Story by Cpl. Jennifer Brofer
MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Representatives from the Marine Corps Systems Command Clothing team fitted three Depot Marines with new uniform prototypes Oct. 21, as part of the Marine Corps Uniform Board's attempt to improve male and female Evening Dress uniforms.
The clothing team took on the task of creating new Dress Blue blouses for female enlisted Marines and officers and a new male staff NCO Evening Dress blouse, after an online survey conducted in June spurred enough interest to warrant support of the change. The prototypes will be tailored and worn by some Marines during the Marine Corps Birthday Ball season.
The proposed Dress Blue blouse for enlisted females and officers features a "mandarin-style" collar - one that resembles the male collar, but tapers toward the clasp in the front to give it a more "feminine appearance," said Maj. Renee Holmes, clothing team leader.
"The recommendation was made by many females to have a high-standing collar to more closely resemble the males'," said Holmes.
"I don't want people to think we're trying to look like men, but our current blouse isn't traditional like the men's. We want something that is more in keeping with the leatherneck tradition," she added.
Aside from the different collar, which would eliminate the need for the white shirt and black neck tab, the enlisted blouse prototype adds red piping to the bottom and around the neckline.
The team is also considering adding the men's white belt to the uniform - a suggestion that is popular with some, but not others.
"I think it would look nicer with a white belt," said Gunnery Sgt. Carol Simmons, staff NCOIC for Depot Female Clothing, who will be the test subject for the experimental enlisted Dress Blue blouse.
Others disagreed, however, saying the white belt would only draw attention to certain places that do not necessarily need attention.
Although Simmons said the proposed blouse looks "nice," she explained that she feels there really is no need for a new one.
"I like the traditional female uniform," she said. "There's no need to look like the males. I think the separation was good. It looks nicer with a white shirt. The white shirt added to the appearance - it stood out."
Though there are mixed feelings among females regarding their proposed uniform, Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Garland, who is testing the new staff NCO Evening Dress blouse, said he likes the changes. The blouse he is testing more closely resembles that which is worn by officers and eliminates the need for a collared shirt and black bow tie.
"So far, I think they look sharp," said Garland. "I think they look as good as the previous Mess Dress jacket and will be closer in appearance to that of the officers', as they are designed using the same pattern."
The experimental blouses that are worn to the Marine Corps Ball are going to be tested for "acceptance," with the floor still open for more suggestions, said Holmes.
"They are not the final design - they are definitely test coats," she said. "We want people to tell us their likes and dislikes, and the only way to know is to put them out there and collect data."
The team will continue to test the Dress Blue prototypes aboard bases around the world, from Okinawa to MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif., gathering information to improve the blouses' design.