Court dress with long train. Portugal, c.1845.

In clothing, a train describes the long back portion of a robe, coat, cloak, skirt, overskirt, or dress that trails behind the wearer.

It is a common part of ceremonial robes in academic dress, court dress or court uniform. It is also a common part of a woman's formal evening gowns or wedding dresses.

Types of train


Dress with a fishtail train, French, c. 1880. LACMA
Detail of the previous dress

Wedding dress

Trains in modern (20th and 21st century) bridal wear have their own terminology:

Brides of the Ndebele people of South Africa traditionally wear long beaded trains hung from the shoulder, known as nyoga (snake).[7]

Trains as part of uniform

The Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, wearing his official academic dress as the university chancellor

Trains are a common feature of the Royal mantles of Kings and Princes, as well as the mantles of many chivalric orders.

Officers of older, traditional universities generally wear distinctive and more elaborate dress. The Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor may wear a black damask lay type gown with a long train.[8][9][10] In France the train is now usually hooked to the inner side of the robe.

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, when robed, dresses like a High Court Judge with the distinction of a train to his scarlet robe.[11]

Lords Justices of Appeal, full ceremonial dress, 2013

Judges of the Court of Appeal wear the black silk damask gown, trained and heavily embellished with gold embroidery.

French court dress includes a train, now buttoned to the inside of the robe and suspended by fabric bands, a vestige of the former practice of lawyers carrying their trains.[12]

The Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and other high dignitaries also wear similar embroidered black robes with trains.[13]

The Lord Mayor of London also wears a robe with a train.[14]

A trained robe, the cappa magna (great cape) remains in use in the Catholic Church for certain ceremonial occasions. Cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates are entitled to wear the cappa magna, but within the territory of their jurisdiction.[15]

Eastern Orthodox bishops also traditionally use a cloak with a long train known as the Mandyas, which may have parallels with the development of the Catholic cappa magna.

Japanese court attire with train

For male peers, the Coronation robe is a cloak of crimson velvet extending to the feet, open in the front (with white silk satin ribbon ties) with train trailing behind.[16] The Parliament robe of a British peer is a full-length garment of scarlet wool with a collar of white miniver fur, cut long as a train, but this is usually kept hooked up inside the garment.[17]

Court dresses for women were commonly fifteen yards in length.[2] Court dresses for noble women sometimes had trains both behind and in front of the dress.[4]

Japanese Imperial court clothing, sokutai for men and jūnihitoe for women, both include a long train extending from the back of the robe. It remains in use with the Imperial Household of Japan for ceremonial occasions.[18]


Cartoon showing how trailing skirts can transmit diseases. Published in Puck, August 8, 1900.

Trains declined in popularity in the late nineteenth century when they were targeted by public health campaigns in Europe and the United States that argued they brought germs from the streets into the wearers' homes. The issue was the subject of a cartoon published in Puck in 1900 entitled "The Trailing Skirt: Death Loves a Shining Mark."[19]



  1. ^ "Court train (manteau de cour), ca. 1809". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2006. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b Dress and Insignia Worn at His Majesty's Court. Various editions 1898-1937
  3. ^ Watt, Judith (2012). Fashion: The definitive history of costume and style (1. publ. ed.). London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 200. ISBN 9781405398794.
  4. ^ a b Cumming, Valerie; Cunnington, C. W.; Cunnington, P. E. (2010). The Dictionary of Fashion History. Berg. p. 208. ISBN 978-0857851437.
  5. ^ a b c d e Shimer, Elizabeth (2004). The wedding gown book: how to find the gown that perfectly fits your body, personality, style, and budget. Gloucester, Mass.: Quarry Books. p. 44. ISBN 1592530664. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  6. ^ a b Hagen, Shelly (2004). The everything wedding book: the ultimate guide to planning the wedding of your dreams (3rd ed.). Avon, Mass.: Adams Media. p. 117. ISBN 1593371268.
  7. ^ Brennan, Summer. "A Natural History of the Wedding Dress". JSTOR Daily.
  8. ^ The Oxford and Cambridge review, Volume 4. Oxford University. 1847. p. 530.
  9. ^ "Australian National University, Academic and Ceremonial Dress Order 2010". Federal Register of Legislation. 27 July 2010.
  10. ^ "National University of Ireland, Academic Dress Booklet" (PDF). Academic Dress of the NUI.
  11. ^ Dress worn at Court, 1921 edition.
  12. ^ Renard, Clement. "Dans le secret des robes noire des avocat". Le Parisien.
  13. ^ Campbell, Una (1989). Robes of the Realm. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd: London. pp. 53-54.
  14. ^ Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher (1992). The London Encyclopaedia (reprint ed.). Macmillan. p. 496.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "No. 39709". The London Gazette. 2 December 1952. p. 6351.
  17. ^ Cox, Noel (1999). "The Coronation and Parliamentary Robes of the British Peerage." Arma, the Journal of the Heraldry Society of Southern Africa. Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 289–293. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.
  18. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Sokutai
  19. ^ Emily Mullin (May 10, 2016). "How Tuberculosis Shaped Victorian Fashion". Smithsonian Magazine.
  20. ^ Ingrid Loschek Reclams Mode- und Kostümlexikon. Reclam, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-15-010448-3, S. 156.

Further reading