Tuesday, September 15, 1998 Published at 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
New look Sally Army drops guard
The Salvation Army: "More approachable"
The Salvation Army has unveiled an updated, more practical uniform for its female members in response to appeals to modernise the organisation's look.
The decision was taken after a survey revealed that the public perceive the Salvation Army as a charity associated with brass bands, rather than a Christian denomination committed to serious social work.
The new uniform, launched at London's Piccadilly Theatre on Tuesday, consists of a lightweight, zip-fronted blouson jacket with a knee-length navy skirt and an optional hat.
The expensive formal blazer has been dropped in favour of a navy blue jumper or cardigan, with the gold, navy and claret Salvation Army crest on the breast.
It is the first major change in the female uniform for nearly 30 years.
Salvation Army officer Kate Cotterill, who modelled the new uniform at the launch, said: "The other one was very formal looking and this will certainly be less stand-offish to some of the people that we will have to deal with.
"You could wear this with jeans if you wanted. I think it's good to have a uniform because people recognise you as being part of the Salvation Army, but a more formal jacket would be worn on some occasions."
The organisation is striving to shake off what it calls its 'Major Barbara' image, after a turn-of-the-century Salvation Army character in a play by George Bernard Shaw.
To prove the point, actress Jemma Redgrave appeared alongside Ms Cotterill wearing the severe 1900 uniform of floor-length A-line skirt and stiff bonnet. Ms Redgrave is currently playing Major Barbara in a West End production.
Traditionalists in the organisation are concerned that the new uniform does not display any rank.
Salvation Army Captain Bill Cochrane said: "I think there will be a mixed reaction from some Salvationists who believe that the rank or designation should be clear.
"Our view is that the purpose of this design is to make us more accessible and approachable for help to people who normally do not approach us for help - so the ranks on a uniform would be irrelevant.
"We hope that this will be practical and user-friendly, because when you are at the cutting edge of community work it often gets dirty."
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in East London by the Reverend William Booth with the promise "for Christ's sake, to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable and befriend the friendless".
It now has 2m members in 95 countries. In the UK alone, it has 1,600 officers and 5,000 employees who run 50 hostels, 26 centres for the elderly and five specialist substance abuse units.
The Salvation Army also locates missing people and succeeded in reuniting more than 3000 individuals with their families in 1997 alone.