It is perfectly acceptable for women to wear trouser suits in messes for the simple reason that we men know exactly how to take them off since we normally (booties excepted) wear the same garment.
Other than that the normal attire for a woman in a mess should be a skirt that is short enough to not require removing in order to get to the goods.
For those that want to react to a bit of brutal baiting:
As for a mess having a significant number of women in it I can only anticipate that this would happen on a dinner night or a ball when there were a significant number of civilian women (ie wives/girlfriends/wannabees) in attendance. Other cases would indicate some sort of REMF mess that probably isn't worth being in in the first place!
Surely the answer to your question lies within the realms of the Mess Committee Meeting. If you have determination to raise the issue, you should surely have the nouse to have, quietly, gained the support for an acceptable compromise. Eg: on the nights that Gentlemen are expected to wear suits, Ladies should wear either a dress or a formal trouser suit. However, in the same way as a dress was expected to be joined at the middle and not revealing either shoulders or bust, (as this apparently distracts the the mess staff and puts other diners off their dinner! ) a Ladies Suit for dinner should be equally as formal.
The bottom line is, Ladies, you are a minority in an old fashioned world, and whilst you should strive for equality, you may find that that is gained better by quiet subvercity (is there such a word?) rather than head on confrontation!!
That's from a "girly" old hand who had done infantry Regiments and been a Forward Air Controller - Quietly, quietly, catch the monkey!
I presume, UNO that you are referring to those officers whose right to command is vested in the fact that they have a genetic deformity resulting in a lack of chin, a tendancy to Bray 'HAW HAW' instead of laugh and a belief it is normal to bugger younger boys as a prefect.
CGS - I presume this is one who would be a prototypical officer from 'The Psychology of Military Incompetence'.
Well, I was a "proper officer from a proper regiment" (whatever that's meant to mean). I was also PMC of the Officers' Mess for two years, and my dear lady wife (to whom I am still married) wore what she liked in the Mess, much to the discomfort of some of the bufties but much to the delight of the junior officers wives and girlfriends. Old fashioned good manners, which should prevail in all messes, dictate that guests and spouses should be welcomed no matter what style, attire, or attitudes they bring with them, as long as these are presented in an equally tolerant manner. Frankly, some of the mess "rules" are pathetically old-fashioned and anally retentive. If a girl wants to wear trousers, what the Hell is wrong with that?
Let's get real for the 21st century, boys and girls.
As an outsider and a civvy who has never even been in a mess it strikes me that you can't actually have it both ways.
The rank structure was for generations based on class, breeding and position and there was an expectation that those commissioned would have the know how regarding behaviour and dress..in short they would naturally be 'gentlemen'.
Now that officers are from all classes there is bound to be a lack of respect and understanding for previously taken for granted norms.
Guys can learn the expected ways to behave of course but some will fail to understand the value of it.
To accept working class lads as officers then expect them to 'act' in a manner from a costume drama is unworkable longterm BUT
my dear lady wife (to whom I am still married) wore what she liked in the Mess, much to the discomfort of some of the bufties but much to the delight of the junior officers wives and girlfriends. Old fashioned good manners, which should prevail in all messes, dictate that guests and spouses should be welcomed no matter what style, attire, or attitudes they bring with them, as long as these are presented in an equally tolerant manner..
Wearing 'what one likes' as a guest in an organisation with a strongly developed dress code strikes me as deliberately provocative and actually downright rude
One shouldn't tax the good manners of ones hosts by flouting the social norms...if one does it merely reflects badly upon oneself...but of course an officer and a gentlemen would naturally know this
Ultimately, as has already been mentioned, the PMC and the CO (or other resident commander) have the final say.
I think that the standards and codes within a mess are not there to restrict behaviour, but to ensure that people are as comfortable as possible with the boundaries well understood. If the 'norms' are not known, then embarassment can easily ensue. Similarly, if the rules are restrictive (and exist, say, for the benefit of some crusty old officer, then just wheel him out at dawn, well away from the stables, and shoot him), get them changed in the usual manner!