What does the phrase dressed in white English pomp mean in the following sentence, which appears in an article in the New York Times?
Until my grandfather died, a slide carousel was a staple of family Christmases: the photographs of Nan, Pop and their five daughters dressed in white English pomp for a country show or the horse races were my own iconic images of this mysterious land. (source)
The only recent instance of similar usage of pomp I've been able to find is this:
By all accounts, the wedding was an elegant and traditional affair with the Gutshaus (more a squire's country seat than a simple farmhouse) of his parents-in-law lovingly bedecked with massed flowers, the wedding party all gaily dressed in full military pomp and civil finery. (source)
There are two more instances, from the early 1800s:
Yet it was obvious to every reader, even of the English Testament, that the songs of Mary, of Zacharias, and of Simeon, breathe the very spirit of ancient poetry; that they are not only dressed in the figurative pomp, but formed in the antithesis and parallelism, by which it is characterized. (source)
Upon this memorable day, the king appeared on his throne of state, dressed in all the pomp imaginable, and surrounded by his grandees, the magi, and the deputies from all the neighbouring nations... (source)
The problem is that the dictionaries do not seem to record this usage of pomp. Here is the full definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:
a. Splendid display or celebration; magnificent show or ceremony. Formerly frequently with negative connotation: ostentatious, specious, or boastful show; vainglory (frequently coupled with pride).
b. In pl. with same sense.
(a) In or with allusion to the various forms of the baptismal formula used in the catechism, as the devil and all his pomps, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, etc.
c. fig. Chiefly poet. Splendid or impressive display in nature.
a. A triumphal or ceremonial procession or train; a pageant; a splendid show or display along a line of march. Now arch. and hist.
b. literary. Any procession or sequence of persons or things. Also: an imposing movement of water, etc. Now rare.
†3. concr. A splendid or showy ornament, appurtenance, etc. Obs.
†4. magistrate of the pomps n. a sumptuary officer in Venice. Obs.
The closest that the OED comes is the 3. (and obsolete) usage, A splendid or showy ornament, appurtenance, etc. Here appurtenance means a possession or piece of property that is considered to be a typical feature of a particular way of living (see e.g. here). However, it doesn't make sense to say that someone was dressed in splendid ornament. Moreover, in this OED entry, pomp seems to be a count noun (a splendid or showy ornament), whereas pomp in dressed in white English pomp seems to be uncount, since there is no determiner before white.
I looked at all the hits for 'pomp' at www.onelook.com. Some alternative phrasings that could be relevant include:
ostentatious display (here)
Pomp is the use of a lot of ceremony, fine clothes, and decorations, especially on a special occasion <...the pomp and splendour of the English aristocracy> (here)
ceremonial elegance and splendor, a synonym of eclat (here) ('When you do something with eclat, you do it with great style or an amazing effect. A skilled magician performs all of her tricks with eclat.') (here)
Display; ostentation; parade; splendor; magnificence. (here)
pompous displays, actions, or things: < The official was accompanied by all the pomps of his high position. > (here)
This last entry seems promising because it has things. But I doubt the author of the NYT article meant to say that the five daughters were dressed in white English pompous things; I doubt he meant any negative connotation in that sentence, and pompous definitely has a negative connotation.
You might ask, why not ceremonial elegance and splendor? Two reasons. First, in this meaning, pomp is meant to be like eclat, and that word used as in entered with much eclat in a coach drawn by eight white horses (see e.g. here). It doesn't sound like you can be dressed in eclat (indeed, searching google books for "dressed in * eclat" produces zero hits). Second, the OED's definitions are characteristically quite fine-grained, much finer than that of the other dictionaries, and none of the definitions from the OED fit.
Nevertheless, my best guess is that the writer meant something like this: their five daughters dressed in white English ceremonial elegance for a country show. In particular, searching google books for "dressed in * elegance" does produce some hits, e.g. listeners found a competent lecturer of “commanding presence,” dressed in modest elegance; Lucinda herself was dressed in casual elegance in an expensive sleeveless blouse and slacks; People of Fashion dressed in high elegance would pass those in all manner of dress and undress.
But it still seems a bit strange usage to me, because of the presence of white English. I would have expected the word that follows white English to refer to some particular style of clothing, some fancy style of English dress.
Moreover, note that the OED's definition for elegance does have an entry that is (roughly) consistent with usage where elegance means an attire: As a count noun: something that is elegant; an elegant gesture, style of behaviour, etc. The fit is not perfect, because the OED says that it should be a count noun, whereas all the examples of elegance from I gave above seem to use it as uncount noun, judging by the lack od determiners. Still, note that there is no similar entry for pomp in the OED, where pomp could refer to an attire. The closest it comes is splendid or showy ornament, but, as I've said, it doesn't make sense to say that someone was dressed in splendid ornament.
Another possible source of confusion: the context of the text is Australian outback in times past, so there could be also racial connotations, i.e. the white could refer not to the color of the dress, but to the race of the people involved.
So, what does dressed in white English pomp mean, precisely? Also, do you find it to be unusual usage? Confusing usage?