WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The Female Fitment Program continues to influence daily life and duty for female Airmen, moving history forward for generations of women.
“The Female Fitment Program is designed to create uniforms that better fit our female population,” said Andrea Lemke, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Female Fitment Program clothing designer. “We’ve worked on a number of items in our office involving air crew, maternity, service dress and Space Force uniforms as well.”
Being the only Female Fitment Program office in the Air and Space Forces, personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are working to develop uniforms that provide women with proper form, fit and function. The program seeks to ensures that all female Airmen feel comfortable and confident in what they are wearing and know their uniform is being made with women in mind from start-to-finish.
Initiated and hosted by the AFLCMC, the program’s mission is to acquire and support human systems to enhance warfighter performance, protection and survivability. The program prioritizes both safety and professionalism when tailoring a uniform to a female Airmen. It strives to represent and fit uniforms to any female’s body type so that all feel comfortable and look professional while also meeting Air Force safety standards.
The program works to improve the style and fit of all types of uniforms, covering service dress, flight suits and more. The mission also focuses on updating and tailoring maternity uniforms for expecting mothers in the Air Force.
“Pregnant women are already uncomfortable a lot of the time, so we really wanted to make something that our Airmen would be proud to wear instead of causing them to think, ‘how can I get out of this situation so I don’t have to wear this outfit,’” Lemke said. “After a maternity fitting and all the hard work that goes into the process, it is great to see how happy the results make them. It is not always easy but seeing someone wear a design that you worked on with pride just makes all that time that it took to develop it so much better.”
Clothing designers look at current industry styles and apply those fits to the female form and Air Force uniform standards. This is true when redesigning, tailoring, or making a uniform from scratch.
“We've done a number of fit tests and wear tests with our current Continuing Process Improvements program, and we’re taking into consideration and listening to the Airmen on what they like and what they don't like,” said Aaron Needles, a clothing designer within the program. “These uniforms haven't been updated for the past 30 to 40 years, so we’re really taking current industry into account as well as looking at the female form of the Airmen and Guardians.”
The Female Fitment Program office highlights that volunteering for wear tests means having your voice heard and being a part of positive shift to improve Airmen’s lives. Volunteers provide the program with a new demographic perspective, whether that is age, ethnicity, rank, job and more, promoting inclusivity for all types of Airmen. Volunteers typically get to keep the item they wear test, and the office works to make the process as seamless as possible.
“For me, the timing worked out perfectly,” said Capt. Katy Blessing, chief of public affairs for the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing. “Our base has its annual awards ceremony soon, so I needed a uniform to fit over my growing baby bump. When I saw the Female Fitment Program was advertising for the uniform and that the timing worked out, I jumped on it immediately.”
Blessing only has positive feedback after being fitted for a maternity uniform. Within a week of finding out about the maternity fitting, she was in contact with the program, received travel orders, flew out and received her fitting.
“What they are doing right now to improve and update uniforms for women is huge,” said Blessing. “To have uniforms coming out that are specifically made for our body types and our style rather than feeling like we just have to fit into a men’s uniform has been amazing. It is a huge confidence boost.”
These efforts by the Female Fitment Program are creating a positive impact in the Air Force by helping women’s inclusion and equality.