1907 Formal Wear IV: U.S. Army

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.


  1. omschiefslr

    An attending dental surgeon who was my instructor in residency told me of entering the Army in Ft. Dix, New Jersey in WW II. Being a doctor, he entered as an officer and went to Brooks Brothers in NYC to order his dress uniform. He was fitted and tailored at BB.

    I have been invited to a “Wetting Down” function for a friend coming up in September in Philadelphia at the Union League Club. I expect Captain Michael (Navy) to be wearing one of his dress uniforms. I asked if the occasion warranted Black Tie. He has decided to make the function Coat and Tie only.

  2. Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    When my father reported to his first duty-posting at Ft. Lee Virginia as a new 2nd-Lt. he rec’d a $700. uniform allotment (a lot of money in 1950) to purchase his uniforms from the local military-tailor off-base. Since Virginia was in the then pre-air conditioned “South”, he also personally paid extra for the additional Tropical Dress and Tropical Khakis called “Pinks”. As a Quartermaster Corps officer, on-post they were expected to be exceptionally well-dressed and perfectly-tailored at all times. Doubly-so since he was on the “fast-track” and was frequently in the company of senior officers and General officers.

    I believe off-base military-tailors purchased the base-fabric and materials from US Army “recommended vendors” so that all the officers’ uniforms matched, but there was some latitude as to tailoring and fit and accessories. The appropriate patches, emblems and insignia were issued to each officer through the Post Quartermaster’s office. Also back then officers still personally-purchased their side-arms as long as std. ammunition and holster rigs.

    I think their dress swords were issued to the officer when he was presented his commission….and returned when they retired or honorably-resigned their commissions.

    1. Peter Marshall

      Thanks for for confirming my theory on privately tailored uniforms and explaining how the process worked!


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