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Female sailors offer mixed reviews for crackerjacks

Jun. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
About 30 female sailors are testing uniform items before a larger wear test in the fall. Participants include Electronics Technician 2nd Class Melissa Rheaume, left, and Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Alyzamarie Santos.
About 30 female sailors are testing uniform items before a larger wear test in the fall. Participants include Electronics Technician 2nd Class Melissa Rheaume, left, and Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Alyzamarie Santos. (Lance M. Bacon / Staff)
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NORFOLK, VA. — About 30 women have donned “Dixie cups” and crackerjacks — and found an initial three-week wear test to be a love/hate relationship.

Most said they loved the new service dress blue jumper and its unique features and iconic look, which has been updated for the female frame. But others complained the wool is “itchy” and “uncomfortable,” and that the fit is neither flattering nor feminine.

“When you’re wearing a dress uniform … I feel like it should be flattering,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Ashley Fisher, who serves at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia. “But I don’t necessarily know that it is super-flattering on the men, either.”

This wear test is designed to provide candid feedback to Navy officials,said Capt. Jeff Krusling, head of the uniform matters office. An 90-day wear test scheduled for the fall will make changes and outfit about 300 volunteers.

There is no timeline for final evaluation and approval, but Krusling said the turnaround “could be relatively quick.” The plan is to roll out the female SDBs along with the updated men’s uniform by 2015.

More than one tester has been asked why she was wearing the male uniform. But there are some differences in the piping, and the female version incorporates many cuts and fits common to uniforms such as the service dress whites.

'I feel like a sailor'

A handful of sailors testing the new uniforms agreed they like the trouser pockets (two front and one in the back) and the side zipper on the SDB blouse.

“In comparison to the female dress blues, I like these a lot more,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Melissa Rheaume, assistant to Naval Station Norfolk’s command master chief. “I feel like a sailor in them. ... It is comfortable and is tailored to me.”

Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Alyzamarie Santos likes the greater range of motion and that there are only two layers, but she said she’s still getting used to the piping around the wrists.

The side zipper “is good, especially for females who are a little bit bustier,” said Santos, who works in Naval Station Norfolk’s career counseling office.

Reviews of the trousers and Dixie cups were not as unanimous.

Two trousers are being tested. One has a zipper in the front, the other on the side. Each tester was provided both sets.

Rheaume likes the way the side zipper looks and feels, and doesn’t like the front zipper’s visibility. Santos agreed that the front zipper looks unprofessional, but she said that version fits better. Fisher prefers the front zipper because the side zipper “bunches up funny.” She recommended the zippers be placed where the buttons are on the men’s trousers.

Each wear tester was also provided two versions of the Dixie cup. One has a felt liner and the other a silicone.

Rheaume likes the silicone cover because “it is more practical and stays on better.” Santos gave the Dixie cup a thumbs-up because the combination cover’s rim does not work well with her hair bun and obstructs her view. But she does not like the silicone version, saying the band pulls her hair every time the cover is removed.

Each tester is recording personal experiences as well as comments from shipmates. Fisher said she has heard “mostly negative feedback” from more than 50 sailors. Most say the Navy should leave uniforms as they are because there are too many already.

Rheaume and Santos said they’ve had mostly positive feedback, with senior enlisted the least “open to change,” Santos said.

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