Maternity clothing has experienced a fascinating evolution throughout history, with trends and styles reflecting societal attitudes toward pregnancy and shaping the experiences of expectant mothers. We’ll look at the evolution of maternity clothes, from its earliest forms to today’s fashion-forward designs. Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast, an expectant mother seeking style inspiration, or simply curious about the intersection of fashion and motherhood, this exploration promises to be informative and engaging.
What Are Maternity Clothes?
Maternity clothes are specialized garments that accommodate the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy. They provide comfort, support, and style as the body grows and changes shape over the nine-month period. While early pregnancy often allows for regular clothing, maternity clothes become essential as the bump becomes more prominent.
Maternity clothing ranges from jeans with stretchy belly panels to loose-fitting dresses, tunics, and supportive underwear. In addition to comfort, modern maternity clothes often mirror current fashion trends, allowing expectant mothers to maintain their style while accommodating their changing bodies.
First Evidence of Maternity Clothing
The first evidence of maternity clothing dates back to ancient times, when pregnant women wore loose and flowing garments akin to tunics or robes. However, these clothes were designed for comfort and ease of movement rather than for specific maternity purposes.
Ancient Egyptian art depicts expectant mothers wearing simple sheath dresses tied just below the bust line to accommodate the growing belly. However, it wasn’t until much later in history, specifically in the Victorian era, that manufacturers began to design and market clothing explicitly for expectant mothers.
Contrary to popular belief, maternity clothing did exist in the 19th century. Many believe that expectant mothers simply wore their regular clothes until they could no longer fit into them and then switched to larger sizes. However, there is some evidence that women in the 1800s would wear specific garments during their pregnancies and then discard them after giving birth. These clothing items were not recognized as maternity wear, but they served a similar functional purpose.
By the end of the century, maternity sewing patterns began to appear in women’s magazines, suggesting the existence of a far more conscious effort to design and create garments specifically for expectant mothers. These patterns signaled a growing market for maternity wear and a shift in societal attitudes toward visible pregnancy.
The Early 1900s
The early 1900s marked a significant shift in the design and perception of maternity wear. As societal norms started to change, maternity clothing began to evolve from a mere functional necessity to a recognized and essential category of women’s fashion. It was during this period that the invention of maternity corsets became popular.
Unlike regular corsets, which were notorious for their restrictive and uncomfortable nature, maternity corsets could accommodate the growing belly while maintaining a semblance of the hourglass silhouette that was popular then.
Lane Bryant, a clothing manufacturer and retailer, was pivotal in this change. The company, which dressmaker Lena Himmelstein Bryant started, was the first to produce maternity wear commercially. Recognizing the need for garments that provided comfort without compromising style, Lane Bryant created clothing that catered to the needs of expectant mothers, including the inventive maternity corset.
The ’20s and ’30s
The 1920s introduced a significant change in maternity fashion. The trend leaned toward comfortable and loose-fitting clothes that allowed pregnant women to venture out while still discreetly concealing their pregnancies. This was in part due to prevailing societal norms that deemed public displays of pregnancy immodest.
The ’30s, however, saw a return to more traditionally feminine silhouettes in maternity wear. The fashion of the time featured adjustable waists or dresses with belts to accommodate the growing belly while still prioritizing the popular hourglass shape.
A Shift in the ’40s
The 1940s heralded yet another shift in maternity fashion, spurred largely by the frustration of expectant mothers with the prevailing styles. The popular wrap-around dresses, although seemingly practical, were often uncomfortable and unflattering. This dissatisfaction led to a significant development in the maternity wear industry.
In Dallas, three entrepreneurial sisters recognized this gap in the market and set out to redefine maternity fashion. They launched Page Boy, a fashion label exclusively dedicated to maternity wear. Their designs moved away from the traditional wrap-around dresses, offering instead more comfortable options that properly fit the pregnant body.
Feminism in the ’70s
The 1970s marked a new era in maternity fashion, deeply influenced by the feminist movement and a shift in societal attitudes toward pregnancy. For the first time, women were no longer interested in concealing their pregnancies with loose dresses or pleated outfits. They started to embrace their changing bodies, choosing to celebrate rather than hide the physical manifestation of motherhood.
Maternity fashion began to reflect this change, turning toward tight-fitting clothes and shorter shorts that allowed women to show off their bellies. This change was not merely about aesthetics or comfort. It was a bold statement of a woman’s right to proudly display her pregnant body, breaking free from previous norms that deemed it necessary to conceal the condition. The maternity fashion of the ’70s, therefore, became a symbol of empowerment and the progressive evolution of women’s rights.
Modern Maternity Fashion
The 1990s ushered in an era when people celebrated pregnancy more openly, marking a significant turning point in the public perception of expectant mothers and, consequently, in maternity fashion. High-profile celebrities began to proudly show off their baby bumps, significantly influencing societal norms and fashion trends.
This shift further solidified in 1991 when Demi Moore posed pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair. This daring and iconic image challenged traditional taboos surrounding the visibility of pregnancy. This newfound openness toward maternity translated into fashion, with a surge in the market for stylish and functional maternity wear.
Today, maternity fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, with many brands dedicated solely to maternity clothes. These brands strive to create comfortable, versatile, and fashion-forward garments, showcasing an understanding that expectant mothers do not want to compromise on style while accommodating their changing bodies. The modern maternity wardrobe spans everything from chic workwear to comfy loungewear, from stretchy jeans to elegant evening dresses, reflecting today’s expectant mothers’ diverse lifestyles and tastes.
With this look at the evolution of maternity clothes, you can better understand how society and clothing have changed over time to accommodate this important period in the lives of many women. Maternity wear is more than just clothing. It’s a reflection of cultural norms, societal attitudes, and women’s roles throughout history. Check out Beachwood Baby’s selection of ladies’ linen clothing today. These stunning maternity pieces will make the perfect staple throughout your pregnancy.