Brenna Duffy is entering her third trimester of pregnancy, a stage that used to bring frumpy smocks with Peter Pan collars, cutesy pastel prints and floral everything to her closet.
“My last pregnancy I felt like a present — just stick a bow on it and you were good to go,” said Duffy, 33, of Maple Grove.
For years, the goal of maternity clothes was to conceal, not reveal — the bigger the clothes the better.
Today, pregnant women are tossing the old rules aside. Instead of forfeiting fashion for 40 weeks, they’re choosing stylish outfits with their bumps highlighted as an accessory — and showing them off on social media.
A very pregnant Kerry Washington wore a crop top to the Screen Actors Guild awards last year. At six months pregnant, Kate Middleton was photographed in one of her favorite non-maternity shirtdresses.
Fashion-forward retailers are taking note and hopping on the maternity train — giving moms-to-be more options than ever.
A.J. Lund says she no longer has to go to a specialty store to buy maternity clothes. Her favorite premium denim line, Seven for All Mankind, now offers maternity jeans at stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. She also has good luck shopping at her favorite stores, such as H&M, Gap and Target.
“Maternity fashion has gotten so much better in the past decade, so I don’t have to stray too far from what I normally wear,” said Lund, 32, of Maple Grove. “It also helps that tunics and longer-length shirts are in style, so a lot of my maternity go-tos are actually not maternity at all.”
Liz Lange, the designer behind the Liz Lange for Target maternity collection, said there’s no reason a woman should have to sacrifice her sense of style when she’s pregnant.
“Women have more options to choose from than ever before, allowing them to stay true to their personal style throughout their pregnancies,” Lange said. “While maternity fashion used to mean muumuus and sweatpants, today that’s actually not the case at all.”
Maternity no more
Some women have given up on maternity clothes altogether. They don’t want to spend money on clothing they’ll wear for only nine months. Recent runways have been flush with drapey silhouettes and looser shapes, making it easier for a trendy mom such as Alissa Loren to stick mostly to her existing wardrobe during her second pregnancy.
“In the past, maternity sections haven’t done the best job of offering stylish looks that don’t scream ‘mom,’ ” said Loren, 29, of Ramsey. “I have the best success and feel like it’s the best investment when I purchase my clothing in the regular women’s department.”
Loren, a part-time model, said the fashion industry in general has expanded beyond crop tops and tight-fitted clothing and is now offering flowing chiffon tops and fun printed shift dresses.
Local designer Lisa Hackwith doesn’t make maternity-specific clothes, but has sold many pieces to customers to wear during and after pregnancy. Her Basics dress can be worn as an intentionally oversized piece or as a more fitted dress during pregnancy.
“My designs are appealing to a broad range of women because they are meant to be flattering on a variety of body shapes,” Hackwith said. “During pregnancy, I don’t think one has to sacrifice feeling confident for clothing that is subpar.”
Mainstream maternity retailers are struggling to attract fashion-forward shoppers with this mind-set. Destination Maternity, which operates A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity, has had three straight years of declining revenues. Management cited a persistently tough economic environment and the popularity of looser fitting non-maternity fashions.
As a result, the company is stepping up its game. Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe has teamed up with A Pea in the Pod for a line due out in March. The collection will stay true to Zoe’s bohemian style, including relaxed caftans and fluid tunics.
Stores that haven’t offered maternity clothes in the past now want a piece of the pie, such as J. Crew, Topshop and website Seraphine.com.
Pregnant and on Pinterest
There’s no denying the impact that social media have had on the fashion world’s increasing obsession with being stylishly pregnant. Pregnant selfies have become so popular that they even have their own name — the “bumpie.”
On Instagram, the popular @MothersInProtest account champions the fashion-conscious pregnant woman — posting photos of lingerie-clad bumps, nearly nude selfies, dressed-up bellies and “outfit of the day” maternity looks. A search for hashtags such as #maternitystyle and #pregnancystyle on Instagram and Pinterest produces pages of images shared by women flaunting chic bumpies.
“Pregnancy isn’t a time to hide under frumpy clothes,” Lange said. It’s “an opportunity to accentuate that growing bump and celebrate it.”
Duffy said she doesn’t feel like a gift-wrapped “present” this time around. She logs onto Pinterest looking for style inspiration that’s the opposite of the oversized maternity wear of her previous pregnancy. Maintaining her personal style, she said, has made a positive difference in her mood.
And isn’t that what fashion should be about?
“Pregnancy is already pretty intense. The last thing you want to do is question your self-esteem,” Duffy said. “Feeling good about yourself helps make those other intense moments a littler easier.”