Workwear: Made for the Job!

The Language of Uniforms

Uniforms and military dress change constantly. Many of the uniforms in the Maritime Museum of BC's collection are no longer worn, or a contemporary version looks very different from the historical version. Naming conventions have changed as well. 

Articles from the 1951 edition of Uniform Instructions for The Royal Canadian Navy are used whenever possible in this exhibit to contextualize these (almost exclusively) mid-20th century naval garments and name them. This is why objects that might, for example, generally be called a sweater or a rain poncho are named in this exhibit as a jersey and a jumper.


Workwear is clothing designed specifically to help the wearer feel comfortable and be safe as they work. Many occupations and professions have uniforms associated with them; often, wearing a uniform helps groups of people feel cohesive and connected in an organization or institution. Clothing made to be worn for tough jobs is often sewn from strong materials, reinforced well, and thoughtfully designed for comfort, safety, and ease of wear.

Military Dress

Military dress is highly specific. Navy uniforms are very particular, and have been codified over centuries. In Uniform Instructions for The Royal Canadian Navy, the set of uniform pieces that are appropriate for a specific occasion are refered to under a Dress No. This classification has been referenced whenever possible in this exhibit. There truly is an outfit for every occasion!

As all pieces for all possible occasions are issued as part of a service member's kit, a large collection of workwear results. The work? That might differ greatly, depending on the wearer's trade or role! Consider these outfits, each representing a different service member's dress for the day's work: 

A jacket and skirt suitable for a WRCNS officer's daily work;

a sailor's "square rig" that could be dressed up and down depending on the occasion;

a practical, but still military-issued jean-on-jean outfit that could be put together with pieces from your own closet;

and, a repurposed and worn-to-threads flight suit with all of its original gear.

Workwear: Made for the Job!