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Before I got pregnant, I had no idea that this would be the case. I had seen so many flawlessly groomed Park Slope moms-to-be proudly flaunting their rotund bellies in J. Brand jeans and colorblock Rag & Bone ponchos, not a flesh bulge to be seen or an ombre hair strand out of place. I had assumed that on-point maternity style was something that just inherently came with the pregnancy package, like food cravings or the need to micturate every 2.5 seconds.
Five months and twenty-plus pounds later, as I tried to find clothes to accommodate my newly elephantine frame, I realized that was far from the case. For whatever reason, stylish maternity clothing options — or even basics — are few and far between.
If you look on the racks at your neighborhood Motherhood Maternity or A Pea in the Pod, or any store that caters exclusively to pregnant women, you'll find that most of their garments are shapeless, flimsy, and poorly cut. Many of them have weird accoutrements, like bows or ribbons or bell sleeves or froofy collars; they're ostensibly intended to draw attention away from your belly, but they just look like the sartorial equivalent of a Lisa Frank three-ring binder.
Take, for instance, this three-quarter sleeve "multi-print" Jessica Simpson top from Motherhood Maternity. Aside from the fact that most women have not worn three-quarter sleeves since Delia's ceased production, this schmatta looks exactly like the scented pillowcases your grandma kept in her guest room, right next to her "one day at a time" needlepoints and stuffed clown dolls.
This bell-sleeved Rachel Pally maternity tunic from A Pea in the Pod isn't much better. Is this a dress that wants to be a top, or a top that wants to be a dress? Either way, at $215, no one's wearing it.
Even youth-oriented department stores like Asos and Topshop fall victim to the trend of shapeless, sexless, weirdly-patterned garments. Take, for instance, Asos, which has a sizeable maternity inventory. Here is a "jersey tunic top" similar to the Rachel Pally garment above. (Tunics are omnipresent on maternity racks; they're like the Judy Greer of preggo clothing.) This top features, for no apparent reason, a seatbelt for your tits.
And here's a geometric print dress that will make teenagers on hallucinogens run away from you screaming on the street.
Unless you're a ballerina or an aspiring ModCloth model, you've probably never worn a wrap blouse in your life. There's a good reason for this: because wrap blouses are basically a recipe for an in-office nip slip. Yet for whatever reason, 90% of the tops and dresses available for pregnant women are wrap tops and dresses, because I don't know, having your tit fall out of your top while you're reaching for the non-dairy creamer is supposed to distract your colleagues from the giant cantaloupe you're smuggling in your stomach.
Sometimes, pregnant women want to purchase clothing that makes a statement. In this case, the statement is, "Hi, I'm Abby, but I'm trying to get all the other eighth-graders to call me Andromeda. My mom makes me buy my clothes at Dillard's but my favorite store at the mall is Hot Topic. I'm super excited to wear this to the Ren Faire at the West Orange Fairgrounds next month."
Topshop isn't much better. Of all the trends in maternity clothing, there is none quite so abhorrent as the T-shirt emblazoned with such labels as "baby mama" or "baby on board" or "my husband ejaculated in my vagina and all I got was a lousy baby." Lady, you're eight months pregnant. You're literally 940 pounds. You can't stand up without toppling over to one side. You haven't seen your feet since the President's last State of the Union address. We know you're pregnant. There's no need to buy a shitty $40 T-shirt from Topshop to advertise that.
In addition to the misconception that pregnant women are hormone-driven large-boobied monsters who want to advertise their pregnancy to everyone on the street, there's also a misconception that pregnant women aren't into sex or feeling sexy, which is simply untrue. Here to correct that misconception is this ruched nude ASOS dress, because nothing says "I want to bone" more than looking like an uncircumcised dick with arms.
There are some exceptions to the "maternity clothes are fuggo as hell" rule. Seraphine, for instance, which boasts Princess Kate and Gwen Stefani as its clientele, has some solid basics, while Hatch, which sells clothes that you can ostensibly wear both pre- and post-partum, sells well-made sweaters and dresses that are both comfortable and on-trend.
Yet considering the steep price tags for both stores — a pair of maternity jeans at Seraphine, for instance, coat around $100 — ensure that the only moms who will live in both comfort and style are the ones who can afford shelling out upwards of $350 for a two-tone poncho.
Whether it's conscious or unconscious, there's an assumption that pregnant women should be too busy celebrating their upcoming bundles of joy to care about looking sexy (or even, at the very least, like they didn't shoplift a 2003 Century 21 clearance rack). And that, ultimately, is the one thing that no one tells you about getting pregnant: that all of your other interests and desires are expected to fall by the wayside, in favor of focusing on the little alien you have growing in your belly.
While I'm super excited about the little alien growing in my belly, I'm also excited about the opportunity to dress for a body that is totally unlike the one I've had for 27 years. I want to buy simple, well-made clothes that provide comfort while showing off my newly acquired curves, and I want to show up to prenatal yoga or a dinner party looking elegant and put-together and making other moms-to-be's guts roil with envy. Frankly, I want to look hot as hell, and I don't think I should feel the need to apologize for that.
We no longer live in a world where pregnant women are forced to hunker down in basement apartments, wearing muumuus and cooking spaghetti barefoot until they finally pop; many, if not most, pregnant women have active professional and personal lives well up until the moment they give birth, and they want to go outside and interact with the rest of the world without looking like an extra from Reba.
I chose to become a mom, but that doesn't mean that I have to choose to dress like one as it's been presented to me by the maternity clothing on the market. And that choice shouldn't be limited to moms who have the financial means to buy, like, $350 ponchos woven from the finest camel wool; it should be available to all women of all income brackets.
So it's your move, brands. It's time to start stepping up your game and making clothes for pregnant women who care about something other than being pregnant. Because it's 2016, for God's sake. At this point, that's all of us.