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Just a thought

Something I don’t know.

Female soldiers look less smart than their male counterparts due to “ill-fitting” uniforms, a new report has found.

Do women come in more different shapes than men?

Can make the obvious jokes about embonpoint and so on, but chest and neck sizes differ for men too. At one end of this there’s tailoring, where everyone’s different. At the other sackcloth, where everyone’s the same. But in that middle –

The question ending up as an attempt at an answer to the claim. Are there more different sizes of uniforms necessary for women than men?

20 thoughts on “Just a thought”

  1. I’d argue that women are just fussier about their appearance than men. But perhaps someone can shoot me down in flames here.

  2. Steve across the Pond

    It doesn’t help that militaries want to go to “inclusive” gender-neutral uniforms. Then everyone will look equally horrid.

    Dress uniforms are tailored, but daily wear camouflage uniforms come in various sizes for both men and women. At least they did when I was in.

    Men and women are shaped differently. That’s a duh.

    As far as equipment, given that men are the primary fighters in combat, of course everything is going to be designed around them. But if governments think it’s worthy to waste money on equipment designed for females, they’ll do it. I haven’t seen any stories about the U.S. military being worried about this. The equipment is mass-produced for millions of people. It doesn’t really fit anyone great.

  3. I miss the once popular photos of weapon-toting IDF ladies wearing at least one (admittedly small) item of uniform. They always looked pretty smart to me.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    In my time No2 Dress, parade dress, was tailored and the rest was off the peg. If you wanted it tailoring you did it yourself or paid someone. I don’ t see why it would be different now, perhaps Jason can let us know if he’s around.

  5. Do women come in more different shapes? Ummm.. Yes.. And the shape is fundamentally different from the male physique. Which is why the basic patterns for males and females are fundamentally different.

    If the brit military, in all its *ahem* Wisdom, failed to adapt the principles set out by mme. Chanel regarding formal dress on a female shape and decided merely adapting the male uniform would be enough…
    Yeah… you get ill-fitting, “scruffy” uniforms.

    But we’re not allowed to make distinctions between genders anymore, innit? Let alone …acknowledge… femininity in uniforms. You reap what you sow…

  6. If you’ve got a blokes collar size and inside leg you’ve pretty much nailed it. Women have more variables.

    I remember seeing this as a lad in a film featuring US conscripts and it has stuck with me down the years:
    Conscript: Sarge, these pants!
    Sarge: What’s wrong with them?
    Conscript: They’re a bit tight under the arms.
    Sarge: Oh, a wise guy, huh?

  7. RLJ: Trousers that fit my leg don’t fit my waist. Trousers that fit my waist leave me tripping over the ends of the legs.

    Samantha Carter always looked smart in fatigues.

  8. ISTR that in “the good old days” (before squaddies had such esoterica as “dress uniform”) it didn’t matter what you did to a standard army BD – you still resembled a bag of shit tied up round the middle.

  9. BiND,

    Very definitely as you described. 1s (best dress rig) are tailored – mine, from Turner Virr, were “pick the best size off-the-peg, then Perry would adjust sleeve and leg length and such” over a decade ago, and then -while the extra medal ribbons went on – I just had them adjusted where they somehow shrank a little around my middle.

    All the various working dress, though, is “pick the size that makes you least look like you covered yourself in glue and ran through the clothing stores”. If you’re really stuck – for instance, like me with a lot of neck and shoulders, but still reasonably slim elsewhere – you either pay to get stuff tailored, or just accept that a No. 3 shirt that I can button the collar of, and whose cuffs reach my wrists rather than stopping halfway past the elbow, is going to billow like a sail around my weedy torso.

    In general it seems to work OK as far as day-to-day clothing goes – especially since Second Sea Lord said he wanted us all in Action Working Dress (blue rig) rather than 3s (black trousers, white shirt – for the Ryanair pilot / bus driver look). AWD is made on the same designs as the Army’s MTP combat pyjamas, and is a decent design that seems to fit most people adequately; it’s designed for mobility rather than smartness.

    Generally, when you get out to combat gear like webbing it’s all so modular that it’s easy to adjust to fit a typical fit human, male or female.

    The issue comes on stuff like body armour, especially since we moved from the 1990s ECBA (Kevlar vest with a paperback-sized ceramic plate over your main cardiovascular system front and back, that was reasonably adaptable to both genders) to the Osprey that replaced it (much larger plates covering more of your torso; – that doesn’t fit onto female anatomy easily), and since I don’t need to wear it I don’t know what the current situation is.

  10. Does it really matter what you’re wearing when you’re being machine gunned? Or doing the machine gunning for that matter. The military eh? Incomprehensible.

  11. jhg,
    See, that’s why you need both the collar size and the inside leg. Collar size gives you girth, inside leg gives you length. Good enough for government work.

  12. In my strictly civilian life I have solved much of the clothes-sizing problem, at least for swanning around inside the house.

    I wear a nightshirt. As long as it’s big enough at shoulders and chest everything is OK. It also ventilates my goolies very agreeably. I suppose I should wear my kilt but I bought it back when I was slim; now I’m too fat for it. Yer Greeks and Romans didn’t piss about in trousers – strictly for barbarians, they were.

    Should I try a toga or perhaps Arab garb?

  13. “Female soldiers look less smart than their male counterparts due to “ill-fitting” uniforms, a new report has found”

    This isn’t true.

    What is true is that women’s uniforms are not . . . flattering, in general. They don’t show dat ass. Don’t emphasize dem toddies.

    Which is actually kind of the *point* of the style they’re done in.

  14. When I was an articled clerk, I audited the books of a tailors in Sackville Street, who tailor-made officers uniforms for some members of the Household Division and others. They used to visit Sandhurst for fittings. I once spent 3 days counting buttons! They still had gold braid, last used in 1945, and had, in the basement, some Napoleonic uniforms which had never been collected.

    I was most surprised to find they also appeared to be tailors to the Earl of Strathcona’s horse. Turned out, it was a Canadian tank regiment…..

  15. Fat people and curvy women are hard to tailor for, there is so much more slack and correct shaping with darts needed to accommodate the extra body volume and it’s more pronounced movement — and preferably in such a way that the garment does not look sloppy, chafes, cuts into the body, constrains movement or, indeed, looks too suggestive.

    Other issues are that breasts come in many different relations to waist and back size (even in normal weight women), which in turn affects the arm pattern shape and general appearance of the top and of course, the wearer.

    Probably best explained with bra sizes: you need to use the correct metal insets for each size (or correct frontal chest widths if the bra is soft, unless ‘side spill’ is acceptable (it’s not!)), and offer one model for each cup per size. So, if you have soldiers ranging from size 34 to size 48 with cups AA, A, B, C, D, E, F that’s 14*7=91 models of bras. You can get away with less options, but it will fit, wear and look accordingly!

    Then there is the issue with ‘petite’ sizes, smaller ladies have slightly different body ratios than tall ones and should use the ‘petite’ clothes patterns (Burda of course still sells those!). The ‘petite’ size is not on offer in shops, but it does make a big difference in achieving a smart look and above all, comfort.

    As you can see, the selection required would be quite large, and women also change clothes sizes depending on time of month or, even year, late summer tends to be a time when a lot of people put on 2-3kg (which is quite a healthy thing, if it reverses in spring). Women putting on weight does change the body shape more dramatically than men do.

    Finally, a lot of women no longer own a sewing machine or know how a properly fitted garment should look and have no idea how to crustomize their clothes properly, hence fashion nowadays looks so crumpled, even if people pay amazing amounts of money!

    But really, it’s the military and not a catwalk, so… 🙂

  16. Some bloke on't t'internet

    I can suggest tracking down some of the work done by Dr Eluned Lewis ( on personal protection for women. I’ve listened to a couple of her talks, and it’s quite interesting how much the forces have worked on the “women are just like men but a bit smaller” principle when (as stated above), their build is significantly different in many ways.
    From one of her talks, it was slightly disconcerting to note that not only was this prevalent, but finding real data to support her work was also very difficult – it either not having been collected, or not in a format that was usable. You’ll note that part of her work has been in optimising body armour (for men as well as women) – which in part means reducing it where it’s not actually doing anything useful. Naturally, outside of certain regimes, it’s considered unethical to deliberately blow people up – so the data that is available is basically that collected when people do get caught up in combat situations, and then the priority for those involved tends to be helping the injured rather than detailed form filling.

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