Leading article: Battle dress

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The warrior queen of the Ancient Briton, Boudicca, according to Roman authors, led her forces into battle in full armour. So did Joan of Arc in the 15th century and Isabella of Spain in the 16th century.

But it's most unlikely that their uniforms were designed to match the requirements of a woman's body. In consequence, the armour must have been uncomfortable. It is a good thing, therefore, that the world's most powerful army has seen the light and accepted that if women are to be asked to fight for their country, they should be able to do so wearing something that fits them.

Years after the US military admitted its first women recruits, the Pentagon is road-testing combat uniforms designed for women GIs. As women make up about 14 per cent of the total number serving in the US military, and more than 200,000 women have already served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, one is tempted to say it's about time. Yet the US military is ahead of the field in some ways. In many other professions, from the churches to the courts and the business world, the assumption still often holds that women should just make do with uniforms designed exclusively for men. They should take a leaf out of what the US military has done – and take a uniform approach.

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