In September 2018, Beyonce made the fashion world stop and stare at her verdant Vogue shoot, featuring her far-along pregnancy belly. This shoot was concepted by artist Awol Erizku. Without a doubt the editorial photos of the year, and sorely often does a Vogue editorial hit as hard as this one did. A glowing Beyonce showing off her baby bump with such maternal beauty, surrounded by lush greens and floral decor - this shoot was a celebration of new life, and the immutable power of a woman’s body.
While baby bumps have been quite celebrated since then, most recently with Rihanna’s pregnancy, you’d be hard pressed to think of a time before the Beyonce shoot when the perception of a far-along belly was so positive. Most maternity fashion of the past, and even attitudes towards a woman’s pregnant body were shaped with one word in mind: hide, hide, hide. It’s an aspect of a woman's life that has ultimately been coated in shame for centuries. Hiding an extended belly, hiding stretch marks, and hiding any discomfort and pain that comes along with those nine long months. Seeing Beyonce in a Botticelli-esque light definitely left a mark on the public’s tone around what can be said about a woman's body and the changes it may go through.
A lot of the stigma around showing pregnancy has disappeared, and they’ve even graced runways from time to time. I mean, everyone’s got stretch marks. Now it seems much of the rhetoric has shifted to more of a perspective that stretch marks are beauty marks. As generations go, it does feel good that many of the stigmas of the past feel like they are slowly dissolving away. Nowadays, there might not be anyone making an unfettered comment about a woman’s baby bump without being put back in their place. A pregnant woman’s body is modern femininity, and showing it reflects a level of realness that women want to have during the pregnancy journey.
Awol Erizku’s masterful editorial was just what we needed at the time in 2018 - a visual reminder of the beauty that is a woman’s pregnancy. The Birth of Venus was a fantastic parallel to the old master art world, and fit in perfectly with Beyonce’s personality between her Lemonade and Renaissance eras. It brings me joy that so many baby bumps can be seen in a high fashion context, and no one really bats an eye anymore. It’s truly become commonplace in the public eye and not a point of critique, because it’s not seen as something to critique anymore. Rihanna’s appearance at the Met Gala recently was simply, just Rihanna wearing another fabulous look. We’ve come a long way.
But this, again, is talking about the high fashion context. These are looks that have had months of planning and endless budget poured into them. And for just one look. How has the perception of a baby bump changed for everyday moms that aren’t on their way to the red carpet? Some of the top searches online in regards to this include “How can I look stylish during pregnancy?” or “How can I dress to show off my baby bump?”. These questions indicate a breath of confidence among soon-to-be mothers, who want to proudly show their belly. It also demonstrates a need in the marketplace. ARE there stylish clothing options for mothers-to-be?
Fashion that expresses a pregnant woman’s body is a way of breaking down a lot of the dialogue around pregnancy that gets lost or hidden away - body changes, mood, thinking of the future are all large parts of that journey that don’t find their way into conversation. Creating inclusive and fabulous fashion for moms-to-be is a way to channel more positive and confident energy into the experience.
How can we, as designers and stylists alike, further push for even better design options for “maternity wear”? This is kind of a loaded question as there are lots of points of consideration. Should sizing be influenced by trimester? Can we utilize textiles to our advantage in designing for the easing of discomfort or pain? How can we strategically use closure to create stylish garments that are effective for nursing? In the case of a changing body, there is plenty of problem solving to be done to make sure the wearer feels both confident AND comfortable.
In the larger scope of what’s considered “fashion”, much of the functional design umbrella falls to the wayside. This includes clothing for mothers-to-be, adaptive clothing for individuals with disabilities, aging individuals, and career uniforms (like nurses’ scrubs). These are all areas that tend to be more neglected by much of the talent and creativity that the fashion industry has to offer. Designing in this way might not be seen as “glamorous” as designing for Fashion Week, but it could be. As creative people, we could see the direct success of our work and make the weird-but-wonderful world of fashion more accessible.
It wouldn’t be one of our blogs without linking you up with our favorite shops and resources on what we’re talking about. From dresses, undergarments, nursing, swim, skincare and even more, we’ve got you covered. These are all shops that excel in effective design for soon-to-be mothers. Here’s a shortlist of some of the best mom-to-be fashion that’s just as cute as it is comfortable for your body:
A Pea In The Pod: