May 25, 2024

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Fashion Your personal

Do I Really Need To Buy Maternity Clothes?

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“I’m entering my second trimester, and I’m trying to find maternity clothes that will help me celebrate my bump. What works on a pregnant body, how daring can I be, and what can I get away with not buying new?” —Andrea, Brampton, Ont.

I have one word for you, Andrea: Rihanna. We’ve seen many celebrities rocking their pregnant bellies over the past 30 years, notably Demi Moore, naked at seven months pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. But no one, I repeat no one, can hold a candle to the revolutionary ka-pow knock-out that Robyn Rihanna Fenty gave us this year, effectively writing a new rulebook for maternity fashion.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way I’m going to go shopping in no maternity aisle,’” the Barbados-born superstar told Vogue. She said she was up for the challenge of redefining “what’s considered decent,” for pregnant women. “Because why should you be hiding your pregnancy?”

She has paved the way for others to free the bump as well. “I was watching the Cannes Film Festival last week, and Adriana Lima is pregnant again. She came out in a custom full-length formal gown with a diamond shaped cut-out for her whole belly,” says Katie Callery, maternity fashion entrepreneur and the Toronto founder of Sonday the Label.

It wasn’t that long ago that women were hidden away from view once their due dates approached, a concept that was known as “confinement.” Even the word is upsetting. Then there was the long, agonizing run of infantilizing maternity clothes, most notably the frumpy sailor suit—think of Princess Diana and the Peter Pan–collared tent dresses of her early-’80s pregnancies with her little princes. It looked sort of retro cute when Kate Middleton emulated her late mother-in-law for those Lindo Wing newborn reveals, but that look is over for the rest of us.

This is not a pressing problem for me currently: My own kids have just graduated university. But while I was pregnant back-to-back, I had to report from European fashion show front rows, while the OG goddess supermodels sashayed past on the runway, so that closet trauma is still extant two decades later. There was literally nothing on the maternity clothes market I could stand, so I survived by begging fashion-stylist friends to help me commission dresses cut out of stretchy fabric tubes.

“During my pregnancy in 2019, I was really excited to start dressing for my bump, but the cute, chic stuff was very expensive,” says Callery, who is the mother of Samuel, now a toddler. She cites the cult maternity brand Hatch, maker of elegant jumpsuits, cool denim overalls and floaty dresses, as an aspirational label. “Plus, a lot of pieces were made for one stage only: with ruching, for instance, for the tummy area. That looks great at the time when your midsection is stretched to the max, she explains, “but it is harder to wear post-partum.”

Modern maternity clothes should last into what’s known as the “fourth trimester” and beyond, says Callery. That’s because, contrary to celebrity examples, most of us don’t “bounce back” in the snap of a manicured finger after delivery. And who would want to? Looking back now, I wish I could have revelled in the post-partum period a whole lot longer, and that I cared less about returning my own body to “normal.”

“In the end, most women end up enduring dressing while pregnant, rather than getting excited about it,” says Callery. So she set out to make her own line. Callery had a marketing background, so she found a mentor and lucked into the attentions of the brilliant Linda Lundstrom, who began her education about fit and sizing.

Manufacturing locally is important to Callery, so she focuses on a small collection of essentials. Those include a terrific black ribbed halter-neck tube dress that looks a lot like what I cobbled together back in the day myself, as well as a clever half-caftan style nursing dress; you just pull down the deep-V shoulder to get baby to breast. And one item in particular is becoming a trend: a stretchy bamboo-cotton labour and delivery gown, in black, plum or cobalt. I get it: Who wants to spend the most important moment of their lives in a ratty old tie-up-the-back hospital gown? Bringing your own—with snaps that can be worn at the back or front and with easy access for nursing—is now a thing.

“These are the kinds of clothes you would want to wear in your normal life,” Callery says. This is an important point: When there is so much going on with your body and your identity is shifting at warp speed, it’s not the time to dress like a different person. Of course, there are some pieces from your “normal” wardrobe you can repurpose. “You can get away with flowy dresses you already have, especially if you are pregnant during the summer,” says Callery. “Then there is the classic button-up boyfriend shirt, which will usually get you through that first and second trimester.” Leggings and bike shorts can often stretch beyond their usual duty.

When it comes to dressing up for weddings or showers, that is when you can hit a bump in the road. Turns out, The Fitzroy dress rental service has this area covered with a dedicated maternity rental section—because we can’t all invest in a belly-baring spangled Rihanna-approved number to wear once in a lifetime. “Your body is so different while pregnant, so why not rent a fabulous $1,000 gown for about $100?” says Fitzroy co-founder Julie Kalinowski. “Plus, of course, it’s sustainable.”

Kalinowski is a new mom herself and stocked up on everyday items she’d be able to wear beyond the birth. “I always recommend either going for fitted dresses and tops with stretch so they show off the bump, or oversized sweaters or shirts that will still work for post-pregnancy.” She says you do need to invest in a pair or two of maternity jeans “because you definitely end up wearing them post-pregnancy. At least I do!” If you want to keep wearing your old favourites, denim brand Mavi offers a retrofit service, where they’ll affix one of four maternity panel styles to your existing jeans for $20.

At the end of the day, the goal of dressing while pregnant is to feel like yourself. Back to Rihanna, the expert on that, who told Vogue: “I’m sorry—it’s too much fun to get dressed up. I’m not going to let that part disappear because my body is changing.”

 

Shop the Advice

Successful maternity clothes shopping involves a mix of new pieces made to last the whole nine months and beyond, a few special occasion rentals and a pair or two of maternity jeans.

Asos maternity jeans, $43, asos.com. Photo: Asos

Shop Now

These “mom jeans” (literally!) feature a full stretchy panel for comfy wear throughout pregnancy and beyond. This U.K.-based retailer (with free worldwide shipping) has a wide range of on-trend maternity options like tops, dresses and more.

 

Jill by Jill Stuart gown, $100 to rent, fitzroyrentals.com. Photo: The Fitzroy

Shop Now

If you have a fabulous event to go to when your bump is at its biggest, opt for a stretchy gown with a waist that cinches just below the bra line. Renting means you can get something new (and perfect) for every special occasion.

 

Hatch jumpsuit, $195 (on sale from $278), hatchcollection.com. Photo: Hatch

Shop Now

Luxe maternity line Hatch is known for its chic jumpsuits, with lots of room to grow. A splurge, but it will last you right through the “fourth” trimester and beyond.

 

Sonday the Label dress, $102, sondaythelabel.com. Photo: Sonday the Label

Shop Now

This ribbed dress hugs your bump and draws the eyes up, and it’s easy to accessorize for different occasions with jackets or cardigans.

 

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