Leslie's Guiding History Site


Leader Uniform

Leader Uniform

Just as the uniform for Girl Scouts, and then early Guides, was rather vague, so even more vague was the uniform for Guiders.  None was suggested for leaders of Girl Scouts, and in the November 1909 suggestions for starting a Girl Guide unit, it merely stated 'country walking dress, navy biretta, walking stick.  So plenty of room for interpretation there!

By the 1912 handbook there was little more clarity: 

Hat. - Dark blue Alpine felt hat, with small plume of cock's feathers.  No chin strap.

Gauntlet Gloves. - Brown.

Dress. - Ordinary walking dress.

Shoulder-Knot. - White, on left shoulder.

Whistle. - On white lanyard.  Walking stick.

Badge. - Enameled monogram brooch, on necktie.

Officers' dress should be plain, nothing conspicuous."

The Girl Guides' Gazette of October 1915 gave guidance on uniform for Commissioners: "The Commissioner's uniform (optional) consists of shirt blouse, pale blue tie, regulation skirt with 2 pockets, regulation coat with 4 pockets, whistle cord on right shoulder to pocket, ordinary officer's brown belt, commissioner's silver cords on left lapel and shoulder with badge, soft leather gauntlet gloves."

The Girl Guides Gazette of May 1916 further clarified the uniform for Guiders:  "Officers' dress confirmed as: Girl Guide hat turned up on left side.  Blue Norfolk jacket, black horn buttons, pockets, Girl Guide ordinary blue uniform and blue tie with officers rank badge.  Brown leather belt, white shoulder knot, gauntlet gloves (brass buttons forbidden)."

January 1917 - "The following badges of rank agreed: Chief Commissioner - Gold cockade & cords.  County Commissioner - gold/silver cords, silver hat cord.  District Commissioner - Silver cord & badge, Assistant District Commissioner - saxe blue cockade & cords.  Staff or District Captain - red cockade.  Badge of rank for Captain - dark blue cockade at side of hat.  Lieutenant - Tenderfoot badge at side of hat.  Instructor - Instructor badge."

February 1917 brought further tweaks - "Officer's brooch to be worn on knot of tie, and tenderfoot to keep ends down neatly (no longer worn on hat as superceded by cockade for Captains.  Cocks feathers not worn on hats."  And perhaps more confusingly - "District Commissioner to now be known as Division Commissioner, and Assistant District Commissioner to be known as District Commissioner."

In March 1917, February's uniform instructions were clarified -  Lieutenants are to wear tenderfoot badge at side of hat and Lieutenant badge on tie.

It was in 1918 before the first photograph appeared, to give more detail to the meaning of the uniform instructions which were published in the new handbook, Girl Guiding, in January 1918:

Guider's Uniform: skirt - navy blue, not less than 8 ins. off the ground.  Shirt - navy blue.  Knickers - navy blue.  Coat - navy blue Norfolk with patch pockets and black bone buttons.  Tie - light blue or Company colour.  Hat - navy blue felt, turned up on the left side with badge according to rank.  (long or fancy hatpins should not be worn).  Belt - worn over coat.  Shoulder Knot - white on left shoulder.  Whistle - on white lanyard, worn around the neck and attached to belt on right side.  

Undress Uniform: in hot weather a navy blue tunic is authorised uniform for all Guiders.

Guiders Distinguishing Marks: Captain - navy blue cockade, and green badge brooch worn just below the knot of the tie.  Lieutenant - Tenderfoot brooch on left of hat and gilt badge brooch worn just below the knot of the tie.  Brown Owl - brown cockade, brown tie, Lieutenant's badge.
Secretaries' distinguishing marks: County Secretary, red cockade in hat, and badge with red pens.  Division Secretary, white cockade in hat and badge with white pens.  District Secretary, no cockade, badge with white pens.

In January 1921 it was confirmed that Guiders who gained Guide Proficiency Badges could wear them on their shirt sleeves, if wished.  (It is not clear how many Guiders opted to tackle Proficiency Badges, but for such a rule to be introduced suggests there must have been some demand).

Further tweaks were added - In February 1926 the hats were altered to have deeper crowns.  In July 1926 it was announced that  "on or after October 1st 1926, white shirts be worn by Guiders on official occasions."  In August 1926 it was announced that white shirts would not be worn by Guiders in Scotland.

It was also in 1926 that County Badges were introduced for Guiding members in England (Guiding members in Ulster, Wales and Scotland, had Country Badges instead).  And in June 1933, the camp overall became an alternative summer uniform for Guiders.

Skirt - Navy blue

Shirt or Jumper - Navy blue*

Knickers - Navy blue, or black

Coat - Navy blue, with patch pockets and black bone buttons

Shoes & Stockings - Black

Tie - Light blue or company colour

Hat - Navy blue felt, or straw for summer, turned up on the left side, with badge according to rank.  Plain navy blue silk ribbon, one inch wide, worn round crown (Hatpins should not be worn).

Belt - Brown leather, with official buckle, worn over coat

Gloves - Brown

Whistle - On white lanyard, worn round the neck and attached to belt on right side

Title Tape - May be worn on left shoulder

* White shirts are worn by Guiders on official occasions.  An official occasion is one at which three or more companies are grouped together.  Training weeks and camps are not in this sense official occasions.  White shirts should never be worn when it is necessary for the Guider to take off her coat.  Conferences or social occasions at which uniform is worn are appropriate to white shirts.

Distinguishing Marks

Brown Owl - Brown cockade, brown tie, and Brown Owl's badge worn on tie.

Tawny Owl - Brown tie, hat turned up with Brownie Recruit badge, and Tawny Owl badge worn on tie.

Captain - Tie of light blue or company colour, navy blue cockade and green badge brooch worn just below knot of tie, Tenderfoot badge on tie

Lieutenant - Tie of light blue or company colour, Tenderfoot brooch on left of hat and gilt badge brooch worn just below knot of tie.

Sea Guide Captain/Lieutenant - Navy blue felt hat, black mohair braid round base of crown.  White pique cap cover to be worn May to September.  Hat turned up on left side, with badge according to rank.  Black tie.

As well as the formal uniform, there was a need for less formal uniform.  With Guiders attending training weeks and fortnight-long camps, it wasn't realistic to wear full uniform every day, especially when undertaking strenuous and active outdoor activities.  And in high summer, the serge suit was going to be too hot to wear.  So as early as 1918 it was confirmed that there would be an 'undress uniform' option - in hot weather a navy blue tunic was authorised uniform for all Guiders.

But clearly, this authorisation was not sufficient, as can be seen from a statement published in the Girl Guide Gazette in April 1921 - "It has been noticed that considerable latitude has been allowed to creep in, in regard to the wearing of undress uniform by Guiders at training weeks and camps.  Official undress uniform consists of a navy blue jumper or shirt, worn with a short navy skirt; sweaters or woolen coats, if worn, should be navy blue.  In future Commandants of weeks and camps are requested to hold inspections of undress - as well as of full dress uniform - and to see that Guiders comply with the above regulations."

Perhaps as a reaction to this, an official blue camp overall was introduced for Guiders, with a choice of short or long sleeve, and to go with this, a bucket-style camp hat was also introduced, and it was stated that : 'In the case of Guiders, skirts should cover the knee, and as a general rule, stockings should be worn when going through a village or town, except in exceptional circumstances such as going to the beach.  Guiders need not take full uniform (tunic and skirt) to camp provide that they have a really tidy, clean, camp overall, hat, blazer and mackintosh (navy blue)'."

In June 1933 it was confirmed that the blue cotton camp overall could be worn throughout summer, not just at camp, with with the collar closed by the tie or with open-neck - in which case the Tenderfoot Badge would be worn in the 'V' of the neck.  Camp hat can also be considered uniform.  And in June 1934 it was advised that the shop was now stocking a new camp overall, with short sleeves, for Guiders.  This new overall was in light blue casement cloth, the same material and colour as the Guide summer overall.  The shop also stocked an overall for Guiders in light blue repp, or in navy blue.  Following this, in January 1937, a new design of Guider overall was introduced, made on the lines of a fitted dress, and in the new 'Headquarters Blue' colour, rather than Guiding's traditional choice of navy.  And from June 1938  Guiders were allowed to wear short-sleeved overalls at summer Company and other meetings.  Nevertheless, the formal uniform remained formal . . .

In Britain, clothes rationing was announced in 1941, affecting all civilian clothing.  The July 1941 edition of "The Guider" gave details of the impact on uniforms: Guiders - Raincoats and Coats - 14 coupons, Jacket or Blazer - 11 coupons, Guider's Dress (woollen) - 11 coupons, Guider's Dress (cotton) - 7 coupons, Guider's Skirt - 7 coupons, Blouse or Sports Shirt - 5 coupons, Guider's Ties - 1 coupon, Stockings - 2 coupons, Collar - 1 coupon, 2 Handkerchiefs - 1 coupon, Scarf - 2 coupons, Gloves - 2 coupons, Boots or Shoes - 5 coupons, Cardigan or Jersey - 5 coupons.  Cotton Fabric 36" was 2 coupons per yard, Woollen Fabric 36" was 3 coupons per yard, Knitting wool was 1 coupon per 2-ounce ball.  
It's worth bearing in mind that initially, adults were allowed a total of 60 coupons for all their personal clothing needs, and children 70 coupons.  This was later reduced to 48 coupons, and continued long after the war finished.

But clothing coupons wasn't the last of the impact on uniforms from war.  An alternative uniform for Rangers was introduced, and in May 1942 there was a further announcement about it.  The relevant parts for Guiders were: "Ranger Uniform.  a) Ranger Guiders may wear the new Ranger alternative uniform."  "e) Ranger Guiders should wear the Ranger hat badge on the beret with Warrant Badge immediately above it, and woven County Badge on point of tie at the back.  f) Guiders may wear hard hats with the new uniform."  "m) Gas Masks.  Guiders and Rangers in uniform should, if possible, carry their gas masks in a navy blue haversack.  The supply of navy blue haversacks is limited, and Guiders ordering by post are asked to state the name of their company.  This will ensure that all available supplies go to members of the movement."  Then in November 1942 it was announced that "The Board of Trade can no longer release supplies of leather for Girl Guide and Brownie belts, and at present no further orders can be taken.  We are still hoping to secure material for a substitute, and as soon as possible further information will be published in The Guider."

December 1942 brought further changes: "Ranger Guiders wearing coats and skirts or overalls may wear dark blue open-ended ties."  "Guiders Hats.  A vertical strip of ribbon will be used on Guiders' hats in the place of cockades (where these are not procurable) and the County Badge will be worn in the middle of the strip.  Outstanding orders for cockades will be executed, but new orders will now receive strips of ribbon (obtainable from headquarters)."  And then in November 1943: "It was agreed that until warranted, new Commissioners should wear the ordinary uniform with the exception of the cockade (in view of the fact that cords are not now available) which will be supplied when the warrant is issued.  The hat may be turned up with a County badge."

Commissioner Cords remained difficult to obtain, so it was announced in  August 1947 that "It has been agreed that Commissioners shall wear a Lapel Badge, the design for which has been approved.  (Badges are not yet in stock)."  These became available in January 1949 - Chief Commissioner: gold, County Commissioner: silver with gold enamel, Division Commissioner: silver-coloured metal with white enamel, District Commissioner: silver-coloured metal with blue enamel.  In February 1951 these were altered to: "County: Silver with gold enamel.  Assistant county: Silver with gold enamel.  Division: Silver coloured metal with white enamel.  Assistant Division: Silver coloured metal with white enamel.  District: Silver coloured metal with blue enamel."

July 1952 - "For Sea Ranger Guiders the navy blue felt hat should be worn as a tricorne together with black mohair band and the Sea Ranger Guiders' cap badge."  "As an alternative the navy blue tailored beret (official pattern) may be worn."  
July 1954 - Uniform amendment for Sea Ranger Guiders - "Sea Ranger Guiders, when wearing a tricorne, should wear the cloth county bade on the left shoulder of the battledress blouse.  When wearing a beret they should wear the county badge on the diamond-shaped felt in the usual way.

June 1959 - "In answer to a general demand an alternative to the battledress blouse and skirt for Guiders, Rangers and Cadets has been designed and will be on sale from 1st July . . . This uniform will also be an alternative to the coat and skirt for Commissioners."

The new Leader uniform for 1968 was: 

General Appearance

1) a) Hair should be worn in a neat and suitable style.

b) Handbags (if carried) should be navy blue and of the official pattern.

c) Umbrellas (if carried) should be navy blue or black.

d) No jewellery is worn in uniform, with the exception of wedding, engagement or signet rings.

e) Uniform and mufti must not be mixed.

Adult Uniform

Jacket and Skirt (official pattern) Navy blue


Cardigan or V-neck Jersey - Navy blue


Skirt (official pattern) - Navy blue

Blouse (official pattern) - Blue and white check

Cap or Beret (official pattern) - Navy blue with cockade or flash according to appointment.

Crossover Ribbon - Navy blue or according to appointment.

Badge - Gilt or according to enrolment or investiture

Stockings - Neutral

Shoes - Brown or black leather of a suitable pattern.

Gloves (optional) - Brown or black.

Summer Uniform

Dress (official pattern) - Guide blue

Crossover Ribbon - Worn only when dress is fastened at the neck.

Informal Occasions

Skirt, Slacks, Jeans or Shorts - Navy blue


Shirt (official pattern) - Guide blue, cellular

Camp Dress (official pattern) - Guide blue


Shirt (optional) (official pattern) - Guide blue, cellular


Belt (optional) - Same material as dress, or brown leather official pattern

Anorak or Windcheater - Navy or Guide blue

The holder of a Camper's Licence may wear a green lanyard in camp.

The holder of a Pack Holiday Permit may wear a buff lanyard in camp.

Distinguishing Marks

Ranger Guider- Navy crossover ribbon tie with two aquamarine stripes, navy hat diamond with aquamarine edging.

Assistant Ranger Guider - Navy crossover ribbon tie with one aquamarine stripe, navy hat diamond.

Guide Guider - Navy crossover ribbon tie with two Guide blue stripes, navy hat diamond with Guide blue edging.

Assistant Guide Guider - Navy crossover ribbon tie with one Guide blue stripe navy hat diamond.

Brownie Guider - Navy crossover ribbon tie with two brown stripes, navy hat diamond with yellow edging.

Assistant Brownie Guider - Navy crossover ribbon tie with one brown stripe, navy hat diamond.

Cadet Guider - Navy blue crossover ribbon with two white stripes, navy hat diamond with white edging.

Air Ranger Guider - Navy blue crossover ribbon with two pale blue stripes, navy hat diamond with pale blue edging.

Land Ranger Guider - Navy blue crossover ribbon with two red stripes, navy hat diamond with red edging.

Sea Ranger Guider - Blouse (official pattern) white, Tie - black, Hat (official pattern) navy blue tricorn with white cover and black mohair band, navy blue cloth hat badge with gold wire embroidered trefoil.

Guider not holding a warrant - Navy blue ribbon tab tie, navy hat diamond.

March 1968 - yellow-striped ribbon tie and yellow hat felts to be introduced for Brownie Leaders when stocks of the brown versions are exhausted.

February 1969 - new Camp Dress for Guiders and Rangers launched.

May 1977 - New style Ranger/Guider Camp dress with collar and revers in terylene and cotton, now available.

July 1990 - "All the main items in the new uniform ranges for the girls' sections should be available on September 1st."  "There had been some difficulties in obtaining the waterproof jackets and some of the adult range but these should be ready by November 1."

A mix-and-match selection from

Navy suit jacket

Navy button-through suit skirt

Light blue and white vertical stripe blouse, short or long sleeve

Light blue and white vertical stripe button-through skirt

White polo shirt with navy collar

Navy zip-jacket with white sleeve stripe

Navy sweatshirt with white trim

Light blue knitted jersey with white trim

Navy shorts

Navy short cullottes

Navy long cullottes

Navy trousers

Navy jogging trousers

Navy baseball cap

Brown leather belt with official buckle

Badge tab:

Commissioner/Adviser - Plain navy

Rainbow Guider - Navy with two green vertical stripes

Brownie Guider - Navy with two yellow vertical stripes

Guide Guider - Navy with two royal blue vertical stripes

Ranger Guider - Navy with two aqua vertical stripes

Young Leader Guider - Navy with two white vertical stripes

June 1999 - "A new uniform addition for Adult Leaders - a navy polo shirt - has been approved."

September 2003 - New adult leader uniform options.  Navy zip-neck sweatshirt, polo shirt in navy or white with mid blue collar, quartered rugby shirt in navy and mid blue, zip front sweatshirt with mid-blue collar lining, fleece gilet in navy and mid blue, waterproof jacket in navy with mid blue, navy trousers, navy shorts, navy skirt in short and long length.  A new blouse and scarf will be available in early 2004.
March 2005 - First images of the new Leader long-sleeve and short sleeve blouses, and tunic - in raspberry, blue and white random-width vertical stripes.
September 2008 - New adult uniform hoodie introduced.