DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A group from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base can be credited for a sweeping change among pregnant airmen.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Air Force Uniform Office designed and developed an improved maternity Airman Battle Uniform (ABU). Feedback about the previous ABU sparked the Air Force to create a new design.
Captain Taylor Harrison is expecting her second child in January. She said during her first pregnancy and the beginning of her second, the old uniforms were restrictive and uncomfortable.
Previously, an elastic stretch panel only covered the front of the ABU pants, which led some women to create their own custom slacks or buy multiple pairs as they grew out of a particular size.
Captain Harrison said the previous maternity ABU had notable differences from a normal uniform, like buttons on the outside of pockets, no pen pocket on the sleeve and a blouse buttoning the opposite direction.
“People would kind of look at you funny or ask you questions,” Captain Harrison said. “Then, even if they hadn’t noticed your belly, they noticed something was different with you. It was just kind of uncomfortable.”
Stacy Butler designed the newer uniform. Her design incorporated an improved stretch band, deeper pockets, adjustable side tabs and other upgrades to make it look more like the traditional ABU.
Butler said the features were inspired both by feedback from pregnant airmen and her own experiences as a mom.
“As a pregnant woman, you’re already faced with some discomfort of your growing, changing body,” Butler said. “To alleviate one thing and be comfortable in your clothes every day is really important.”
The uniforms were originally slated to be available for purchase by October, but Hurricanes Irma and Maria delayed the process at the Air Force’s manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico.
They were ultimately released in November and Butler says thousands of women have already purchased them.
Captain Harrison praised the upgraded ABU, saying it helps shift her concentration from her clothing to her work.
“You’re already getting kind of uncomfortable when you’re pregnant, especially later in the pregnancy,” Captain Harrison said. “Just having less concern about where your pants are riding up or the elastic helps me focus more on what I need to do day-to-day and get the mission done.”