Pregnant models walk runway finale during You! Lingerie Spring 2015 show during Lingerie Fashion Week at the Center 548 on October 25, 2014 in New York City. Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com
An approving round of applause was given to model Bianca Balti as she walked down the Dolce & Gabbana runway with a very noticeable baby bump. The seemingly growing trend of fashionable moms-to-be was paid tribute by the the brand on March 1, the fifth day of Milan Fashion Week. Dolce & Gabbana’s show, titled “Viva la Mamma!,” honored an important aspect of being a woman that is often ignored in the industry: motherhood.
According to the Associated Press, the show notes stated that the brand’s winter collection was dedicated to moms to allow “fashion to be seen as an extension of where one comes from.”
Balti might have been the only pregnant model in the show, but she led the pack of 11 other moms who toted their own children in style down the runway. Some of the clothes featured embroidered designs that said “I love you mama” and scribbles created by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s own nieces and nephews.
Though many people applauded the brand’s decision to use a pregnant model, some felt that the designers didn’t understand the full value of the show.
“Despite all the mama stuff, I doubt Dolce & Gabbana had anything like ticking biological clocks on their mind when designing this collection,” Alexander Fury, writer for The Independent, wrote in an article March 1. “They just saw their mamas as another unmistakable symbol of Italy—79 percent of the country’s young adults (18-29) still reside at home, the highest percentage in Europe.”
He went on to discuss how to the styles during the show represented an era that reinforced women’s roles as a mother.
“These clothes, clutching at the waist and oomphing out the breasts and hips in a fecund hourglass shape, reminded me of that era, of the styles that Christian Dior turned the world on to, convincing them they looked new. In actual fact, sociologists have analysed that, in part, it was reactionary, reinforcing women’s roles as mother (via that fertile figure emphasis) and ideologically banishing women from the working roles they adopted during the Second World War.”
Dolce & Gabbana isn’t the first company this season to celebrate pregnancy. Last week, the organic cotton underwear company Pansy released a campaign featuring model Claire Moore, who is four months pregnant, and Ariel Clute, who is eight months pregnant with twins.
“We have been getting so much positive feedback about the fit of pansies from customers with growing bellies, as well as from new nursing mamas, that we knew we had to do a shoot showing the versatility of our undies,” designer Laura Schoorl says. “We have received so much positive feedback from the shoot from women on Instagram and blogs that have contacted us.”
Shot in early February by “rockstar mom” Terri Loewenthal and developed with creative director Tessa Watson, the pregnant-in-pansies photo shoot features the two models posing on a bed, with full bellies exposed. The un-photoshopped campaign also showed the women in bras and panties that were not made specifically for maternity customers—another growing trend in the industry.
In October 2014, You! Lingerie had an entire cast of pregnant models strut their stuff during Lingerie Fashion Week in New York. The difference between Pansy and You! Lingerie is that the latter was created specifically for maternity and nursing customers. The company was founded by Uyo Okebie-Eichelberger, who created the label after struggling to find lingerie while she was pregnant. Still, it seems that fashionable pregnant ladies are steering away from the traditional maternity clothes, and into things a little more high-end.
Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld walked pregnant model Ashleigh Green down its runway in July during a fall fashion show. Green was in her third trimester when she wore the wedding dress made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber that is often used in the making of diving suits. The move was bold for many ways, according to Parents Magazine.
“The move is bold not just because a designer chose to employ a pregnant model for a high-profile runway walk. But it also makes a statement about the variety of now-ordinary ways, once considered nontraditional or even scandalous, that brides take their own walks down the aisle.”
The high-fashion pregnant women embracing a look outside of maternity clothes are not limited to models on the runway. Celebrities and other big names in fashion have been taking a stand against the tradition outfits a mom-to-be would wear. The pregnant Eva Chen, editor-in-chief of Lucky Magazine, has been praised in the industry to sticking to her adventurous style while sporting a growing baby bump. Haylie Duff and Carrie Underwood also spoke out about not wanting to buy maternity clothes.
“I just want people to know you don’t just have to wear maternity clothes because you’re pregnant,” the country singer told InStyle. “It’s all about finding a few things here and there that make you feel confident because you don’t have to go into hiding just because you’re pregnant.”
Shawna Percival, owner of the fashion and lifestyle blog Styleberry, wrote about how her thoughts on maternity clothes changed from her first pregnancy to her second.
“I feel like retailers have it out for preggos. I mean all the clothes are (a) tents or (b) so expensive it makes me cringe. Why, oh why, would I ever want to spend over $50 on a piece of clothing that I will only wear for what—six months?! Tack on how expensive nursing bras are and well…we haven’t even started about the baby. Pregnancy is no small expense!”
For women who are still riding the maternity clothes train, the industry has increased the benefits of the clothes to go past ease and comfort. According to the Cornell Chronicle, Cornell fashion design student Blake Uretsky recently created a line of maternity wear that wirelessly tracks the mother’s health. The mix-and-match collection of dresses, slacks, coats, blouses, skirts, sweaters and formal wear are called “B” Maternity Wearables. The collection is made with conductive silver fibers to sense heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and respiration levels from an expectant mother’s skin. The device is hidden behind a “B” belt buckle, and sends the data to her smartphone, where she can instantly check vitals, receive alerts for overexertion, inactivity, elevated stress and other dangers and email her status to her doctor.
“Wearable technology products must both be aesthetically pleasing and have meaning and value to users, and pregnancy is a time where critical monitoring is necessary,” says Uretsky, a senior in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) in the College of Human Ecology. “I also wanted to change negative views associated with maternity wear by showing that it can be stylish, professional and trendy.”
Released in January, Uretsky surveyed 30 pregnant women, including 10 face-to-face interviews, and even browsed and tried on maternity clothes for fit, quality and design while wearing a fake baby bump, during her seven month-long development of the product. She won one of four $30,000 Geoffrey Beene national scholarships from the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit founded in 1937 to support promising fashion designers and entrepreneurs. She received her award at a gala in New York City on Jan. 7.
According to Uretsky, the collection is appealing to pregnant women also because of its ability to adapt to the changes a woman’s body goes through before, during and after pregnancy.
“My three unique design features of reveal and conceal, grow with you, and mix and match provide pregnant women with the style and versatility they desire,” says Uretsky.
In a study done by Colorado State University in January, it was found that women have both complicated and supported experiences when buying maternity clothes. Three themes were identified in the study titled “The Role of Maternity Dress Consumption in Shaping the Self and Identity During the Liminal Transition of Pregnancy,” that reflected the way the study’s participants shopping practices were related to their identities and their transition to motherhood.
“Specifically, the three emergent themes included: (1) maternity dress consumption representing disruption in the ‘Woman I Am Most of the Time,’ (2) maternity dress consumption to affirm one’s new identity as ‘Pregnant/Expectant Mother,’ and (3) maternity dress consumption to maintain continuity in the ‘Woman I Am Most of the Time.’ Findings also underscored that consumption during liminality is complex, both inciting and relieving ambivalence during role transition.”
Schoorl agrees that the style for pregnant women is slowly changing past the traditional norm.
“The style seems to be shifting to pregnant women wearing non-maternity clothes,” she says. “I imagine women don’t want to buy pieces for their wardrobe that will become obsolete a couple months later.”