I must have ordered something recently from a big-box conglomerate that owns teen fashion shops, because lately my mailbox is full of catalogs geared exclusively toward teenagers who are six feet tall and weigh 115 pounds. Of course, I do the obligatory flip-through, and I find that I am madly in love with many articles of clothing within the mini magazine.
Thing is, I’m in my sixth month of pregnancy.
I would like to call this year’s fashions (pretty much the whole spring, summer and fall) something catchy, but all I can come up with is “Baby Bump Bonanza” or “Stylin’ with Child.” It seems that the phenomenon of pregnant celebrities on the cover of every tabloid imaginable (Is She Pregnant or Isn’t She? How Will She Lose That Baby Weight?) has somehow affected the styles of the now. Babydoll tops and dresses, extremely long tanks and tunics, flowing fabrics and lots of stretchy knits are the reigning styles, and they’re for absolutely everyone.
I recently went shopping with another pregnant friend of mine, and we hit a maternity shop first, but we found most of our purchases were made in non-maternity shops, where we could see the styles we wanted, thinking of ourselves as normal people, and then observe how they magically fit over our rounded bellies.
After reading much of Jennifer Louden’s The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, I agree with her suggestion to embrace and celebrate pregnancy as the most creative time in a woman’s life. She also mentions that there are no expectations of how the pregnant body should look (at least outside of those tabloids), so you should try to free yourself during this time to take risks with your definition of beauty. I have the 1995 edition of this book, but the “Comforting Clothing” chapter seems remarkably applicable today. She lists cowboy boots, leggings, big sweaters, natural fibers, shirts and dresses with empire waists or no waist, and plenty of fun accessories as favorite things to wear during pregnancy.
Other good advice I got was from a stranger (a mom of three) I met while shopping: “Buy it so it fits. Tighter clothes help you to show off your belly, which will minimize emphasis on the parts you’re not as thrilled with.”
I especially agree with Ashley Vermillion Harris, owner of the couture boutique Vermillion in North Hills Mall in Raleigh. “This is a time to play with proportions more than hide your shape,” she told me. “Regardless of your style, you should go for the fabrics and styles that you feel are the most exciting, and make you feel beautiful.” She reminded me that the loose-fitting tunic, for example, isn’t necessarily for one particular body size. She showed me one of the most billowy, giant shirts in her shop that she said was a favorite of Nicole Richie (certainly not who a pregnant lady thinks about in terms of a healthy shape). If a string bean-shaped woman can wear a giant top that doesn’t traditionally “fit” and somehow manage to influence thousands of women, then I, during the most powerful, creative and healthy stage in my life, should be able to wear anything I please with pride.
To demonstrate the flexibility of today’s fashion, I took Lyndsay Bush, a slim 17-year-old dancer and volleyball player, and Cali Thompson Lovett, a jewelry designer and teacher who is almost seven months pregnant, to Vermillion and had them choose outfits that they both felt they could wear. I was inspired by watching them try on just about anything that seemed fun to them, rather than what was supposedly “right” for their body types.
“During pregnancy you may have to try harder to accept your body’s unique form,” Harris said, “but with designers being more creative lately, you can take risks in clothing that are as much a work of art as they are traditionally flattering. Stylish clothing is for everyone who takes the risk to wear it.”
All styles can be yours if you have the confidence to wear them. And if you’re pregnant, now’s the time to take some fashion risks: Show off that belly you might usually hide, accentuate that cleavage, and feel free to shop in the teen section.