When Johnny Met Rosie--Women in EMS Part 5: Keeping the "Girls" in Check

Women face many challenges when it comes to uniform selection


Not too long ago I uttered the sentence that strikes fear and loathing into the heart of even the saltiest and most fearless EMS broad.

"Damn, I need to order new uniform pants."

If I've done my homework correctly, there was just a collective shudder in horror at the prospect--followed by a heavy sigh of resignation as you trudge off to the store/catalog/website of your choice to begin searching the options.

Why? Why is it so difficult to find well-fitting uniform items? After all there are plenty of quality manufacturers and vendors out there, what's so hard about it?

Simple, in the boys club they wear boy uniforms, so many of the folks who make those do not generally have T & A--and I do not mean Time & Attendance. No matter which way you slice it, our general body morphology is different based on gender. From the average to the not-so-average sized woman, on the whole our measurement ratios just differ from men. Unless you were born with or earned yourself a stick figure, the fact is that you very likely have yourself some hip action.

And therein lies the rub...men's pants are measured by waist, not hip. So if unlike most men, who can get their waist size, pull them on and saunter out the door (Sorry, sorry, not saunter--make that stomp.), women have to get a waist size that will actually accommodate the butt. So once you find one that fits over the curves comfortably, you are generally left with a waist that doesn't fit right no matter what you do. Or if your curves are all south of the border, maybe you can get the waist to fit but the thighs are screaming for mercy. I have rarely met a woman in EMS who hasn't had to deal with the interior of the front pockets showing, simply because the pants felt MOSTLY ok so they live with it.

Then let's talk about shrinkage! Yeah, just what I said--ew. Except the visual I'm talking about is when you get a pair of pants that fits, depending on brand you are guaranteed to run into some shrinkage with wear and washes. So what started out at an ok length is now your hem rapidly climbing your leg to get away from your boots.

Listen, they make women's sizes, just order them--that's what they're there for, isn't it?

I'm going to get a cup of coffee while the laughter subsides...

Everyone better? Good.

When you talk about providers in EMS, both men and women hit the entire spectrum in height and weight. In personal experience and review of the brands with women-sizing available, two things get noted. One is a lack of size ranges, often coupled with the fact that the existing sizes tend to run small and/or short. So the small accommodations in cut often made by these companies are often negated by the otherwise poor fit or unavailable size. I'm certain there's a decent percentage of women out there whose needs are met just fine, however of every woman I spoke or wrote to when researching this just about every one used men's uniform pants for availability, length and sizing. They just live with mismatched fit because they've become accustomed to it.

So what can be done? One is doing your homework on the brands. Read the reviews, see what's said about cut, size AND how much they will shrink when washed. Get measured appropriately; waist, hips and inseam and review the sizing charts. If you have a brand you like that you know will change with wear, factor that in to a reasonable amount. For example, the current brand that I wear comfortably are from Galls (men's) and I know from painful experience that they will shrink and I end up with really comfy floods. So I actually add an inch to my inseam when ordering. Yes it makes them a little long for the first few weeks, but in no time they are the "right" length for my leg and boots.

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