History of the Noble Company
Frequently Asked Questions
Historical Timeline
Publications
Return to the Main Page

Guide to the Wear of Decorations
for
Gentlemen & Ladies


White Tie, Court Dress, and Full Dress Uniforms

Gentlemen

Consists of black tailcoat and trousers (usually with satin double or single stripe), white piqué shirt with wing collar, white piqué waistcoat with lapels and three buttons, white piqué bow tie. The most traditional shoes are black leather or patent leather pumps, which often have a grosgrain bow. Black lace ups are usually appropriate if not overly bulky. White formal gloves are used. The proper hat is a top hat. There are variations in uniforms, national dress, etc. Specific components are detailed in the regulations pertinent to each uniform.

1. If a Grand Cross of an order is held, the sash of the order should be worn. With a tailcoat, the sash is worn under the coat and over the waistcoat. (Sometimes it is worn underneath the waistcoat as well.) Most sashes are worn over the right shoulder, terminating with the bow and badge at the left hip. Others are worn over the left shoulder, terminating at the right hip. That is determined by the regulations of the order. Also, some sashes are cut and finished with small ribbon ties that go through a loop or buttonhole on the waistcoat. This permits the sash to be worn lower and at a more aesthetically pleasing angle. With uniforms, the wear of the sash is similar, and generally governed by the regulations pertaining to that uniform. Rarely is more than one sash worn.

Which sash to wear? Usually the sash of the highest grand cross held is worn. This may be varied according to the event being attended or, as appropriate, according to personal preference. If attending an event of a foreign country or outside organisation, and a sash of an honour therefrom is held, then protocol usually expects the wear of the host country's or host organisation's decoration. The same principles apply to neck badges and stars.


White tie with sash, neck badge,
medals, and collar.

2. One neck badge/cross or an order or decoration may be worn. If two grand crosses are held, the less senior may generally be worn on a neck ribbon. If a sash is worn, a neck decoration is optional unless specified in regulations. However, with a high-collared uniform, generally up to three neck decorations may be worn, as governed by the pertinent uniform regulations. The highest order is worn at the neck, the second from the second button, and the third from the third button.


White tie with neck badge
and medals

3. The stars of the orders are worn in order of precedence. If two stars are held, then that of the higher order, even if of lower rank, is worn above the other, the two stars forming a vertical line. However, the line may be skewed as deemed necessary for practical or aesthetic purposes. Under no circumstances should the two stars be placed on the same horizontal line. If stars of all three orders are held, then they are worn in a triangular formation. If four stars are worn, then the fourth is worn below the line of the second and third with the four stars forming a general pattern of a diamond. Occasionally, merit stars and some other stars and crosses are specified in the regulations to be worn on the right side.

4. Miniature medals are worn at the discretion of the wearer, unless specifically required by uniform regulations.

5. On particularly formal or ceremonial occasions, a grand collar may be worn. The specific wear of the collar is typically given in the rules of the order. Typically they are pinned in the middle at each shoulder so that approximately half of the collar is in the front, and Is in the back.

 

Ladies

Ladies' full dress attire consists of a formal, full-length gown (either ankle-length or full-length, with or without a train), and appropriate evening shoes. If the gown is sleeveless, then most formally, elbow gloves are worn. Hats are generally considered inappropriate with this level of dress, as are fascinators, unless the weather is cold enough to require it.

1. The principles that apply to sashes worn by gentlemen generally apply to ladies. With an evening gown, the sash is worn over the gown and often is affixed to the gown by a brooch at the shoulder or on the back. Sometimes the specific course of the sash is altered according to the gown for aesthetic purposes. Usually a lady's sash is more narrow than that of a gentleman, though the same full-width version may also correctly be used.

2. Neck decorations are rarely worn by ladies with an evening dress for aesthetic reasons. Similarly, the bar of miniature medals as worn by gentlemen is not generally worn. Rather, decorations are typically worn on the left side pendant from a bow of the ribbon of the order/decoration. Usually only one or two decorations are worn in that manner.

3. Ladies wear stars in the same manner as gentlemen, pinned to the evening gown. If the sash passes over where a star will be pinned, then the star is pinned over the sash. Typically fewer stars are worn on an evening gown for aesthetic reasons.

4. n particularly formal or ceremonial occasions, a grand collar may be worn. The specific wear of the collar is typically given in the rules of the order. Typically they are pinned in the middle at each shoulder so that approximately half of the collar is in the front, and Is in the back.

 

Black Tie (Smoking)

Gentlemen

Black tie, or general evening dress for a gentleman consists of a black evening jacket in a similar cut to a business suit, a black waistcoat, a white shirt with pleats and either a winged collar or a standard turn-down collar (usually a winged collar is considered too formal, but is certainly not incorrect), and a black bow tie. Shoes and gloves are as given for white tie above. The correct hat is either a top hat or a Homburg, both in black. A fedora or similar hat should be avoided, but is often considered tolerable when worn by college students or young men due to the expense of the other hats.

In summer or in tropical areas, regardless of the time of year, a white dinner jacket is acceptable, though not required. The white jacket may be worn with a black waistcoat or alternatively with a white waistcoat of appropriate lightweight material. An appropriate straw hat may be worn.

Variations to the black evening jacket exist. Black tie uniforms have their own regulations.

1. Sashes and collars are not worn.

2. One neck badge may be worn, and is generally be of the highest order/decoration. Some orders have badges that may be worn with black tie pendant from the left lapel buttonhole, such as the Legion of the Eagle or the Order of the Golden Fleece. This option is not used, however, if a bar of miniature medal is worn.


Black tie with neck decoration

3. No more than one star is worn. If need not be that of the highest order if the neck badge of the highest order is worn.

4. Miniature medals are worn at the discretion of the wearer, unless specifically required by uniform regulations.

5. The specific decorations and number of decorations worn black tie should correspond to the formality of the event. Usually, it is traditional to wear only one type of decoration if decorations are desired to be used, e.g., miniature medals or one star or one neck badge. Rosettes should be avoided with evening attire.

Ladies

Ladies' formal evening wear equivalent to black-tie typically consists of a formal evening gown that may be floorlength (always without a train) or to just below the knees. Gloves usage and style depends on the occasion and personal preference. As with full dress, hats and fascinators are not used in less the weather is sufficiently cold to require it.

Ladies wear decorations pendant from a bow pinned to the left side of the dress, either full-size (equivalent to a gentleman's neck decoration) or in miniature. Usually only one such decoration is worn, and sizes are not mixed. One star may be pinned to the dress as usual. As for gentlemen, the type and number of decorations should correspond to the formality of the event (see gentlemen's black-tie, #5 above).

 

Morning Dress

Gentlemen

Gentlemen's formal morning dress consists, most formally, of a cutaway style morning coat in black, with dark grey or light grey trousers, which most traditionally are striped. The waistcoat is either grey or black. The shirt is white with a winged collar. Shoes are black, either slip-on or lace-up. The tie typically is black or grey, plain, striped, or spotted, and is either in the four-in-hand or ascot style. Sometimes a bow tie may be used. The correct hat is a black top hat. The gloves are grey. Less formally, the cutaway coat may be grey, in which case the top hat and gloves are both grey. On some less formal occasions, coloured ties may be used. When used as daily dress, the general trends above are followed, except that the coat is not a cutaway, but rather a stroller, similar in style to a business suit. The trousers may be plain or striped. The hat may alternatively be a black or grey Homburg or fedora.

1. If medals are worn, then they usually are full-size. However, some areas have miniature medals as the custom. If that is the case, then the custom generally should be followed. The miniature/informal badge of certain orders, such as the Legion of the Eagle or the Order of the Golden Fleece, maybe worn pendant from the buttonhole of the left lapel, provided that no medal bar is worn.


Miniature badge of the Legion of the Eagle
worn through the buttonhole.

2. Sashes generally are not worn, but are on occasion. If used, they are worn underneath the coat.

3. One neck badge and one star may be worn.

4. The specific decorations and number of decorations worn with morning dress should correspond to the formality of the event. Usually, it is traditional to wear only one type of decoration if decorations are desired to be used, e.g., medals or one star or one neck badge. One rosette may alternatively be worn in place of all other decorations.

 

Ladies

Morning dress for ladies consists of a daytime formal dress typically from floorlength to knee-length. Short kid gloves may be worn. An appropriate formal hat or fascinator may be worn. Decorations, if used, follow the customs pertaining to ladies' evening attire above.

 

Lounge or Business Suits

Gentlemen

1. The most appropriate insignia for a suit in general is a single rosette. The miniature/informal badge of certain orders, such as the Legion of the Eagle or the Order of the Golden Fleece, maybe worn pendant from the buttonhole of the left lapel, provided that no medal bar is worn.

2. If worn, medals are full-size.


Business suit with large medals

3. A single neck badge may be worn as the occasion warrants.

4. Stars and collars are not worn.

Ladies

The customs pertaining to the wear of decorations are identical to those of gentlemen.

 

Host Nation Sensitivities

Customs and traditions vary from place to place. Thus it is wise if one is attending an event in another country to find out the customs pertaining to that country. If such customs may be followed without harm to one's own requirements, customs, and beliefs, then it is typically considered being a "good guest" to follow the local customs. Additionally, military uniforms should generally be avoided in countries other than those to which the uniform pertains unless an agreement between the nations exists for specific permission has been given. Uniforms pertaining to civic, humanitarian, and religious organisations, even if they have a military heritage (such as the Knights of Malta), are generally acceptable everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entire Contents Copyright © 2008-2019. Noble Company of Saint Mary of Walsingham. All Rights Reserved.