Navy Uniforms Designed 4 Decades Ago Resized for Female Sailors

November 25, 2022Noelle Wiehe
female Uniform

Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate Etoryia Anderson, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85, "The Firehawks," participates in Naval Exchange Command fit test aboard Naval Air Station North Island, on Nov. 2, 2022. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Keenan Daniels.

If you're a female sailor, you're issued US Navy uniforms that were designed four decades ago.

But that’s changing, because Navy Exchange Service Command compared the fit of today’s uniform issue to the actual shapes of female sailors’ bodies, measuring roughly 1,000 women over the past three years to contour the next generation of sea service apparel.

A hundred sailors showed up between Halloween and Nov. 4 for NEXCOM’s latest and last Female Size Standardization evaluation at California’s Naval Air Station North Island. Researchers collected measurements to assess the fit, comfort, and consistency of sizes for the women’s Service Dress White shirts, Summer Whites, and Khakis.

NEXCOM spokesperson Courtney Williams told Coffee or Die Magazine that officials urged women from all ranks and ratings, ages, and body shapes to participate in the evaluation so researchers could “wholly represent current US Navy female sailors.”

“It is well known that a professional appearance impacts one’s confidence in the workplace and helps to establish a positive impression among coworkers,” she said. “A professional appearance includes the proper and functional fit of workplace attire.”

Navy uniforms

Chief Yeoman Denisse Gallardo, a "Black Knight" from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 4, participates in Naval Exchange Command fit test inside California's Naval Air Station North Island, Nov. 2, 2022. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Keenan Daniels.

Williams said that over the past four decades, “changes have occurred for both our female and male sailors, including their height, weight, and proportions.” Women’s bust-to-waist and waist-to-hip ratios have changed dramatically over the years, she added.

In a prepared statement, Brianna Plummer — the supervisory textile technologist for the Design and Testing Group inside NEXCOM’s Clothing and Textile Research Facility — said updating uniform patterns will not only create a better fit for women, but sailors won’t have to undergo so many expensive clothing alterations.

“Over the past four years, we have been working with anthropometric data on current female body types/sizes and clothing industry experts to update the patterns to reflect an accuracy in the development of a new Navy fit type and sizing for women sailors,” Plummer said.

If a woman needs to alter the crotch of her khaki slacks, for example, that runs $17 at NEXCOM. It costs another $17 to alter the sides of her shirt. NEXCOM annually audits civilian alteration pricing to make sure that its official shops save a sailor at least 10%, but the North Island evaluation showed that the right fit can save a lot of money.

“We were able to document and address further those who require extensive uniform tailoring or have difficulties determining their size,” Williams said.

female Uniforms

Chief Yeoman Denisse Gallardo, a "Black Knight" assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 4, participates in Naval Exchange Command fit test at California's Naval Air Station North Island, Nov. 2, 2022. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Keenan Daniels.

The North Island evaluation was the third and final of NEXCOM’s measuring sessions.

The two previous fit tests were held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, three years ago, and in Norfolk four months ago.

Naval Personnel Command’s Uniform Management Office will make the final sizing decisions for women’s clothing issues.

Williams said the Navy's transition to the new duds “must be strategic so as to reduce the potential buyout of uniform items.”

Navy uniforms

On Nov. 23, 2022, the US Marine Corps announced reforms to the service’s female hairstyle regulations. US Marine Corps illustration.

In related news, female Marines will now be allowed to wear twists in their short haircuts.

The Corps also hiked the maximum length for medium female cuts, greenlighted the wearing of half-ponytails or up to two half-braids for medium styles, and increased the overall length of hair in long styles.

Medium-length hair can't extend 2 inches below the base of the uniform collar’s lower edge. The new regs also forbid the hair from obscuring the collar rank insignia or preventing women from wearing proper headgear.

Female Marines wearing long hair must keep it secured so it never extends more than 2 inches below the base of the collar’s lower edge, except when authorized while wearing the PT uniform.

Despite the changes, women's styles must still project “a neat and professional military appearance,” whether the female Marine is wearing utilities, a flight suit, or the physical training uniform, according to the new standards.

Navy uniforms

On Nov. 23, 2022, the US Marine Corps announced reforms to the service’s female hairstyle regulations. US Marine Corps illustration.

The reforms to the service’s hairstyle regulations were announced Nov. 23 by Training and Education Command and took effect immediately.

They stemmed from proposals originally voiced during Uniform Board 220.

The board urged women to minimize potential damage from daily hairstyling by avoiding alcohol-based styling products or styles that “cause undue tension on hair follicles.”

The Corps also reminded women that there’s no requirement to wear hair that’s tightly pulled back or slicked with styling products.

“We are grateful for the continued feedback from our Marines in addressing uniform updates and modifications. It’s because of conversations like those that our leadership can make positive change,” Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesperson, said in a prepared statement.

Read Next: To Close Sea Billet Gap, Big Navy Launches Senior Enlisted Reforms

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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