Until relatively recently, pregnancy was a passage in a woman’s life that consigned her to shifts, muu-muus, smocks and other woebegone attire. Princess Diana, a style icon if ever there was one, donned some pretty hideous outfits. Bows, laces and buttons only made matters worse.
Here in Maine, land of L.L. Bean, the ubiquitous plaid men’s shirts over elasticized waistbands and duck boots were put to work for some moms-to-be. A style? Uh, OK, if you intend to birth a lumberjack.
Then, right around the time the word “bump” extended its meaning to describe a showing pregnancy, things started getting interesting, style-wise. Celebrities refused to drop their otherwise struttable stuff. Kate Hudson piled on the panache – with skinny jeans and leotards that stretched across her burgeoning midsection (yes, you can size up leotards, but don’t make them too constraining – that can set off Braxton Hicks contractions). If there’s a maternity fashion foot to put wrong, Kate Middleton, England’s future monarch, never found it. Beyonce?’s allure only increased with pregnancy. Designers covered her growing – and gorgeous – profile. Gwen Stefani? She announced her impending motherhood to a packed concert hall, wearing the costume of a punk majorette. And Gwyneth Paltrow reveled in pregnant red-carpet appearances that rivaled eating-for-one glamour.
Soon, designers and manufacturers of clothing for us non-celeb girls paid heed. From budget-conscious to high-end glam, the look and feel of pregnancy was celebrated. Many designers delivered styles so versatile and fashion-forward, women continued wearing them past the nine-month milestone. Wrap dresses, introduced by Diane Von Furstenberg and Donna Karan and flattering to all figures, were snapped up by women in their second and third trimesters. Motherhood, the go-to store for a lot of pregnant Mainers, declined to comment about Maine maternity style, but as it happened, several of Maine’s fashionable baby mamas were more than willing to talk.
Alecia Bridges, a cook at Andy’s in Portland and mom of twins, says that she was inspired by Beyonce?. “Maybe because we were both pregnant at the same time,” but, she notes, some looks weren’t worth the discomfort. “Those elasticized jeans made me itch. I went back to wearing anything in cotton because it was comfortable. As a matter of fact, my favorite outfit was leggings and a cotton tank. I showed off my pregnancy, no doubt about it.”
Janine Somers, an executive at Stonewall Kitchen in York, says, “I love seeing what celebrities are wearing,” but for her first pregnancy, she stayed true to her own style sense.
“Celebs and models have height and super-lean bodies to start with, allowing them to wear fashions that just don’t work for me – before or after pregnancy.”
Somers is a big believer in accessorizing. Scarves, belts, earrings, necklaces and bracelets have allowed her to make the transition to bump-hood gracefully – and colorfully. In contrast, one celeb’s pregnancy faux pas helped her avoid pitfalls.
“Kim Kardashian wore a lot of very loose, flowy and often patterned dresses. Since she is shorter and curvier, the look was not always flattering, so I definitely stayed away from similar [styles].
Jessica Fidalgo keeps all things social media running smoothly at a Portland ad agency. Even when she’s expecting more than just another new business pitch.
“There’s no need to be self-conscious about showing [your pregnancy] to the extent that you’re comfortable,” she say.
Unlike Bridges, Fidalgo happily invested in some good maternity denim.
“Good jeans don’t come cheap, but you can always unload them on eBay when you’re done having babies. But not skinny jeans, I beg you.”
Another challenge pregnant Mainers face is footwear. If you never wear heels, now’s not the time to start. Conversely, if heels are as important to you as, say, oxygen, chunkier styles give you height without making you tip over. And don’t forget the seasonal challenges, as well.
Says Somers, “Normally, I am almost exclusively a heels girl. I wore them up until about six months regularly. At 36 weeks, and it being winter, I wear mostly flats.”
With twins on board, Bridges had a comfort-centric pregnancy.
“Danskos (a clog-like flat) were the best,” she says. “They have a great arch, which is good for the back. I still wear them at work.”
Fidalgo agrees: “At the very end you’re lucky if you can even see your feet to put shoes on. A cute Mary Jane style slip-on can go with a lot of things.”
Finding maternity retail here can be tricky. There’s the aforementioned Motherhood in South Portland. But why not get creative? Check out Maternity Fair in Biddeford. A consignment shop, it offers gently worn maternity fashions that can be had for a song. Thyme at Babies R Us and Target’s Liz Lange Collection are always worth a look, and are spot-on for budget friendliness.
It’s online, though, that you can shop to your stylish little heart’s content. Japanese Weekend (japaneseweekend.com) has beautiful, high-end pieces that transition easily to your post-pregnancy wardrobe. And Pink Blush Maternity (pinkblushmaternity.com) offers stylish separates and great sales.
But most of all, remember the best accessories for this time in your life are your sassy smile, bump-a-licious profile and a sense of humor like the one Alecia Bridges demonstrates. Asked what she thinks are the quintessential pregnant-in-Maine staples, she laughs.
“Cute pajamas and a bathrobe?”
You glow, girl.