Kit Up!

First Class of Female Marine Recruits Graduates in New Dress Blues

  • Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion wait in line Nov. 9, 2018 to have their uniforms examined by base fitters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Tyler Hlavac)
    Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion wait in line Nov. 9, 2018 to have their uniforms examined by base fitters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Tyler Hlavac)
  • Drill Instructors and Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion march towards the Peatross Parade Deck before their graduation ceremony Nov. 16, 2018 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
    Drill Instructors and Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion march towards the Peatross Parade Deck before their graduation ceremony Nov. 16, 2018 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

After years of uniform surveys and development, the Marines' new female dress blue uniform is here and available to the Corps' newest members.

This month, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, graduated its first company of enlisted women to wear the new dress blue coat, modeled after that worn by male Marines. Roughly 130 women with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduated Nov. 16 wearing the new dress blue coat, according to a service announcement.

Parris Island's 4th Recruit Training Battalion is the only one in the Marine Corps that trains and graduates female recruits.

Like the male dress blue coat, the new jacket has a high Mandarin-style collar rather than an open one, and a white belt and waist plate. In the female version, however, the collar is slightly shorter, and there are no pockets on the jacket.

According to the Marine Corps announcement, one female recruit company -- 4th Battalion's Papa Company -- previously was issued the new coat, but did not wear it for graduation as the uniform item is reserved for fall and winter.

Development of a new female dress coat began in 2013, when Navy Secretary Ray Mabus launched a string of initiatives designed to make female Navy and Marine Corps dress uniform items more closely resemble those worn by male Marines. The Corps was still surveying Marines on the new look as of September 2017.

"Female Marines have asked for the ability to wear the male uniform or something similar to the male uniform," Mary Boyt, a member of the Marine Corps Uniform Board, said in a released statement. "We knew what the male uniform looked like, and we wanted to develop a female uniform that was similar to the males' but met the unique design challenges of the female shape. So, we didn't want to just throw a male coat on them and say this is it."

Last month, female Marines finally received a deadline: The coat will be mandatory wear for all women in the Corps by the end of September 2022. As of Oct. 1, both coats are optional to wear with the dress uniform. Now standard issue for female recruits at boot camp, the new jacket was also on display at many recent Marine Corps birthday balls across the service.

One November Company drill instructor quoted in the Nov. 16 news release noted that the new uniform look is reminiscent of older uniform styles dating back to World War II.

"If you look back at history, when females first came into the Marine Corps, we had the high coats with the high neck collars, and then we changed over the years to a different coat," Kara Sykes, the battalion's unit historian, said in a statement. "The coat we have now is similar to when we first started. We're bringing it back. It's a good time for us to actually wear the coat … to see the history, to see how far we've come and to come back to history."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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