I was just thinking…………

…………… about the fashion statements of modern-day mums-to-be. A couple of things got me started along this train of thought. One was the expectant mum I saw yesterday morning at the supermarket. Nothing out of the ordinary there of course, except for what she was wearing. Well, even that isn’t out of the ordinary any more. You can see the latest maternity garb everywhere now, but I still can’t get used to it.
This lady was no teenager, and very advanced in her pregnancy. Perhaps she’d had several babies already and had decided that at least for this confinement she was going to be comfortable. Who knows? Whatever the case, she was determined to wear the least amount of clothing possible, and covering that very large tum’ wasn’t going to be top priority that day. She wore a very tight, very short, semi- transparent crop top which might have been a bra – or not. This was teamed with a pair of skin-tight black leggings whose ‘hipline’ stopped an inch above the crotch and left a quite enormous white, blue-veined, stretch-marked belly exposed to anyone who was interested in obstetrics. The ‘sheer comfort’ effect was complimented by bare feet.
It looks as though the Belly Brigade fashion is here to stay. It seems like a rather extreme form of protest against those dreadful elephant tents they used to offer us from specialist maternity boutiques that sprang up around the 70’s-80’s. I could never find anything suitable among all those peter-pan collars, baby dolls, empire line bodices and inverted pleats so I invariably ended up doing my maternity shopping in one of those trendy Indian-type stores full of lovely, feminine soft-flowing lace and muslin numbers. I was happy somewhere in between the lycra skinfit hipsters and the camping tents.

The second thing that inspired me to write on this subject was the rediscovery of a pair of old books I came across while sorting out the contents of my bookshelves yesterday.

These books are priceless, and I don’t mean in a monetary sense, although they are over a hundred years old. They were printed in the United States around the turn of last century and their titles are:

What a Young Wife Ought to Know’
Mrs Emma F. Angell Drake, M.D. 1901


‘What a Young Husband Ought to Know’
Sylvanus Stall, D.D. 1899

In the chapter on ‘Preparation for Motherhood’ there is a section devoted to what the young wife should wear during pregnancy.

“As soon as she discovers herself pregnant, she should modify her clothing to the comfort and healthfulness of herself and baby. If she has already learned how to dress healthfully, she will need to make few changes in the early months. No weight of clothing should be allowed to rest upon the hips; everything must be supported from the shoulders. The skirt and waist can be fashioned in one garment, and so made that they can be let out to accommodate themselves to the growing need. The dainty and pretty maternity gowns are everything that can be desired, and can be so diversified that they meet all the wants of taste and change. Patterns for these can be bought at any reliable pattern house, and the gown can be made as elaborate as fancy dictates.
The union suit of underclothing, the union skirt and waist combined, and the gown, are all that should be worn throughout the entire period. If more warmth is needed it should be given in the undergarments."

Well! Have we come forwards in the last hundred years? Have we come so far forwards that we’ve almost come full circle? How does this latest trend for maternity dress compare with – say – a pregnant primitive woman a great deal further back than a hundred years? What do you think?


Lori Spencer