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Air Force will allow women to wear pants with mess dress uniform

Air Force will allow women to wear pants with mess dress uniform
Tops in Blue closes out the show with a rendition of the Air Force song while in their mess dress at an October 2015 event in North Carolina. Photo by Aaron J. Jenne/U.S. Air Force

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The Air Force announced Tuesday that it will now allow women to wear pants with their mess dress uniform.

The service said in a press release that the policy change stemmed from "overwhelming feedback from the field" and has been announced to all Air Force personnel through an exception-to-policy memorandum.

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It revises a policy that required female service members to wear a floor-length skirt with the mess dress uniform, officials said.

According to the change, women can continue to wear skirts if they like, but may also wear dress pants.

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"Mess dress" refers to a semi-formal category of uniforms worn by military, service, fire and other public uniformed services for certain ceremonies. It's considered less formal than full dress uniform, the equivalent of black-tie in civilian life, but more formal than the service dress uniform, which is worn for many everyday duty purposes.

"It's our responsibility to provide flexible uniform options that are functional and comfortable for all Air and Space Professionals," Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in a statement.

"We have a lot of people working really hard to review our existing policies to make sure there are no unintended barriers or unfair practices that may be impacting specific groups of people on our team," Kelly said. "We still have our work cut out for us, but this is a step in the right direction in creating an inclusive culture."

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The Air Force said women's dress slacks will be available for purchase in about 18 to 24 months, but until then women are authorized to immediately buy and alter men's dress trousers -- and the alterations will be provided at no cost to the service member.

In October 2019, the Air Force said it was reviewing female service uniforms for fit and functionality.

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