Loretta Walsh enlisted in the Navy at the age of 20, donning an improved men’s uniform and becoming the first woman to formally enlist in the United States Armed Forces. That was in her early 1917, and by the time the United States entered World War I that April, she had 200 women in the army.
Walsh and the thousands of women who followed often served in uniforms designed for men and their body types. They were only allowed to serve in non-combat roles, such as operators, translators, etc. Over a century later, things have changed. In 1948, the Women’s Military Integration Act was passed, giving women the right to serve as full-time military personnel. And in her 2015, nearly 70 years later, the military opened up all combat missions to women. Women now make up the fastest growing demographic in the military, and military uniforms are slowly changing to meet the needs of the modern military.
Over the past decade, there has been a wave of changes in uniforms for female military personnel. Many experts and historians agree that it reflects a broader effort to improve gender equity in the military. The Air Force developed the maternity suit after a study found that nearly 400 pregnant aviators had to wear larger suits during pregnancy, creating a safety hazard. I started a project to The Navy measured hundreds of sailors this year as part of an ongoing effort to create better uniforms for women, and most recently, the DEVCOM Soldier Center, the Army’s research center, announced the first-ever test on Monday. Tactical released her bra design.
“The goal is to address not only soldiers conducting field training exercises, but also those operating in a combat environment where they may be exposed to a variety of threats,” said DEVCOM’s apparel designer. Ashley Cushon, Design Development Lead, said. statement.
Military personnel can now purchase sports bras at kiosks and exchanges (military base stores). These items are not standard issue and must be paid for out-of-pocket, although military personnel are usually provided allowances to purchase non-standard issue clothing to suit their personal tastes.
DEVCOM unveiled four concept designs. This is the first bra optimized for combat use by women. Soldiers can customize the bra’s level of compression and support, and those who prefer simplicity have options with fewer fasteners and hardware. Cushon says the new design includes flame-retardant protection from threads to closures to seams.
“Women are generally all too accustomed to experiencing the negative effects of continuing to wear ill-fitting bras,” Cushon said. …We utilize a mix of sizes, styles and military-appropriate design elements to suit the individual soldier’s body type and activity level, which can impair concentration. It helps reduce the distractions associated with certain incompatibilities or discomfort, ultimately increasing levels of readiness while being active.”
The Army Uniform Commission, which addresses changing requirements and meets twice a year, plans to review the concept for approval in the fall. If approved, it will be the first official uniform bra the Army will offer its soldiers.
Annette LaFleur, team leader of DEVCOM’s Design, Patterns, and Prototypes team, said the designers listened to feedback from service member surveys and focus groups. The team collected information from her more than 200 female soldiers stationed in Kansas, Georgia and Washington between December 2021 and her March 2022. The researchers and designers also had in mind that female soldiers are the “ultimate athletes”, sometimes having to endure many days in war. Cold, jungle or desert, added LaFleur.
“As with all uniforms and personal protective items we develop and evaluate, our goal is for soldiers to stop thinking about what they’re wearing and focus on their job,” Lafleur said in a statement. said in
History teacher Tanya Ross, who wrote a book on the history of women in the military, said that for a long time women’s military uniforms were about feminine fashion and ideal American brands. only in the last decade, Roth told The 19th.
“This is a big change for the military,” Ross wrote in The Washington Post last month about the historical background behind government-issued clothing for military women. Importantly, it also reflects a shift in how military leaders perceive women soldiers.”
After repurposing men’s uniforms for women during World War I, the U.S. military transitioned to more feminine uniform designs as women continued to join the military during World War II. Between 1943 and 1944 there was a widespread smear campaign claiming that these women were either too masculine or attracted to other women. issued women’s uniforms, including hats, 1.5-inch heeled maroon oxfords, and leather handbags with shoulder straps. The message is that American service women are “good, healthy girls, the epitome of American femininity”. I was advised to buy my own clothes.
“The emphasis was always on what a woman looks like,” Roth said, noting that famous fashion designers like Hattie Carnegie designed the uniforms. “Sometimes it felt more like dressing a Barbie doll than making it look good. Let’s make our women look cool. They wear hats. They do their hair.” They look like what we want in a white American woman, especially a white middle or upper class.
After the war, uniform guidelines changed slightly. In 1946, female military personnel could purchase and wear brown leather pumps while on duty. That year, an Army woman was issued nylon pantyhose for the first time, but care had to be taken to ensure that the seams running down the back of her legs were kept straight.
When the Vietnam War began in the 1950s, a group of women in the female army units stationed in Vietnam, many of them nurses, wrote to Washington, D.C., demanding that they wear uniforms that were just for show and not functional. I asked for a reason. actually.
“In a tropical environment, the uniforms would show sweat stains, making them look dirty,” says Roth. “So they start posing the question: ‘Do you want us to look good or do you want us to do our job?’ What does it mean to have? It’s still something that took the military another 50+ years to deal with. ”
Roth sees serious changes beginning with respect to military uniforms and gender equality.
“Looking back at the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, it feels like we were using what we already had,” says Roth. “But over the past decade, we have seen more and more women take on a variety of roles. …I think an important conversation is starting to happen now.
There are also congressional efforts to move the military towards gender parity, especially with respect to requirements and costs. Last year, Congress voted to eliminate the “pink tax” on military uniforms. This is because government reports have found that women are disproportionately required to pay more out-of-pocket costs.
Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who co-sponsored the bill, said on Monday that the military would be stronger if female service members were treated fairly.
“We expect the Department of Defense to step up these efforts. We will continue to commit to bipartisan efforts to address gender inequalities in the military and support all men and women in uniform. ”
Suzanne Chod, professor of political science at North Central College, said: This is another example of why representation is important. Women’s perspectives, especially across different social identities, are critical to creating more equitable policies. ”
In 2018, for the first time, the Army formed an all-female committee to provide feedback on Army uniform design. The board unanimously voted in favor of making women’s fitted pants the default standard issue. Skirts are still available for purchase, but are no longer the default option.
Chod said measures related to uniforms for female soldiers often enjoy bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, and that each seemingly incremental change would have broader implications. , may seem small compared to the organizational and institutional inequalities in the military that need to be addressed, but it makes a huge difference in the daily lives of female service members: from hair to better-fitting uniforms, uniforms and more. From making essential apparel more affordable, these policy changes will allow female military personnel to feel like, be themselves, and do a better job.
Kara-Dixon-Vik, who studies gender and the U.S. military at Texas Christian University, said the change was long overdue.
“Broadly, all of this demonstrates that the military is paying attention to gender-specific needs in its overall efforts to more fully integrate women,” Vuic said. “For women in the military, it’s like death from a thousand pieces of paper. can not.”
Over the years, some uniform requirements and guidelines have been perpetuated because “that’s just the way it is”.
“All of these things have a psychological impact. They just indicate in a subtle way that you don’t belong in this established routine, or that you’re in addition to this established routine.” suggests that it’s not entirely part of that routine,” Vuic said. “When I first saw the news about tactical bras, my first reaction was: Won’t they issue bras? I can’t believe this is 2022, but we , officially issuing these things.”