On Wednesday night, military servicewomen traded in their combat boots and fatigues in favor of heels and designer gowns for Salute the Runway at Lincoln Center. Former helicopter pilots, mechanics, combat photographers, military intelligence specialists, and Purple Heart recipients were among the 14 ladies that walked the runway for the event.

“I have to tell you that each and every one of us, what we were feeling as we were walking is such an incredible and overwhelming sense of pride for having worn the uniform,” Leslie Nicole Smith (pictured below, at left), a retired Army captain and spokeswoman for Fatigues to Fabulous, said after the show. “As we’re walking, trust me, we are saying, ‘Wow, I am beautiful, I am a woman, and I feel so empowered and confident.’”

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The event was hosted by Fatigues to Fabulous, an organization whose goal is to bring attention to the unique struggles that women in the military face and to help them transition to civilian life. “Two years ago I met some of our vets and I was really touched by their stories,” designer Carmen Marc Valvo, who provided a gown for the show, told InStyle.com. “This organization empowers [female veterans] and I’m all about empowering women who have supported and defended us,” he added.

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DKNY, Mara Hoffman, Calvin Klein, and Betsey Johnson also provided black dresses and gowns while Bobbi Brown did the makeup looks. Model Hilary Rhoda gave the veterans a training session on how to walk the runway prior to the show.

Norisol Ferrari, who dressed two of the veterans, said working with Fatigues to Fabulous was a natural choice for her. “It was completely something I didn’t have to think about. I am the daughter of a vet, this is something that strikes me in my heart and the core of why I started my business,” she said. “Fashion for me isn’t really about the exclusion, it’s about the empowerment. And I love that this event was about empowering women and feel in good.”

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