Air Force officers and enlisted personnel wear the mess dress uniform to formal occasions such as the Air Force Ball, a unit's annual dining-in or civilian events like weddings that require evening wear. All officers are required to own a mess dress uniform. For enlisted personnel, the uniform can be expensive, so shopping second hand is widely practiced. The Air Force has some very specific guidelines for the proper way to wear a mess dress uniform, so it's important to have the correct presentation.
Wear dark blue or black socks to match the dark blue trousers and jacket of the mess dress uniform. Ladies replace the trousers with a long dark blue skirt and should wear dark colored hosiery.
Iron and starch a long white formal shirt. The collar should be one suitable for wearing with the mandatory blue satin bow tie and cummerbund for black tie events, and the white satin bow tie and cummerbund for white tie events.
Tuck in the formal white shirt into trousers or skirt. Put on the cummerbund with pleats up around the waist, about halfway between pants and shirt. Tie the bow tie in typical fashion.
Arrange the appropriate insignia on front of mess dress jacket. The name tag and headgear are not part of this uniform, but all personnel are highly encouraged to wear their current occupational badge, although optional, except for aeronautical and chaplain members. Badges worn should only be mid-size or regular and you should not mix sizes. If you have authorized medals, these will serve as a sort of center point for various other medals and badges. All should be neatly arranged around the midway point between the shoulder and top button of the jacket on the left side.
Arrange mandatory command insignias on the right side of the jacket. They should be adjacent to the rows of miniature medals on the left side of the jacket, with current command center adjacent to the top row of medals, and graduated commanders lower insignia adjacent to the bottom of the row.
Place shoulder and arm insignia on the jacket. Officers place shoulder boards on the shoulder seam of the jacket. Enlisted personnel will bend their elbow 90 degrees and place the 4-inch sleeve chevron halfway between shoulder seam and elbow.
Finish the mess dress uniform with matching cuff links and studs. These can be a plain, highly polished silver, "Wing and Star" design or satin finish with the Air Force symbol. Keep the chain clasp on the jacket buttoned.