More female Marines will wear a version of the male dress blue coat, with its iconic mandarin collar in coming months as the Marine Corps expands field testing of a new prototype to determine if the new look should become the servicewide standard.
Women in the National Capital Region who serve in Marine Corps bands or as Marine recruiters will now wear the jackets, according to a May 19 Marine Corps news release. Testing of the new prototype will include women at Marine Barracks Washington, who tested an earlier version of the jacket.
They will begin testing of an improved prototype late summer or early fall and continue testing for about six months, according to Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers, president of the Marine Corps Unifrorm Board and commanding officer of The Basic School.
Depending on the results of the wear test and Marine Corps Uniform Board deliberations, the commandant could approve the new coat for women as soon as the summer of 2015.
Initial testing began in 2013, when Col. Christian Cabaniss, the commander of Marine Barracks Washington, “requested and conducted a field test over several months of a female dress blue coat similar to the male dress blue coat in an effort to achieve uniformity in appearance and improve functionality during ceremonies and parades,” the release reads.
Marine officials have previously acknowledged that Gen. Jim Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, also helped drive the initiative.
Female Marines stationed at 8th and I began sporting the flat, round white dress covers traditionally worn by men in addition to a tailored version of the men’s dress blue jacket with its tall mandarin collar, broad belt and brass buttons down the front, instead of the traditional women’s tailored blue blazer with lapel collar.
After that round of testing concluded the Marine Corps Uniform Board recommended additional testing.
“Providing female Marines the opportunity to wear the most identifiable uniform in the Marine Corps would recognize their significant achievements on the battlefield over the last decade,” Cabiness said in the release.
It isn’t clear whether female or male Marines favor a common uniform. When Marine Corps Times surveyed readers in July, about 92 percent of 300 respondents opposed the adoption of a common uniform. About 16 percent of the 300 respondents were female. Roughly 21 percent of them said they would be happy with the adoption of the male coat for all Marines. Just 6 percent of male respondents said the same.
The change to the dress blue coat is the latest move to create more commonality between the uniforms worn by male and female Marines. Last year the Marine Corps adopted the male cover for all Marines after a controversial survey that included the option of making the female cover universal.
The controversy quickly garnered national media attention, with the female cover option lambasted on the Colbert Report, a national broadcast satiric comedy show. Marine spokesmen at the Pentagon, however, insisted that the female cover was never seriously considered, and the male cover was eventually approved in late last year.
While women are authorized to wear the male cover now, they will not be required to own the next generation universal cover until May 1, 2017. Beginning April 1, 2014, however, female recruits will begin receiving the current male cover at boot camp, with the issue of one white and one green crown.
The search for a unisex cover was initially sparked by an initiative from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who wanted both the Navy and Marine Corps to adopt common covers.
The results of the expanded coat testing will be reported to the Marine Corps Uniform Board, which will vote on the potential change and make a recommendation to the commandant for his approval. The entire process normally takes 12 to 24 months.
Staff writer Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report