This Is Only a Test: Navy Women Donning Dixie Cups

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Navy photo / MSC 3rd Class Torrey W. Lee

Male sailors in their "Dixie cup" covers. Female sailors will start wearing the hats this summer as part of a test to see if all enlisted women in the Navy should.

The Navy’s personnel chief, after a survey of nearly 400 women in the sea service, says there’s room for improvement in the uniforms they wear.

“As a result of fleet feedback received from female sailors during Navy leadership All-Hands calls and inputs received by the Navy Uniform Board regarding women’s uniform quality, design and fit issues, the Chief of Naval Personnel, as president of the Navy Uniform Board, directed a comprehensive  evaluation of women’s uniform concerns,” said a message last week from personnel chief Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk.

Few topics consume troops like their uniforms. Buskirk’s message details some of the immediate changes to be made:

A.  Service dress coats: added backing buttons to align with male officer/chief petty officer (CPO) service dress coat design.

B. Female slacks waistband: added binding over the edge of inner stitching to provide a more professional look and to prevent chaffing of the skin.

C. Service shirts: added additional stitching to prevent unraveling of the bottom hem, side seams and front facing and increased the number of  stitches on the hem to improve appearance.

The uniform review also will measure 5,000 sailors, both men and women, to determine if retooled body armor and flight gear are needed.

In addition to including a “civilian handbag specification change,” the message notes that some male and female Navy personnel will begin wearing the same “cover” – hat – to see if gender-specific designs can be scrapped.

“Enlisted females assigned to…Navy bands will wear the male enlisted white hat (Dixie cup) while conducting ceremonies and performances during the summer uniform wear period,” the message added.

This could be the biggest change in the U.S. Navy since the service gave up sail for steam.