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Navy Updates Service Uniforms for Female Sailors

Prototype for the female combination cover, redesigned to more closely resemble the male version.

The Navy plans to evaluate and redesign parts of the female service dress uniform for both officers and enlisted personnel no later than May, according to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Mabus signed off on a proposal by Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran to redesign the service dress blue uniform of female sailors E-1 through E-6, and the female combination cover for E-7s and above.

"These changes ensure greater uniformity in our service and ceremonial dress, but more importantly, they send a clear signal that we are one in dress, one in standard and one in team," Mabus said in a statement. "As you look out across a group of sailors, you ought to see, not female and male sailors, but sailors."

The changes announced on Monday follow a May 2013 survey of more than 1,000 female officer and enlisted sailors who said "loud and clear … ‘don't simply put us in men's uniforms.'"

"We are taking the needed time to develop and test uniforms that more closely resemble their male shipmates, but are designed to fit female sailors," Moran said.

Navy uniform officials said additional changes to the female uniforms are also likely as the uniform board continues looking at ways to improve uniformity and functionality.

On Monday, though, the Navy offered details only on a few items.

The new E-1 to E-6 service dress uniform change includes a jumper and "Dixie cup" cap that is tailored for the female body and functionality and will match the recently redesigned male jumper.

The new jumper for male sailors, approved but not yet issued, resembles that worn by "The Lone Sailor," the bronze sculpture that stands at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC, and other Navy facilities across the country.

After a fit evaluation is completed on the female jumper-style uniform and Dixie cup, both the male and female uniforms will be issued throughout the fleet, the Navy said.

The female combination cover for E-7s and above also will be redesigned to resemble the male version, but fitted for a woman's head size and proportion. The Navy found from recent testing that simply issuing a male cover to female sailors fell short of the mark of a satisfactory fit and appearance.

The actual timeline and costs for the redesigned uniform items will be determined after the wear test.

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