I have always dreaded pregnancy. Not for the discomfort, not for the weight gain, not for the agony of childbirth…but for the clothes! Like many women, I have never wanted to look comfortable and stain-proof in an insipid floral smock. A woman having a baby should not have to dress like one, nor should she suddenly divest herself of black chiffon, kitten heels and cleavage, especially when this might be the best cleavage of her lifetime.
Recently I found role models who have followed that code of nonchalant goddess charm, bearing their burgeoning bodies with a breezy, seductive élan. Revelation number one was Uma Thurman at the Oscars in an evening dress that was almost all bustline. Va va voom! Revelation number two was Kate Moss’s nine-month fashion parade of delicate printed chiffons, denim skirts, UGG boots and Grecian-style evening dresses that made pregnancy look almost fun.
Real-life revelation number three came when one of my best friends fell pregnant at 41. Six-feet tall and imperiously vampish, she wore 1930s bias-cut silk satin slips layered in contrasting hand-dyed shades of magenta and scarlet, with silk chiffon wraps knotted loosely over her burgeoning bust. The night before her waters broke she was lounging about in a black, stretch-georgette evening dress and bare feet. Swollen ankles and hellish water retention did not weary her and it was a joy to behold.
Pregnancy does not automatically equal 9 months of frumpdom. For the career mom, Diane Von Furstenburg does a big belly wrap in stretch silk jersey. For the action mom, Gap does a series of boot-cut jeans that accommodate three phases of tummy expansion from just showing to their extended panel model which is big enough for twins. Heck, I even found black leather Sheryl Crow-style pants for the expectant rock chick at www.apeainthepod.com, a fantastic fashion company that commissions contemporary designers such as Anna Sui and TIBI to make their sundresses. The store even provides a full-length beaded wedding dress in duchess satin by Nicole Miller. Now that is modern maternity style!
Cruising the Web for pretty pregnant clothes is a relaxing alternative to struggling through busy department stores and the prices are competitive. Like shopping for “normal” fashion, it pays to balance designer items against less expensive basics. Get your denim capris at Old Navy or Gap Maternity and splurge on a ruched-fronted poplin shirt and a keyhole peasant blouse at www.belissimama.com, or plunk down for a Vivianne Tam T-shirt at www.thematernitymall.com. The sensible mother-to-be would do well to choose some pieces (especially tops) that can be used during and after their pregnancy—and well into nursing. Button-front shirts and loose Nehru-style tops can accommodate a bigger bust, easy access for feeding and grabby little paws better than a plain T-shirt.
Pumpkin Wurtzel, of www.pumpkinmaternity.com (a fashion site and Nolita boutique devoted to street-wise Mommy fashion), stresses the importance of good underwear during your gestation. “If you are wearing pretty and supportive undergarments it makes dressing more of a joy. I became a fan of the thong during my first pregnancy but I can also understand women loving those baggy ‘granny’ knickers at full term.” Pumpkin’s site sells both and plenty of witty little sundresses besides.
“Women” says Pumpkin sagely, “have different trouble spots during pregnancy. Some don’t love their arms or their knees and I design with these issues in mind.” Expecting her second baby shortly, Pumpkin says the best thing about pregnant style is actually overcoming niggling body issues in favor of the big picture. “Having your body change in ways you can’t control allows a woman to let go of a lot of self-obsession. This selflessness is the first step to becoming a parent.” Amen!
Fertile, fabulous, full-figured and free-spirited, there is nothing more attractive than a woman owning up to her changes with grace and humor. The funniest item I found on the Mommy market was a T-shirt that read “Got Breastmilk?” ($16.00, www.hotmama.com) just getting the chance to wear one of those would make all of the hard work worth it!
Whether you are just showing or in the last throes of carrying your baby, do find ways to liven up the process with style. Here are seven more tips for the round set. Bless your darling D-cups!
1. Sew stylish: Crafty mommies on a budget can make their own chic sheaths. Check out VOGUE Pattern no. 2750 for a stretch wrap dress with Juliet sleeves, or VOGUE Pattern no. 1757 for a swing coat for day.
2. Va-va-vintage: The best vintage styles to wear while pregnant are oversize rayon ’40s dresses (with espadrilles), full-length negligees (for sexy lounging), swing-back opera coats (for evening cover ups) and oversized men’s shirts worn open over tanks and sarongs.
3. Belly balm: Bare bellies are a big summer trend with proud types wearing tight tanks and hipster-style cargo pants. Frankly, I think this looks like Britney Spears with indigestion but if you must strut the gut…moisturize it! Tummy skin is fragile and needs constant attention to avoid stretch marks and dehydration.
4. Functional footware: Shoes need to support you properly and fit swollen feet. Ignore Carrie Bradshaw and Manolo Blahnik fans everywhere and wear Birkenstocks if you need to. A long, bias-cut skirt will compliment them.
5. Accessorize: Don’t be a plain Jane! Accent your new boobs with a velvet-trimmed shawl for evening or a double strand of faux pearls. Wear anything now that you can’t later on…dangly earrings, chokers, complex trailing ringlets…all will be taboo once baby starts clutching.
6. Lingerie indulgence: Splurge on a sexy black lace-trimmed bra (www.biggirl’sbra.com) now or forever hold your peace in the nursing numbers that are to come.
7. Pattern power: Polka dots, horizontal stripes, gaudy florals and funky plaids can all be worn while pregnant. This is the one time in a woman’s life when she does not need to slim down or pretend to be 10 pounds lighter!