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Navy women to get more stylish uniform slacks

For women chiefs and officers who have long complained that their khaki pants were outdated and unflattering, your voice has been heard. about the ill fit of their khaki uniform pants, designed decades ago and considered outdated by many.

The Navy is in the midst of redesigning those much loathed slacks, and is loosening some uniform regulations in the meantime to accommodate the women who can't stand them.

As of Aug. 4, Thursday, women are allowed to wear the men's khakis, if they find them more comfortable. They're also able to wear the khaki overblouse without a belt, for the first time, with either the men's or women's slacks, according to NAVADMIN 174/16, a uniform update that also announced the dumping of the Navy working uniform.

"The intent of this policy change is to prsovide an option for female officers and CPOs to address some of the fit concerns expressed with the current female Service Khaki slacks," according to the NAVADMIN. In addition making better fitting slacks, to the redesigned pants, officials are working on a khaki pencil skirt.

A year ago, uniform officials were toying with the idea of a side zipper or other updates to the pants' details, but those features have since been abandoned in the redesign, according to a chief of naval personnel spokeswoman.

"There are currently no planned design detail changes to khaki slacks for female chiefs and officers," Sharon Anderson told Navy Times in a statement. "However, we are awaiting the results of the fit evaluation feedback before making a final determination.  Our primary focus is to improve the patterns for a better fit."

In 2014, women wear-tested new khaki slacks. One version had a side zipper that had a more flattering fit, officials said.

The rules formalize some workarounds that women in the fleet are already doing, according to a female O-5 who spoke to Navy Times on background. Women have been wearing the men's pants with the overblouse or going belt-less under the overblouse, she said.

"The regs say that if your pants have belt loops then you are required to wear a belt," said the officer, who asked for anonymity to discuss uniform rule violations. "I know not many people know this and I know a lot of women that forgo the belt because they make the shirt stick out, but those are the regs."

Still, she added, it might not make a difference for those like herself, who don't wear the overblouse because it's a different color than the khaki slacks. The overblouse was originally designed for the junior enlisted uniform, to be worn with black pants, and as such is manufactured by a different company and is a slightly different shade of tan.

One style faux pas to avoid: Women can't wear their regular button-downs tucked into the men's pants. That would screw up the gig-line — traditionally, women's buttons and zippers are on the right side of their garment, while men's are on the left.

Wearing men's khakis would do away with the dreaded hip pleats, but as the female O-5 pointed out, still wouldn't fit quite right in the hips for a lot of women.

"But for some women that might be better," she added. "I think I wore a set during a ship's skit night or something and I remember them being even higher-waisted than the ones I had."

The Navy has been revamping its more formal uniforms over the past few years, fielding unisex versions based on traditionally male designs, at the urging of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The changes have been met with some outrage from some men and many women — chiefs and officers will have to pay for new sets of uniforms, unlike enlisted who receive uniform stipends. not only outrage from some men and many women, but Congress has also gotten involved.

"I guess it's nice to put the option out there but I am not sure, based on the push back of the male cover, how many women would want to wear the male pants — plus they button and zip the opposite direction," the officer said.

New pants are on the horizon, according to the NAVADMIN. Wear-testing is set to begin as soon as October this fall, with a goal to have the design approved and rolled out in fiscal year 2018.

"We are incorporating data from our recent anthropomorphic sizing correlation study into the pattern development to take advantage of the newest information available on Navy body shapes and sizing," Anderson said.

According to the officer, women are hoping for a more modern pants fit and more accurate sizing.

"I wear a six normally," she said, "but in the Navy I am a 14 or 16."

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