Women's Wear

Law enforcement often seems like a man’s world, but there are gear and apparel options available specifically for female officers if you know where to look.

The first woman police officer with arrest powers in the United States was Alice Stebbins Wells with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1909. According to LAPD online, Wells, a social worker before she was appointed as a police woman, was issued a telephone call box key, a book for first aid, a book of rules, and a policeman’s badge on her first day of work. After being accused of misusing her husband’s identity while wearing a dress and a policeman’s badge she was issued a policewoman’s badge. This marked the first adjustment in gear for women officers.

Wells’ appointment led other departments in the nation to appoint women to their departments as well. There was some variation among the departments as to what was issued to their new women police officers, but a consistent rule for all of them was to have the women officers wear skirts as part of their uniform and forbid them from wearing any jewelry or make-up on duty.

Today, police departments across the nation and even around the world have advanced from requiring women police officers to wear skirts and skip the make-up. Gone are the days when a woman police officer was acting as a social worker with a badge, and they now fill as many roles as male police officers do. Many companies are adjusting what they manufacture and sell to specifically meet the needs of women police officers. This is after years of providing only unisex products and using a one size fits most business model.

With the ease of shopping online any police officer can find just about any gear, uniforms, or other necessary items needed to outfit them properly to work on duty or off duty. Not only can you find product catalogs online and links to suppliers near you, but you can also find video clips explaining everything about the gear you are looking for. This is changing how police officers purchase what they need to do their jobs. But a trusted local uniform store where patches can be sewn on and alterations can be made is still the first choice for officers.

This seems to be true especially for female officers. In testing law enforcement clothing for this article, I found that many companies offer women’s uniform pants and shirts, but there is a large gap from company to company for sizing and fit. Due to this variance, a reliable uniform store with knowledgeable staff and quality alterations people is especially important.

Uniform Shirts
5.11 Tactical offers A-Class poly/rayon blend uniform shirts and pants for women in several colors and a poly/wool blend in midnight navy. The shirts are available with long or short sleeves, permanent creases, bar tacks at all stress points, and melamine buttons. The poly/rayon blend also features a Teflon finish to repel stains.

Elbeco offers a class A poly/rayon tropical weave blend shirt with UV 40+ protection to help keep the shirt comfortable and less prone to fading. They are available in long or short sleeves with permanent creases, cross-stitched shoulder straps, and extra-long tails to help keep the shirts tucked in. They are machine washable.

Flying Cross by Fechheimer has A-Class uniform shirts in long and short sleeve choices for women made of a 65 percent Dacron polyester and 35 percent cotton blend. With sewn in military creases, seven button front closures, and pleated pockets with Velcro closures, these shirts are durable and practical. The sizing runs very true to street clothes and requires little if any alterations to fit well. The neck openings do vary between sizes so women with larger necks will require a larger size.

The Force offers shirts made of stretch fabric with a cut that works very well with body armor. The company’s New Generation Stretch shirt # HS1448 is available in a 74 percent polyester/25 percent wool/1 percent Lycra blend with a lined collar, silicone permanent creases, pleated pockets, and two button cuffs. The New Generation Stretch Twill #HS1453 or Stretch Poplin #HS1164 also have permanent silicone creases, double button cuffs, and pleated pockets. The high quality stitching is very noticeable and the fabric is incredibly comfortable.

5.11 Tactical polos are available in a variety of colors with 100 percent cotton. A No-Roll collar makes the 5.11 polo stand out from the others and the cut of the sizes for women, which run from small to extra large, is smaller than the men’s polos so you won’t need to pay for alterations often necessary for excessively long shirts needed by men. The Professional polo comes in more color options than the tactical polo but both have useful pen pockets on the sleeve of the left arm. 5.11 also offers responder polos and performance polos, which are made of 100 percent snag-free synthetic antimicrobial fabric, but these only come in men’s sizes.

Elbeco doesn’t offer polos just for women. Their performance polos are 100 percent polyester antimicrobial microfiber and come in a variety of colors and sizes, but they are really long for most women and have to be altered to be tucked in and worn comfortably. The sleeves are too long to look professional for most women without being altered, too. Unfortunately, many companies that do make women’s polos make the pockets too small to put subject cards or other items into them. This is changing, though, and the pockets are beginning to be made larger.

Unfortunately, many departments only allow female officers to wear polos that are made for men. Some like Olympic make a quality polo, but it is large and requires that not only the length be shortened but that the sleeves be taken up-and that is even on the extra-small sizes. 5.11 is leading the competition with its women’s polos in the market place and uniform store employees do not hesitate to share how happy their customers are with this particular product.

Uniform Pants
The 5.11 A-Class pants have self adjusting waistbands with a snap and zipper. Silicone grippers are built into the waistband to help keep shirts tucked in and also help to keep the waistband in place when fastening the pants with a gun belt attached through the belt loops. Permanent creases and bar tacks at all stress points further increase durability. Most of 5.11’s A-Class uniforms have Lycra in the fabric blend, which helps with fit and minor fluctuations in weight. This helps the uniforms to remain comfortable all of the time.

Elbeco offers A-Class pants with the company’s Tex Trop Trousers and TekTwill Trousers, 100 percent polyester with elastique weave. Both have elasticized waistbands, which were surprisingly comfortable and well fitting. The sizing ran pretty true to street clothes sizing. Their Ladies Choice pants have side elastic, a shortened front rise, and a straightened leg to allow for more movement and a more professional appearance. One of the best features of the waistband is that the pants fit well with or without a gun belt on.

Flying Cross A-Class pants have a button and hooks for the front closure. The sewn in Tru-grip on the inside of the waistband makes it easy to put the pants on even with a gun belt in place through the loops and the Tru-grip also keeps your shirt tucked in. The down side is that the waist is a little bit high and could stand to be lowered. The Freedom Fit allows for comfort and the pockets are very usable and large enough to put things in when needed. These pants come in 100 percent wool, a poly/wool blend, and even a 100 percent polyester option. Each is a little different, so try them on to see which ones fit you the best.

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