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- Maternity fashion has changed drastically over the years.
- In the early 1900s, some maternity clothing options became available to women in middle and upper classes who could afford them.
- At first, maternity clothing was largely designed to conceal women’s pregnancies, but, over time, pregnant women began to experiment with new styles like polyester baby-doll dresses.
- During the ’80s and ’90s, maternity clothing mirrored the popular styles of each decade, including athletic wear and low-rise jeans.
- Today, maternity fashion is heavily influenced by celebrities, from the elegant looks of Meghan Markle to the daring styles of Kim Kardashian West.
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In the early 1900s, maternity clothing options became available to women in the middle and upper classes of society who could afford them. Since then, maternity fashion has come to play a part in many women’s pregnancies.
From the ’20s to the ’40s, maternity clothing was largely designed to conceal women’s baby bumps and maintain a feminine silhouette. But, by the ’50s and ’60s, pregnant women began to embrace their changing bodies with the help of new styles.
Today, maternity clothing differs from person to person, and is much more reflective of personal style. From the baby-doll dresses of the ’60s to sheer ensembles worn by modern celebrities, here’s how maternity fashion has changed over the years.
Some forms of maternity clothing likely existed as early as the 1800s.
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Many assume that maternity clothing didn’t exist in the 19th century, as there’s almost no physical proof left in existence, according to a 1995 dissertation written by Cassandra Curry Moon and published by the Digital Repository at Iowa State University.
However, pregnant women living in the 1800s rarely passed down their maternity clothes to relatives – instead, they would discard them after giving birth. Fashion journals were also hesitant to mention anything related to pregnancy, as it was considered indecent at the time.
Those who could afford maternity garments in the 19th century were said to have purchased their clothes through mail-order catalogs. And, according to the dissertation, pregnancy undergarments were available by 1811, while maternity sewing patterns were sold by the 1890s.
Lane Bryant changed the game in the early 1900s.
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In the years leading up to the 20th century, fabric was costly. Many women weren’t able to buy new clothes throughout their pregnancies, and would instead alter garments they already owned.
This continued into the early 1900s, especially amongst pregnant women living in lower social classes. But for those in middle and upper classes, the early 1900s brought a wider range of options to the market, including maternity corsets and tightly-laced dresses.
Lane Bryant was specifically responsible for this change. According to the American Textile History Museum, the company utilized mail-order catalogs and newspapers, which previously hadn’t run maternity advertisements, to build its business.
The company, which still exists today, is said to have created the first maternity gown in 1904, as well as the first ready-to-wear maternity clothes in 1911.
Between 1910 and 1920, women were encouraged to conceal their pregnancies by wearing loose-fitting maternity styles.
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According to America’s Health Rankings, a prenatal pamphlet from 1913 advised pregnant women to dress in a way that was “both comfortable and pleasing without being conspicuous, so that the prospective mother need not deny herself the pleasure of going out among her friends.”
The trend was still going strong by the 1920s. Women continued to wear loose garments, and favored dresses with adjustable belts, according to Vintage Dancer, a style website and online store created by author Debbie Sessions, who researches the history of fashion.
In the 1930s, pregnant women continued to wear feminine clothing that accentuated their waists.
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Any outfit that created a feminine silhouette was favored by pregnant women in the ’30s – including adjustable waistbands and wrap dresses.
Pregnant women also wore small prints in attempts to camouflage their stomachs.
Maternity fashion hadn’t changed much by the 1940s.
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World War II restricted fashion production in the 1940s, and limited the amount of new maternity designs available to pregnant women. As a result, wraparound dresses continued to be the dominant style.
And even when new designs did emerge, it was difficult to tell which styles were intended for pregnant women – many catalogs and fashion plates did not depict pregnant women between the ’20s and ’40s, and generally showcased designs through slim illustrations.
But some pregnant women began to reject outdated designs in the ’40s.
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Despite the popularity of wraparound dresses, some pregnant women took issue with the fact that the style could leave their abdomens exposed.
This led three sisters in Dallas to create Page Boy, a maternity-fashion label that “dominated the maternity market for five decades,” according to Slate. The brand was most widely known for its patented skirt design, which “fit snugly around the hips without hiking up in front.”
The skirt also featured a “scooped-out window in the front” covered by a “long jacket,” which accommodated growing stomachs.
In the 1950s, pregnant women began to experiment with two-piece ensembles.
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In doing so, women were able to dress without enhancing their waistlines. Shirts were designed in loose styles, and pants quickly became more common.
Inverted pleats became a staple of maternity fashion in the ’60s.
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Women didn’t want to conceal their pregnancies in the ’70s.
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Throughout the decade, pregnant women began to reject to loose-fitting gowns and pleated tops. Instead, many women replaced them with minidresses, jumpsuits, and shorts.
And after a brand called Lady Madonna began to create maternity clothing, other high-end designers began to follow suit.
Maternity clothing was extremely bright throughout the 1980s.
’80s fashion was all about being bold and colorful, so it makes sense that the trend was popular among expectant mothers too.
Pregnant women in the ’80s also took a liking to athletic wear, which was commonly mixed into everyday styles at the time.
That same decade, Princess Diana became one of the first British royals to influence maternity fashion across the world.
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Princess Diana was pregnant with Prince William in 1982, and then Prince Harry in 1984.
Over the course of those two years, she wore a variety of classic looks, including polka-dot maternity dresses, knit sweaters, and even ball gowns.
All eyes were on pregnant celebrities in the 1990s.
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The trend gained momentum in 1991, when actress Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair, crossing one arm over her chest and the other over her baby bump. Speaking to Interview in 2017, Moore said society was “afraid to imagine a pregnant woman as sexy” prior to her cover shoot.
“While you’re pregnant, you’re made to feel not beautiful or sexually viable,” Moore told Interview. “You’re either sexy, or you’re a mother. I didn’t want to have to choose, so I challenged that. I’m not the only one.”
From then on, interest in pregnant celebrities skyrocketed, and the media began to cover soon-to-be mothers like Jada Pinkett Smith and Madonna.
Throughout the decade, maternity fashion was all over red carpets.
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By the early 2000s, designers were even creating maternity looks for pop stars to wear while performing.
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Women weren’t afraid to show off their stomachs during this decade.
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Low-rise jeans were all the rage in the early 2000s, and pregnant women also embraced the trend. The fad was even shown on TV, when “Friends” character Rachel Green wore cropped shirts while pregnant.
Today, red-carpet maternity looks can be much more risqué.
In 2019, just about any style can be transformed into a maternity look – including the “naked trend,” which Kim Kardashian has been rocking since her second pregnancy in 2015.
Modern royals also play a large part in influencing current maternity trends.
- Splash News
Meghan Markle has worn a number of glamorous styles while pregnant, including a denim dress, simple pantsuits, and designer ball gowns.
In 2019, maternity fashion continues to be loud and proud.
- Splash News
In August, Anne Hathaway attended a red-carpet event in New York City wearing a magenta dress with bold cutouts around her chest.
The bright maternity gown was designed by Brandon Maxwell, who also included a tag that read “Anne + 1” inside the dress.
Latex isn’t out of the question for modern moms-to-be.
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Ashley Graham, for example, has worn the fabric multiple times during her current pregnancy.
She donned a maternity dress made from red latex during New York Fashion Week on September 5, and then wore a latex Jessica Rabbit costume to celebrate Halloween in October.
Neither are form-fitting gowns.
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While attending the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards in November, Graham turned heads in a purple-and-green sleeveless gown. The form-fitting look was custom-made for the model by designer Christopher John Rogers.
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