Forget the battle fatigues and boots.

For 39 women whose usual work clothes are anything but sexy, Sunday's first-ever Ms. Veteran America: The Woman Beyond the Uniform beauty pageant was a chance to strut in high heels and gowns for a good cause.

The contestants -- all military veterans or currently on active duty -- gathered in a hotel ballroom near the Pentagon in northern Virginia to help raise awareness and money for Final Salute, a group that helps find housing for homeless female veterans and their children. The youngest was 21 and the oldest, World War II veteran Gladys Hughes of Picayune, Miss., was 89.

The women competed in four categories -- talent, evening wear, interview and military history. Hughes, who was second runner-up, said during her question-and-answer segment that she was "appalled” to learn that there were so many homeless female vets. “If we can continue to put out information about what is happening to our veterans today and what they need, then we would do a good job,” she was quoted on FashionManiac.com.

Stephanie Way, who served in the Iraq War, was first runner-up, partly on the strength of her rendition of Taylor Swift's “Safe & Sound.”

The Air Force, which fielded the most contestants, also provided the winner: Denyse Gordon, a staff sergeant who also won the best gown category.

Gordon got the usual beauty contest crown and sash as well as $15,000 toward a car or an educational scholarship, among other prizes. She will spend the next year speaking out on the need to provide housing for the estimated 13,000 female veterans who are homeless nationwide.

Final Salute was founded in 2010 by Army veteran Jaspen Boothe, a mother and cancer survivor who herself was once homeless.