I remember it only too well. 2012 and I was pregnant with my second daughter. Truly I wanted to embrace a whole new maternity wardrobe. So too, did my (particularly rampant) Chinese consumer genes, no doubt geed up by all those pregnancy hormones. With a royal baby on the way and Victoria Beckham rumoured to be adapting outfits for the Duchess, the ‘wrap’n’ruched’ dress – that (deeply unfashionable) hero piece of maternity wear’s ancient regime would finally be toppled. 2012 would be the year that pregnant women got a make over in the style annals.
But when I actually looked around, there was zilch I wanted to buy. Like an increasing number of pregnant women, I decided to make do with my existing wardrobe – hopefully I looked a darn sight less mumsy than I might have had I succumbed to the drape of a hip hugging, jersey knit dress. Stick your hands up if you too if you’ve found it strange that you might be required to suddenly parade a cleavage because the majority of maternity lines (wrongly) assume that pregnant women wish to celebrate their fuller bust.
I know, I know, I’m going to fess up here and say I’ve written in the past that I didn’t understand why pregnant women were so sniffy (and stingy) when it came to buying maternity clothes. Nine months spent in a sort of body Siberia seemed a long enough time to justify a retail blow out. But over the years I’ve come to realise there is something deeply naff about a lot of maternity specific wear.
Perhaps I’m older and a bit wiser when it comes to knowing what suits me as well as bit meaner. What never ceases to amaze me is the disappointing quality of a lot of cuts and fabrics which are found in maternity ranges – and usually at twice the price of anything bought pre-pregnancy. But what baffles me most –still! after eight years of first being pregnant- is how maternity lines force you into clothes that are anathema to your personal style. Chances are that if you didn’t like the fussiness of a wrap or ruched dress pre-bump, you’re unlikely to seek solace in them when you are. Especially if you’re fashion savvy enough to know that neither style is remotely on trend, nor has it been for at least the past three decades.
True, there are design restrictions. An item of clothing does after all have to expand to make way for a growing baby but that doesn’t explain why many maternity labels assume that once pregnant you’ll suddenly feel like a sex kitten and choose to wear everything skin-tight, or display copious amounts of cleavage just because you’ve gone up a cup size. There they have you: either trussed up as a porn star or else forced into a dress that resembles a sack of potatoes in an itchy – ie cheap – fabric.
Save for the odd pair of pregnancy jeans (Paige denim or Top Shop’s Baxters), longer length tops (try Gap) and supportive, non-underwired bras (at Elle Macpherson and Bodas) you might be surprised at how much there is in your current wardrobes that will accommodate a growing bump if you only you take the time to look.
I am currently in the early stages of baby number three (yes I’m mad) and at the point where I’m itching to treat myself to something – anything – and I can vouch that things haven’t moved on all that much.
9 London has arrived on the scene, and like several of its predecessors, it sources clothes that aren’t maternity specific so you’re not paying over the odds for a pregnancy label, although the range of items – beautiful though their edit is – is definitely pitched at the designer end. Hatch, an American retailer is possibly the most exciting arrival in that it sells the sort of clothes you might feasibly find in your wardrobe anyway. Another new find is caramel, the excellent womenswear range by Eva Karayiannis which offers the sort of effortless wardrobe staples than exude an understated style. Their black corduroy joggers come with an elasticated waistband which you can wear beneath a bump. I’ve lived in nothing else. It is also worth remembering though that a simple, black, bump band will allow you to continue wearing your favourite trousers.
Whistles is another godsend, for tunic-style dresses that are funky but smart enough for work. Something about their cut means that they skim the body contours rather than hugging or drowning your frame.
I could reel off a list of labels but then this is a personal view on what works on someone at the dwarf-ish end of the height spectrum. Far more useful though is to look for the following items in your wardrobe; drop waists which you would normally wear slouchy, now have room where a bump can snuggle in nicely
Don’t underestimate the power of sharp tailoring to give your look a strong line, especially when you feel like a whale. You might not be able to do the buttons up, but you’ll still benefit from strong, sharp shoulders and the illusion of a cinched waist.
While some women swear by big, bouncy blow-dries or blingy shellac to divert attention elsewhere, I’ve also learnt the following:
- You can always wear your shoes, so go to town in the January sales.
- It’s also worth a proper clear out of your wardrobe and experimenting – a surprising amount can be adapted for pregnancy.
- Fashion first aid nipple concealers (sticky plastic gel discs for a song on Amazon) can make all the difference to an outfit.
- It’s a better idea to buy clothes as you go along rather than for months in advance when you don’t know how you will feel or how big you’re going to get. I’ve made many (expensive) mistakes by not heeding this advice.
- And the chances of you wanting to wear any of it again is highly unlikely so have fun while it lasts.
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