Wright-Patt rolls out new Air Force maternity uniform

Expectant mothers in the Air Force now have an easier fitting uniform to wear during their pregnancy, clothing designers say.

After three years of testing, the Air Force has rolled out a redesigned camouflage maternity uniform, which designers say looks more like what other airmen wear. The new uniform will be sent to military clothing stores over the next several months and can be ordered online now, officials said.

The Air Force Uniform Office at Wright-Patterson redesigned the uniform with feedback from more than 60 women who wore the clothing, said Capt. Taylor Harrison, the office’s program manager.

Air Force Uniform Office clothing designer Stacey Butler, left, adjusts an improved maternity uniform prototype on a mannequin that is also being tested by a pregnant Capt. Mollie Eshel, right, in 2016 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. TY GREENLEES / STAFF (Staff Writer)

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“The feedback that we had received early in the program was that they were uncomfortable (in the old maternity uniform) and there were a few areas of fit and function that they would like addressed in addition to looking like all the other active-duty airmen,” said Harrison, who wore both the old and new designs. “They’re already going through a lot of physical changes. … They didn’t want to standout because of their uniform appearing different as well.”

A big complaint was a tight-fitting elastic band in the old maternity uniform was uncomfortable for many, said clothing designer Stacey Butler. “The pregnant women would usually have to do their own alterations to find more comfort,” she said.

The uniform office examined maternity clothing in the retail market for ideas, she said.

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Air Force Uniform Office clothing designer Stacey Butler, right, inspects an improved maternity uniform prototype which was being tested in 2016 by Capt. Mollie Eshel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO (Staff Writer)

The result was fabrics that stretch more easily, more pockets, and a maternity uniform that looks like what their fellow airmen wear, designers said. The new uniform was meant to improve retention of women, also, said Yvonne Wilson, uniform office section chief.

The Dayton Daily News first reported on the new uniform in 2016 when it was still under development.

Rollout out of the latest version was delayed about a month when Hurricanes Irma and Maria barrelled through Puerto Rico, damaging the factory where the clothing is manufactured, Harrison said.

Production has since resumed at the factory, she said.

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