Sewing for Ukraine: volunteers make army uniforms for women

Photo © Pexels/Алесь Усцінаў

By Yurii Kovalenko

Yuliia Mykytenko smiles as she adjusts her new trousers, confident she’s finally found a Ukrainian army uniform that fits after 10 months of war with Russia.

The tens of thousands of women in Ukraine’s armed forces have long had to make do with men’s uniforms. That is now changing, thanks to volunteers who have started designing military clothing for women.

“I know that finding the right uniform is a problem for many women. Some have hips too wide, or a chest too narrow. You can’t loosen up uniforms in the armed forces,” Mykytenko, 27, told Reuters.

“So, if you get a size 44, it can be good on the hips but too big on the shoulders. Or a 46, or a 48.”

Mykytenko joined the armed forces long before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Both her father and husband have been killed since the start of the war.

Before receiving her new uniform, she faced many problems with army clothing designed for men which she said did not cater for women’s wider hips and thinner waists.

“My waist is thinner. So I’d have to either wear my trousers on the hips, or get a bigger size. Then I’d have to tie them in with a belt, so they wouldn’t hang or fall off,” she said.

She now has a uniform produced by Stanyslav Bitus, a fashion designer who volunteered his services.

“We had long thought about designing female military uniforms but didn’t have anywhere to do it,” he said.

That changed when a friend suggested using a non-governmental organisation’s premises.

Bitus’ new line of work comes with special demands.

“The kneecap pocket part is very important when you fall on the ground. When you fall, it’s more comfortable,” he said.

“In male uniforms, the kneecap was much lower, and when you fell it rose up. This doesn’t only not help but can bring on more trauma.”


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