The dinner dress for women has changed very little over the centuries. It was common for women who got to the evenings on horseback to wear what were known as “simple dinner dresses”, a loose, straight-line fitting bodice, loosely boned, with tightly drawn sleeves revealing just enough arm to reveal a well-placed Etruscan bracelet or a large velvet wristband. The dinner dress did not have much of a skirt and was usually trimmed just around the waist to give a sleeker look.
When the French Revolution swept away the last of the feudal kings, they declared the wedding dress “leville”, which meant loose and flexible. This allowed women who had previously been restricted to wearing dinner dresses with far too much elaboration to be able to wear them at public functions. After the revolution, women were once again allowed to wear elaborate gowns, though it was downplayed by the French Revolution and tradition over time grew to make more relaxed gowns acceptable.
During World War II, the wear of the dinner dress became especially restricted due to the shortages of textile materials in both England and France. Gowns began to be made more for utilitarian purposes, such as undergarments, than for decorative ones. The dinner dress became more associated with casual wear than any other kind of gown.
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Midshipmen Uniform Regulations: During the early years of the twentieth century, the armed forces had their own dinner dress uniform. The Midshipmen uniform regulations began to evolve as the army developed a more professional uniform look. The origins of the uniform began with the naval uniforms that were worn by seamen. The military dinner dress uniforms were refined by the Korean War and the Lancers.
The Midshipmen dress uniforms consisted of a white dinner dress with pleated waistline, black shirt, black tie, black leather belt, black necktie and black shoes. They also wore miniature medals on their shoulders. The regimental colors were standardized as well, though there were several regiments that did not conform to this format.
For the First World War, the Midshipmen Uniform Regulations changed again. This time it was authorized to wear the uniform on light duty and for drills and muster calls. The regiments were also permitted to wear different colored shoulder boards, though these were not the regimental colors.
Uniform Changes: After the war formalized, the army and navy allowed the ladies of the armed services to wear dinner dresses and cocktail dresses during the Thanksgiving Day gatherings. This allowed the ladies to wear their uniform for the evening as well. This change in ceremonial dressing codes also allowed men to wear their uniforms to black tie events and other formal occasions. It was also authorized for the women to wear their dinner dresses and cocktail dresses at home on special occasions such as Christmas Eve.
Although the color choices have remained pretty much the same, the linings and sleeves have changed. For the First World War, black was the color choice, however, the color choice for the Second World War was changed to red for a more formal look. Later, the military introduced a black dinner dress for the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps introduced a white dinner dress that incorporated shoulder boards.