View Full Version : Marines consider changes to female uniform

11-23-02, 06:48 PM

Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps
Female Marines show off some of the ideas for uniform changes the Corps is considering.

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, November 23, 2002

ARLINGTON, Va. — There’s a difference between sameness and equality, and Staff Sgt. Mildred Best likes it when she looks feminine — and different — from men while wearing her dress blue uniform.

“The dress blues bring out the woman in female Marines,” said the 29-year-old food service instructor stationed at Fort Lee, Va.

But that could change.

The Marine Corps Uniform Board will consider several recommended changes to female attire, from altering the dress blues to overhauling maternity uniforms.

One suggestion, generated from a three-day Women’s Symposium in September, includes adding the men’s white belt worn on the outside of the blue jacket — a recommendation that made Best cringe.

“Oh no, that belt would be too masculine,” said Best, 29. “The female uniform fits like an hourglass and brings out the contours of a woman’s body. The belt would take that away.”

Not to mention highlight some potentially unflattering traits, said Gunnery Sgt. Rita DeSanno, 36.

“They’d have to make the coat longer because otherwise, you’d have a lot of women with their butts sticking out,” said DeSanno, also a food instructor at the Corps’ cooking school at Fort Lee. “It would be like having this shelf sticking out back there.”

At its Dec. 18 session, the convening board will consider suggestions to alter the female enlisted blue dress uniform, including adding more decorative red piping to mirror the men’s dress uniform and adding the belt, said Capt. Daniel Dukes, a spokesman for the board that meets roughly once a quarter at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Not all of the recommendations are popular, Dukes said.

“We’ve heard the red piping really isn’t flattering and the white belt draws attention where they don’t necessarily want attention,” Dukes said. “We’ve heard, ‘These [ideas] need to die. What we’re wearing now is fine.’”

Best and DeSanno applauded a recommendation, however, to eliminate the slanted breast pocket on the dress blue coat.

“It serves absolutely no useful purpose,” DeSanno said. Men use their horizontal pocket as a reference point for affixing ribbons. It’s not so easy on the women’s uniform, which means they must begin placing the ribbons 1/8th of an inch above the highest pocket point and then in a straight row along an imaginary horizontal line.

None of the changes would be immediate, Dukes said. And most likely, Marines would not have to replace their existing dress blues until they are worn out. The coats cost between $150 and $200.

The board also will consider reducing female enlisted chevrons, the rank markings worn on sleeves, by another 30 percent. They already are 30 percent smaller than men’s.

“They could start seeing that on shelves within the next six months” if the board approves the recommendation, Dukes said.

The uniform board has long-range plans that include eliminating the ruffled formal dress shirt, overhauling maternity uniforms and bringing parity in the cost of Marine hats, called covers, Dukes said.

Men can swap the required dress white or green covers onto a single frame, at a cost of roughly $30. Women have to buy separate covers, at a cost of $70 to $100 apiece, Dukes said.

Best would like to see them cheaper, but not done away with.

“If they could somehow make a frame for the cover, that would be best. I like the way it looks. It’s made differently from men’s to allow us to tuck our hair into the cap,” she said.

The result of the symposium is to keep the cap if possible, Dukes said. “There’s history and tradition behind the family of Marine uniforms,” he said. “Just as there is for the male uniform, a lot of females feel strongly about their tradition.”

Tackling the maternity apparel will be the toughest, he said.

“And man, I wish they would,” said Best, who used maternity clothes last year. “Those things are crazy. They look ridiculous. They look like tents.”

“All maternity uniforms are going to get a hard relook,” Dukes said. “How do we crack this nut on making a uniform that is cost-effective in production, can handle the profile changes like going from first term [of pregnancy] to second term and finally looks good, and pregnant Marines would feel comfortable wearing?”