Maternity clothes and fecundity

Perhaps this isn’t true for every community in America, but the trend in the San Francisco Bay Area when it comes to maternity clothes is for the expectant mother to wear clothes that fit her like a second skin.  With some women, you can practically see the stretch marks:

This is a far cry from maternity clothes in most of the 20th century, when women opted for a full style that indicated pregnancy, without showing the details:

Here’s a question for you:

Why is it that, during an exceptionally fecund time in American history, women wore maternity clothes that played down their pregnancies, while in an era when pregnancy is viewed as a self-indulgent way to destroy Mother Gaia, women flaunt their pregnant bodies?

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  • 11B40


    For me, it’s ego-centrism with a thin veneer of human rights. Much akin to the breast-feeding in public and refusing to have your child vaccinated, when life vicissitudes happen to some people, their specialness is just simply, well, confirmed.  

    Of course, other are not supposed to notice the underlying passive-aggressiveness directed toward those who continue to disregard their specialness. I have the human/mommy right to breast-feed my child anywhere I happen to be and if that disrupts your romantic dinner with, say, the illustrious Ms. Fluke, well live with it you, Nazi.

    Some people are just more important and the best adjudicators of what social norms have overstayed their welcomes. Or, as my father used to say, “Some people get too much Mommy and not enough Daddy.”  Or, as I used to say, “No OB/GYN in my print shop.” 

  • Libby

    I recall flipping though a maternity magazine in a doctor’s office some time during my 3rd trimester and there was a fashion spread about how to still be sexy during pregnancy – tight shirts, peek-a-boo crochet sweaters, plunging necklines, etc.. I don’t know if it’s pressure to maintain one’s sex appeal despite pregnancy (just like today’s actresses!) or if accentuating one’s pregnant belly is the new sexy. Either way, the last thing I felt in my 3rd trimester was “sexy”. I felt wobbly and a touch of indigestion.

  • Ymarsakar

    For some reason I get the sense that this was written by a female blogger.

  • Charles Martel

    I think it is good that if one decides not to eviscerate the intruder, one can show that it does not detract from the hot body that is graciously lending it space.

  • heather

    It’s not just San Fran.  

    The trend switched from tents to tight somewhere between my first and second child (I have four).  It about gave my practically Puritan parents heart attacks.  My father always made sure to compliment me if I wore something loose, hoping, I suppose, that his positive affirmations would cause me to wear only loose stuff.  If I had on something tight, my mother would say, “Is that a maternity dress??”  They’re funny.  And I never wore any of the more extreme stuff.  No bikinis for me.

    Anyway, having worn both styles of clothing, I will say that snugger is a bit more comfortable AND cooler.  Until the 3rd trimester, at which point the tight clothes simply don’t fit, and you long for a tent. So I think it’s partly a clever money-making gimmick.  The woman ends up  buying a bigger size of everything by the end.

  • Caped Crusader

    The modernistic trend to make oneself appear as garish as possible, and to be noticed by everyone, and even to possibly offend a few people of lesser importance as perceived by the perpetrator.

  • cerumendoc

    Baby as fashion accessory?  Political prop (re: Bam’s kid in Mexico with 25 secret service agents; props used to dump on Rush)?  Baby as power statement (I’m so rich and powerful that I can afford the carbon offsets for my kid)?

  • jj

    I’m pretty good at not even noticing.  I think I’ll maintain my sensory apparatus right there on that setting, too.

  • Earl

    11B40: It’s likely that some women breast-feeding their babies “in public” have motives other than getting their child fed.  I’m betting the percentage is fairly low, however.  Unless, of course, you are referencing solely those who ostentatiously make a show of it. 
    I sincerely doubt that most women who breast-feed “in public” are ever noticed by the vast majority of those around them.  And we’re going to have to put up with the “ego-centric”, the “passive-aggressive”, or merely “special” – that is, if we don’t want your government and mine violating the Constitutional rights of all the rest of us in yet another area of life.

  • JKB

    Well, who’s doing this mostly?  Gen-Y who are in their thirties now?  Perhaps it is just their rebellion, the re-embracing of motherhood after the child as a burden period.  As for the much earlier period, well, even mother of five still presented herself as virginal in public.  These days it seems radical for a girl of five to do that.  

  • Simplemind

    Epidemic of narcissism.

  • heather

    Earl: I agree.  Thank you.

    I had one of those babies that insisted on eating about every 45 minutes.  It was a hard enough experience as it was.  If I had had to stay in the house all the time for those first few months, I’m sure I would have lost my mind.  And, yes, I was discreet, but it makes me sad to think that people may have been judging me.  I wish that everyone could show some compassion and understanding.  

  • Bookworm

    I routinely breast-fed in public, but so discretely that nobody but the babies or I knew what was going on.  It’s the women who strip naked to breast feed who are just so obnoxious.  That’s not about feeding a hungry baby.  That’s about exhibitionism, whether personal or political.

  • BrianE

    That’s pretty funny.

    Much to their father’s consternation, my two daughters dressed exactly like your examples.

    It must be a generation thing. 

  • shirleyelizabeth

    Just to say, being 1/3 through my second pregnancy, it’s hard to go from dressing really cute and BEING really cute to wearing tents and feeling like crap (not that you haven’t experienced it too, Book). The rest of the century’s style permitted that you could wear a tent but still be wearing a dress with the cuts that were in style. The style now, and what most girls of pregnant age are comfortable in now, is not so loose, so that translates into maternity style as well. Although that funny black dress in the top set of photos is just too much.

  • Danny Lemieux

    If they want to be noticed, it sure beats tattoos. 

  • Charles Martel

    Breastfeeding in public has never bothered me. Fish gotta swim and babies gotta suck. The overwhelming number of women who breastfeed do it discreetly and without fanfare. Besides, a woman who knows how to directly address her kid’s hunger is much more impressive to me than one who sends the government to panhandle me at gunpoint to feed her kid at school. 

  • Earl

    I don’t know how I’ll be branded by this, but am I the only one who finds pregnant women lovely?  They do NOT have to dress in tents for me!
    I’m a traditionalist in a lot of things, and I think that the “let it all hang out” style of dressing – whether for females or males* – can be a bit off-putting.  But I don’t care much for bhurkas, either.  And women who are not “ashamed” of being pregnant….or who have the confidence to be “out there” and not hiding…are just incredibly attractive.  None of the three photos above are offensive to me, although if the third Mom goes around like that all the time, she has issues that should be dealt with. 
    Something about pregnancy makes almost any woman glow, and whether it’s the hormones, or the wonder of growing a baby, or whatever….even women who are not “beautiful” have a certain look that I find irresistible.  I really do have to exercise self-control, or I’d be following them around the store, or slamming on the brakes and doing a U-turn, etc.
    So, now you know……!
    *Is anyone noticing that more and more females are adopting the “prison gang” look of the pants pulled down to expose the crack?  Is anything stupider and more ugly?

  • Ymarsakar

    (I’m so rich and powerful that I can afford the carbon offsets for my kid)?</b>

    That’s what China does. The one child policy wasn’t designed to control population, but to make sure that only the rich could afford the fines that allows for multiple children. This keeps peasants in line and allows more food to be allocated to the Communist party.