Maternity Clothes: Yea or Nay?

Kate Middleton represents a growing set of pregnant women choosing to dress their bumps in non-maternity wear.

with contributions from Lorelei Marfil
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April 29: in a Tara Jamon coat and bespoke dress.

Photo By David Parker/PA Wire/Press Association Images

April 26: in a Topshop (maternity!) dress and Ralph Lauren jacket.

Photo By Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment

April 24: in Emilia Wickstead.

Photo By Tim P. Whitby/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Duchess of Cambridge, whose baby is due in mid-July, has worn exactly one maternity outfit in public since her pregnancy was announced in December. The look: a black-and-white polka-dot dress from Topshop’s maternity line, which she paired with a black Ralph Lauren jacket (non-maternity) for a visit to Warner Bros. Studios outside London. (She repeated the same outfit this past weekend, to a private wedding in Oxfordshire, England.) Otherwise, Kate Middleton has been recycling bits of her wardrobe and wearing non-maternity designs from labels including Erdem, Mulberry and Tara Jarmon.

Meanwhile, celebrities ranging from Jessica Alba and Halle Berry to Beyoncé and Reese Witherspoon have taken a similar tack, tweaking their wardrobes to accommodate their changing figures or buying the sort of clothes they would have opted for, pre-bump.

Few department and specialty stores offer maternity clothing anymore, because even those women who are not living in palaces — or penthouses — are shopping their closets, adapting their existing wardrobes and choosing to spend their money on pieces that will last long after they have a baby.


RELATED STORY: Designers Sketch Maternitywear for Kate >>

“We do not carry maternitywear anymore at Bloomingdale’s, but we have a young customer base — mothers who shop here regularly for maternity clothes,” said Stephanie Solomon, the store’s fashion director. “Emily Gerne, our manager of business development, has never once bought maternitywear. She is on her second child, and is currently in her eighth month of pregnancy,” she said.

According to Solomon, Gerne’s bump solutions include Diane von Furstenberg silk jersey wrap dresses (one size bigger than usual), J Brand leggings (worn below the waist) and layers of Splendid T-shirts (they have a long torso). Not to mention, Solomon added, “a great blazer...and borrowing your husband’s jeans and rolling up the hem.”

Harrods, meanwhile, is catering to the fashionable pregnant shopper in an alternative way. It has two maternitywear concessions — Blossom Mother & Child and 9 London by Emily Evans — on its fourth floor near the babywear and nursery departments. Marigay McKee, Harrods’ chief merchant, described Blossom Mother & Child’s offering as a “maternity edit,” i.e., a mix of versatile looks from non-maternity brands, including M Missoni, See by Chloé and Issa, alongside specialist maternity labels including Paulina and Attesa. The boutique also features a denim bar where designer labels such as J Brand, Seven For All Mankind and AG Jeans are customized with the trademark Blossom belly band at the waist. Harrods’ other boutique, 9 London, carries maternitywear exclusively, yet with creative solutions such as one-off vintage pieces and the “Bump in a Box” set by Jenny Rose, which contains a stretch capsule of four must-have items. McKee said both boutiques have seen double-digit growth compared with last year.

Georgina Chapman, designer and co-founder of Marchesa, had her second child in April. She said that, except for jeans, she didn’t buy any maternity clothes for either of her pregnancies. “I tried to wear as many pieces from my current wardrobe as possible. Of course, I did make some new purchases, but they were all pieces that I could continue wearing post-pregnancy,” said the designer. “While I was at the office, I opted for ballet flats and sneakers, but for evening events I finished my look off with a great heel. I think it’s important to stay true to your personal style, even while your body is changing.”

The London-based ready-to-wear and bespoke designer Emilia Wickstead, whose clients include the Duchess of Cambridge and Britain’s First Lady Samantha Cameron, gave birth to her first child in December. Rather than maternity clothes, she said she “used existing styles out of my own collection, things I would have normally worn belted I wore loose.”

Wickstead noted that she’s no different from her customers. “I think modern women want quality, investment pieces that they can wear again and again.” She added that her alterations for mothers-to-be are minimal — she’ll raise a waistline and level a hem to accommodate a growing belly, if needed. “It’s pretty straightforward,” she said.

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