The Fallacy of Maternity Wear: Coming Out of the Closet
Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash
I distinctly remember showing up to lunch with my parents in June of 2011, 8 months pregnant with Scarlett wearing capri legging and a form fitting tank top. My mother was a tad bit shocked. I distinctly remember her saying that is not how I dressed when I was pregnant with either you or your sister. She regaled me of the hideous tent dresses women wore. Think of all those pictures of Princess Di pregnant with William, we were born a month apart.
I actually never bought maternity clothes. I was sick my whole pregnancy and from start to finish I actually lost 25 lbs, don’t worry I gained it and about another 25 lbs after Scarlett was born. But as a result I got away with wearing my jeans and a simple hair band looped through the buttonhole for most of my pregnancy. By the time I was big enough for maternity clothes it was a hot and humid Maryland summer and sundresses did the trick. Plus, my affinity for low rise cotton legging and stretchy tank tops. This photo was taken at 7 months pregnant. I got lucky. Really lucky.
But that tent dress, we've all seen pictures of our mothers and grandmothers in goes back to that notion that women are in a “family way” and should be hidden so as not to remind people how it is they got pregnant. Did anyone else roll your eyes or be totally appalled by that scene in Bridgerton, where two teenage girls truly have no idea how a girl could be in a family way without being married? They weren’t shocked by her behavior, they were completely oblivious to her behavior.
The first time I was pregnant was back in 2009, I inherited a box of my old cousin’s maternity clothes. I was pleasantly surprised by the comfy jeans and dress pants, flowy dresses but not so much by the empire waist shirts that ballooned out over my belly like a circus tent. I didn’t feel beautiful, I just felt large. This photo is from 10 years ago while pregnant with Maura.
Six years later I became pregnant with my son,Clark, my old maternity clothes had long since been passed on to other family members and friends, not that they would have fit me by then. I started the hunt for new maternity clothes. This time around it was all about embracing the bump. I loved all of the comfy side ruched t-shirts that show off your baby bump but equally great at hiding the postpartum pouch. I wore fitted dresses and pencil skirts and embraced being big and round.
By then Target had come out with their own brand of maternity jeans by Liz Lange and I was so excited to try them, and then was immediately disappointed. Liz Lange brand had everything going for it, affordable, stretchy, lots of different styles and sizes but the crotch literally starts at the knee. They are the most uncomfortable pants I have ever tried on. I ended up caving and spending the 50 some odd dollars on a pair of Motherhood Maternity jeans that I wore the crap out of! Leggings under dresses was my other go to (I have two winter babies and I'm now expecting summer babies).
That brings us to the present day. It’s been 10 years since I was pregnant with my daughter Maura and three years after my last pregnancy. Most of my old maternity clothes have been passed on to friends and family members and a new batch of clothes came back to me from those same mamas. Sadly, my beloved Motherhood maternity jeans did not survive, having been passed from person to person. They were replaced with multiple pairs from other brands. Now keep in mind I am a size 14/16 not pregnant, usually 16 in pants (I carry my weight in my hips). Maternity sizing is based on your pre-pregnancy size so I should be a 16.
I have tried two pairs of Old Navy Maternity Jeans in an 18, in two different styles. The first was okay but not very comfortable, the crotch is weird and low with tight legs and tons of room starting below the belly pane. The second were what I can only hope were a first attempt at maternity skinny jeans, and that they're still "working" on it. I will also mention that the size 18 they were skin tight on the legs, a rough starchy material and then absolutely huge in the waist and belly panel and this is coming from someone currently pregnant with twins.
At least we don’t usually have to have a lying-in period where they force you to stay in bed before and after pregnancy, just to be safe. I say usually because I was on bed rest till about 7 months and then I had a few weeks of walking around only to be followed up by a sitting-in period. Pregnancy is so celebrated now that it’s become common to do a whole sexy photo shoot. Disclaimer, this is not either myself or Leanne. It wasn’t really a thing back in 2011. This photo was taken by Kate Hliznitsova via Unsplash.
I am not sure I would ever have been up for this, but I applaud women who want to celebrate both the beauty of bringing new life into the world and also embrace that being pregnant makes them no less sexy. This type of photo shoot wasn’t really a thing back in 2011 but I did a photo shoot under some cherry blossoms. But let’s get real here for a min and recognize that this purple gauze is beautiful but not an everyday solution.
Leanne discussed in our post about plus size clothing that she often has to order clothes online and hope they fit. The majority of maternity stores are now online as well. Target does have a maternity section, but it’s like a 10x10 sq foot section. According to the CDC there are approximately 60 out of 1000 women aged 16-44 in America so that’s like 16% of women of child baring age are pregnant at any given time. So maybe it makes sense that they’re not getting prime real estate at Target unlike how the majority of American women are over a size 12 and yet the plus size section is only about 15x15 sq feet. I wouldn't even know where to look at Nordstrom.
A few weeks ago when Leanne found out she was pregnant with twins she started noticing that of the dozens of major influencers on Instagram who are pregnant (because they’re all 25-35), are mainly hiding it. They wear non-maternity dresses that hide the bump or more form fitting shots from behind with their faces turned towards the camera in a coy way. She asked me why. I didn’t have the statistics from the CDC at the time but I knew it was because it decreased the audience they could influence. Who wants to sell clothes to only 16% of women, when they could shoot for the other 84%. Oh wait, 70% of American women are plus sized, according to CNBC. Which means the influencers are actually only selling to 14% of women. Wow, those numbers aren’t great.
So what are my options as a plus size pregnant woman with twins? Let me walk you through my very limited options.
Pink Blush Maternity
I wanted to like these so badly. I had heard great things about Pink Blush maternity and their dresses are so pretty but these jeans were a disaster for me. I grabbed these on Thread up for $20 new with the tags still on them, thank goodness I did not pay full price and was able to use a credit I had from selling an old purse. Their website says that a 2X equals a pre-pregnancy size of 18/20 .I am a pre-pregnancy 14/16 and could not get my whole leg in! The legs were skin tight and would not even pull up much past my knees despite having a waist opening that was proportionate to a size 18/20. Is that even humanly possible?
Motherhood Maternity doesn't make their own jeans any more so these are the evolution of their jeans. Not great, not horrible. There were quite a few pairs in the hand me downs from a friend of mine. The 1X fit in the legs and waist, my only complaint was that the crotch was too low, the belly panel starts before your underwear stops, and we’re talking hipsters not granny panties. The result is half of your butt being covered in the nice stretchy denim and the other half in thin, breathable spandex blend. Not the best feeling in the world, but are the worth the $60 some odd dollar price tag? Not for me.
The Isabel Maternity line of jeans at Target seemed so perfect, size inclusive, soft stretch fabric, reasonable price, crotch that doesn’t start at my knees, I love everything about these jeans except for one major thing: the buttcrack window. You read that right, the buttcrack window, or wrap around the belly panel as they call it. Up until this week the belly panel would not stay up high enough to not reveal my buttcrack to whatever poor soul was stuck behind me. Keep in mind I am currently 16 weeks pregnant, with TWINS, which means that these jeans would not have stayed up on me until I was at least 20 weeks pregnant with just one baby. The first time I wore these jeans I went out walking with the kids, my husband happened to drive by us on his way home from work and told me he could see my buttcrack from the car. Now for your viewing pleasure I give you, my pregnant Portuguese backside in the buttcrack window.
I had told Mandie about the buttcrack panel, but I don’t think she truly understood what I was talking about until I whipped it out yesterday. Her reaction was exactly as it should be “What the hell?! Why?! Who designed that?!”.....my sentiments exactly.
Why is it so hard to find decent maternity wear since women have been getting pregnant since the dawn of our existence? Math aside, jean crisis, and the ongoing frustrations for plus size women in fashion, I want to talk fashion. We thought we’d make some recommendations on some flattering, form fitting, fully embracing pregnancy outfits and some really terrible looks that will make you look more wale like then the beautiful pregnant woman you could be.
Thankfully this ASOS sweater is out of stock, but the idea of balloon sleeves and balloon tummies is terrible. Don’t make other parts of your body look bigger.
This asymmetrical neck sweater from Nordstrom is form fitting but has an interesting detail that will draw people’s eyes to your neck, which isn't usually one of the swollen parts of your body,
This Zulily skirt I don't even know where to begin with why it’s so bad. So your pregnant belly bumps out and then there’s a slightly nautical flare under it. No, just no.
This Zapos maternity skirt not only has a fun leopard print, but a side detail that you could use to show off your legs or just add dimension to the look.
In all fairness to Target the peasant look is in, but pregnant women shouldn't do high neck lines.
Zulily got this one right. The ruched side looks good on all women. It’s so forgiving. This dress shows off your belly but makes it the star not the eye sore.
Once again, I find myself pleading with the fashion industry to do better. Better for the pregnant women. Better for the plus sized women. Better for all women. You saw the statistics, get it together folks. We will buy more clothes if you make us look and feel beautiful in them. I want to finish off with showing you what Target is getting right, because as Leanne said, maternity wear is expensive, it can be hard to find places you can try it on and this makes Target an ideal place to shop, even if there are some bad jeans, there are some great other things and Target's return policy is fantastic.
I showed you a peasant dress that's high neck wasn't flattering even if it's in style. This dress has the peasant look without the cut that is unflattering on a pregnant woman.
This dress does have a stomach flare but it's off the shoulder top gives you dimension that's flattering.
This tank will be fun when the summer hits, it was my go to style, but you can put a cardigan on that's already in your wardrobe and wear this in the spring. It comes in white too.
Good luck shopping my pregnant friends. May the odds be ever be in your favor.