Kit Up!

Female Marine Recruits Get Unisex Dress Coat, 5 Years After First Tests Began

Recruits with Platoon 4040, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, try on their blue dress coats for the first time Aug. 21, 2018, on Parris Island S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Vivien Alstad)
Recruits with Platoon 4040, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, try on their blue dress coats for the first time Aug. 21, 2018, on Parris Island S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Vivien Alstad)

After years of wear tests and surveys, about 100 female Marine recruits have been issued a new dress blues coat that looks more like the one men wear.

Members of 4th Recruit Training Battalion's Papa Company were the first women to receive the new coats during their initial uniform issue this week at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Officials there posted photos of the event to the training depot's social media pages.

Marine officials did respond to questions by press time about how much the new coat costs, whether the women in Papa Company paid for the uniform items, and if female officer candidates are also getting the new look.

The Marine Corps began testing versions of the unisex-style dress blues coat, which features a high Mandarin collar like the men's version, at ceremonial events in 2013. Years of wear tests at different Marine Corps installations followed along with service-wide surveys about the new look.

Five years later, the 100 or so women with Papa Company, who are scheduled to graduate from boot camp on Oct. 12, will be the first to hit the fleet with the new coats.

Previously, the look was only in place for women at Marine Barracks Washington, which hosts formal parades and other events throughout the year.

While the new style was approved for everyone by the Marine Corps Uniform Board in 2016, fielding the replacement coat was expected to take several years. The Mandarin-style collar was to be cut a quarter of an inch shorter than on the male coat, and the waist and breast pockets would be removed for the women's version. The waist on the female coat was also made more form-fitting.

The shift from the traditional winged blazer collar for female Marines was part of a push by former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who said he wanted men and women in the sea services to look more uniform, regardless of gender. Female sailors and Marines also adopted male-style covers.

But the unisex looks haven't been popular with everyone. Some officers felt that making women look just like men was a misguided attempt at equality.

Results of a survey, which was obtained by Marine Corps Times in 2016, also showed that about half of female field grade and staff noncommissioned officers preferred to keep their existing dress coats.

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

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