official character occurring within the limits of his command.
For occasions of special formality, the uniform for evening functions shall be the prescribed full dress dismounted uniform.
For other occasions of ceremony to which offices are invited in their official capacity, such as balls, official dinner, official receptions, etc., and formal mess dinners, the following special full dress uniform is authorized, and officers are at liberty to wear it or the full dress dismounted uniform . . .
The “prescribed full dress dismounted uniform” is shown in the figure on the left and consists of a dark blue double-breasted frock coat with shoulder, collar and sleeve ornament styles varying according to the officer’s rank, as with the number of gilt buttons. (The “mounted” version of this uniform basically just replaced the shoes with riding boots.)
The “special full dress uniform” (aka “social dress uniform”) is depicted in the figure on the right. Its primary component is a dark blue “evening dress coat” with gilt buttons and sleeves ornamented in the same manner as the sleeves of corresponding full dress uniforms. With it was worn a dark blue or white waistcoat and full dress trousers which were dark blue or sky blue with varying number and colour of stripes depending on rank and division or, in the case of certain officers, simple dark blue trousers without stripes. Patent leather shoes and full dress cap rounded out the kit.
Of course, for unofficial occasions officers were authorized to wear “civilian uniform dress”.
Presumably the appropriate formal attire for daytime occasions was the dark blue standard “dress coat”. Shown above is the version of the coat as worn with full-dress trousers by officers other than general officers. General officers wore a double-breasted coat with gilt buttons and dress trousers with no stripes while enlisted men sported six-button single-breasted coats along with sky blue trousers with stripes of varying number, width and colour according to division.