Court Uniform And Dress In The United Kingdom
Court uniform and dress were required to be worn by those in attendance at the royal Court in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Specifically, Court uniform was worn by those holding particular offices (e.g. in the Government, the Civil Service, the Royal Household, etc.). A range of office-holders was entitled to wear it, with different grades of uniform specified for different grades of official. It is still worn today, on state occasions, by certain dignitaries both in the UK and abroad.
Court dress, on the other hand, is a stylized form of clothing deriving from fashionable eighteenth-century wear, and was directed to be worn at Court by those not entitled to Court uniform. Consisting of a matching tailcoat and waistcoat, breeches and stockings, lace cuffs and cravat, cocked hat and a sword, it survives today as part of the formal dress of Judges and QCs, and is also worn by certain Lord Mayors, by the Serjeant at Arms (and other Parliamentary officials), and by High Sheriffs of Counties.
For ladies (as for gentlemen) court dress originated in fashionable forms of dress worn in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but by the twentieth century the details of female court dress had become highly codified: a white evening dress with a train and various accoutrements were to be worn. Full court dress survived, most prominently, as required wear for debutantes when being presented at Court, but ceased to be worn after the war when afternoon presentations replaced evening Courts.
Precise descriptions, both of Court Uniform and of Court Dress, were laid down in an official publication called Dress Worn at Court (viewable online) which was published by the Lord Chamberlain's Office.
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