AF removes uniform barrier for women, authorizes pants option for mess dress

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Based on overwhelming feedback from the field, Department of the Air Force officials announced Aug. 5 that women may elect to wear pants or a skirt with their mess dress uniform.

The changes, which are effective immediately, are outlined in an exception-to-policy memorandum addressed to all Air Force personnel.

“It’s our responsibility to provide flexible uniform options that are functional and comfortable for all Air and Space Professionals,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “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. We still have our work cut out for us, but this is a step in the right direction in creating an inclusive culture.”

Previously, women were required to wear a floor-length skirt with the mess dress uniform. As an interim solution, until women’s mess dress slacks are available for purchase in approximately 18-24 months, women are authorized to immediately purchase and alter men’s mess dress trousers.

Alterations for women opting to wear the men’s mess dress trousers will be provided by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at no cost to the member.

“We hear you,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright. “This is a bit of good news for some of our teammates who’ve wanted this change for a while now. A small thing, but one that I hope can go a long way to helping Airmen realize that we listen, we hear and we care.”

Changes will be incorporated in the next update of Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel. In the interim, for more information, the exception to policy memorandum and frequently asked questions are available on the public website of the Air Force’s Personnel Center at https://www.afpc.af.mil/Career-Management/Dress-and-Appearance/.

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