Some Female Marines Won’t Have to Shell Out for New Unisex Dress Blues Coat

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Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island female uniform
Pfc. Kathy Espinoza, from New York City, N.Y. inspects the uniform of Pvt. Arella Aleman, from Dallas, Texas Nov. 9, 2018 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Nov. 16, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Tyler Hlavac)

Female Marines who are approaching the end of their service contracts won't need to shell out hundreds of dollars for a replacement dress coat as the Corps moves to a unisex look.

Marines leaving the service on or before Jan. 1, 2023, won't have to buy the new female dress coat, the service announced Monday. That's despite a mandatory possession date for the unisex-style coat kicking in three months earlier.

"Marines with current contracts (or who will begin terminal leave in conjunction with their retirement) that end on or before 1 January 2023 are waived the requirement to own the new female blue dress coat before 1 October 2022, and may continue to wear their current female blue dress coat until 1 January 2023," a service-wide message states.

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The message was signed by Commandant Gen. David Berger.

If women prefer the look of the current female dress coat and they're retiring or leaving the Marine Corps before Dec. 1, 2022, they'll also get the option of wearing either version at future events, the message adds.

No other waivers for the mandatory new look will be considered, it adds.

The Marine Corps announced in 2018 that women must switch from the open-collared female coat to the new unisex-style version on Oct. 1, 2022. New recruits and officer candidates have been issued the new closed-collar coat, which looks like the one men have historically worn, for about a year and a half.

Both versions of the coat are currently approved for wear. Female Marines' clothing allowances have gone up a bit to cover the price of the new uniform item, but they were given several years to transition to the new coat since it will take that long to cover the whole cost.

The decision to move toward gender-neutral uniforms was made by former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who said he wanted Marines and sailors to look more alike, regardless of gender.

The move hasn't been popular with everyone. About half of senior enlisted female Marines and some higher-ranking officers who were surveyed about the switch said they preferred to keep the traditional female dress coat.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Marine Corps Training Chief Says He's Open to Ending Gender-Segregated Boot Camp

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