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Years ago, pregnancy was referred to as a woman’s "confinement." The idea was to hide yourself away and conceal your bump by draping it in voluminous clothing. Fast forward to the present, and maternity wear is all about celebrating the bump. Beginning with Demi Moore’s groundbreaking naked-and-pregnant "Vanity Fair" cover in the '90s, maternity has gone from hide-it-away to show-it-off. New moms, a stylist and a maternity boutique buyer weigh in on the best ways to navigate fashionable maternity wear.
Having a baby no longer sidelines you for nine months. Women are balancing careers, families and personal interests in unison, and their maternity fashion options are following suit.
- Liz Hubbard, marketing manager and buyer, Due Maternity
The public view of maternity has changed radically in the past decade or two, said Liz Hubbard, marketing manager and buyer for Due Maternity, an online maternity clothing shop.
“Somewhere along the line, we moved from muumuus and oversize sweats
to figure-flattering dresses and designer jeans," Hubbard said. "Celebrity baby bumps gracing the covers of magazines, the rising number of women (and therefore expectant women) in the workforce, television shows featuring or focused on pregnancy, the huge influx in our general capacity to generate and consume media, and major labels creating maternity lines have all played a role in the evolution of how pregnancy is viewed and subsequently, how maternity fashion is approached.
“Having a baby no longer sidelines you for nine months. Women are balancing careers, families and personal interests in unison and their maternity fashion options are following suit.”
New York-based celebrity stylist Mimi Brown says that a bonus of this trend is that the bump-accentuating clothes are a lot more flattering than the maternity "tents" of yesteryear.
“You can also incorporate the new maternity clothes with some of your other things without buying a whole new wardrobe,” Brown said. “For example, try an oversize button-down (even a man's will work) with leggings or skinny-style elasticized maternity jeans and a pair of flat shoes. You will end up looking more modern and slim. Enormous tent-like tops or empire-waist styles make pregnant women look huge, but women in this state are so beautiful and glowing, it's a shame to not look the part.”
Sleek, Chic and Cheap
Looking stylish during your pregnancy need not do major damage to your finances. Affordable main-street chains are producing maternity wear. Buying long shirts or simple tank tops in a larger size and pairing them with your existing stretchy leggings or jeans (worn under the bump) is also a simple way to keep costs down and look great at the same time.
Hubbard suggested some clever ways to incorporate your existing wardrobe into your maternity style.
“There are a handful of fantastic products on the market that allow women to extend the life of their everyday clothes into their pregnancy," she said. "The Bellaband, for instance, is a knit band that can be worn over a favorite pair of unbuttoned pre-pregnancy jeans or pants. The band keeps your pants in place and creates a smooth surface over the loosened closure so that nobody is the wiser.”
She also suggested using what you already have in a new and inventive way.
“A lot of today's trends also accommodate a pregnant figure,” Hubbard said. “Popular tunics can be belted to showcase a cute baby bump, and their naturally flowing cut is friendly to new curves. Cardigans and sweaters create great layers, and owning a few of these is always a good investment because they can be worn before, during and after baby.”
Carlene Davis Stauff, a Los Angeles-based journalist, had her first baby in September 2011. She found she barely bought any specialized maternity clothes.
“I was pregnant in the summer,” Davis Stauff said. “So I just wore a lot of maxi dresses, which meant I didn’t have to buy special maternity clothes, and just shopped at Forever 21 and H&M. I did buy larger sizes, but it was very easy to shop.
“The only maternity things that I bought were two pairs of jeans with elastic under the belly, and they are seriously the most comfortable pairs of jeans that I own. I don’t know why normal jeans aren’t made like this.”
Let It Hang Out -- or Not
The trend of wearing bump-accentuating clothes does have some drawbacks, however. For Davis Stauff, the extra attention was a little overwhelming at times.
“As you show it off you get a lot more attention from people," she said. "I’d be in the grocery store and people would want to pick stuff up for me, which was nice. But a couple of times strangers touched my bump, and it really weirded me out. Once I was in a restaurant and the busboy leaned over the table to rub my belly, and I felt so uncomfortable. But one funny thing was when I interviewed the actor Mark Salling from 'Glee' and he asked all about my pregnancy and wanted to rub my bump.”
It’s not just the extra attention that can be problematic with curve-hugging clothes. For some women, accentuating the bump isn’t easy because they simply gain weight all over and find it difficult to flatter their new figure.
Natalie Harris, a writer from San Francisco who had her second child during summer 2011, found that the bump-hugging look was not a bonus for her body shape.
“I put on a lot of weight on my chest during both pregnancies,” she said. “So clingy clothes just looked so inappropriate and busty, while larger clothes just hung off my chest and made me look huge. I felt bigger all over so I didn’t feel very attractive either. Some women are really lucky and their pregnancy is ‘all bump.’ I was not one of those women.”
For women who feel unsure, Hubbard recommended sticking to their existing style as much as possible to feel confident and comfortable. “If you love hipster skinny jeans, keep wearing them,” she said. “If you have a bohemian bent, hold tight to your maxi dresses. Feminine business suits that are practically tailored to perfection are even available. Your silhouette may change, but your personal style need not.”
That advice worked for Harris. “For a while I thought I had to dress like someone else, and I tried wearing special maternity clothes," she said, "but then I just went back to my skinny elasticized jeans and bigger shirts. I felt big but more like my old, normal self.”