Before I begin this list of complaints in earnest, I’d like to acknowledge that it is better now that we don’t “put all our clothes away and wear tents for nine months” as my mom described her experience with maternity clothes. (And Mom had five kids – that’s about four years of tent-wearing!) Despite the advances, maternity clothes are full of both disappointment as well as limitations that you might expect. In stream-of-consciousness order, I hereby present – the ten worst things about maternity clothes:
1. The stupid up-past-the-belly-button so-called waist band.
A better term for this might be “maternity pants-sock” or “belly chastity protector”. Now, I admit that the over-the-belly band is a pretty decent way to hold up your pants when you have no waist left, and your hips don’t form any sort of shelf for your pants to latch onto whatsoever. But, its itchy – at the end of the day it really feels like a sweat-catching sock that you are dying to take off before it gives you some sort of fungus. It also feels like an unnecessary layer inflicted upon girls who “get in trouble” because god forbid the vulgarity of a pregnant woman’s stomach be just one layer of fabric away from the sunlight and polite society. Especially in the summer.
2. When the stupid over-the-belly band is “flesh colored”.
Now, I can’t be sure, but I theorize that there’s a pretty good chance that the people who design these are going to hell. First of all, there are a lot of tones of flesh in the world, and not only white people get pregnant, and this isn’t even the color of all white pregnant people’s skin. So there’s a reasonable chance this is no where near YOUR flesh color. And even if it is.. why do I want to risk the illusion of my flesh (which, as we discussed above, is too vulgar to be near other people without several layers of fabric as a barrier) peeking out below my shirt, disturbingly close to my crotch? That’s right, I don’t really want that illusion. So when I have the misfortune of buying a garment that has this going on, I’ve also got to look for ungodly long shirts to go with it so no one else has to know about the disappointing band of “flesh tone” stretch fabric. Seriously, designers – just match the damn thing to the garment.
3. Most of the pants do not come with inseam choices.
Even many fairly pricey pairs of maternity jeans come with one inseam length – and not one of those lengths that is so long that 95% of women can wear it or have it hemmed. I’ve seen maternity jeans over $100 where the only inseam length is 31″. 31″. That’s not long enough for me, and I’m only average-tall. Even if I normally wanted to show off my ankles between my jeans and my shoes (I don’t), I sure as hell don’t want to show off a flash of swollen, possibly decorated with angry burst capillaries ankle-flesh.
4. Many maternity garments – even very casual looking ones – can’t be dried in the dryer.
My fashion design degree and I are able to make logical sense out of this, but it was still an inconvenience that I had not prepared for until it was upon me. I assume that the reason for many of the air-dry onlys is that the design uses two different fabrics, such as a denim and a stretchier lycra blend for the maternity band. Two different fabrics are needed in order to get the function the band needs and the look that the jean needs to have.. but the two fabrics, with their different properties, shrink at different rates. So the result is an unfortunate rack or drip-drying pants that look like they should be dancing around carefree in the dryer.
5. Sizing is vague, and hard to predict.
I know, I know – bitching about women’s sizing in general is in vogue. I’m pretty tolerant of sizing irregularities generally – due to my aforementioned fashion degree (did I tell you I have a degree in fashion?) I understand how sizing has evolved and changed over time and place and will continue to do so – due to there being no regulatory board overseeing sizing, and the comparative complexity of women’s fit opposed to mens (shapes that curve have more points of fit to be measured!), and due to the changing “average” as lifestyles change and as the populations in a market become less homogeneous. And I’d rather have the situation we have now than have a regulatory board preventing companies from trying to make fits that fit potentially different proportions than the “average”! Sizing is hard, and maternity sizing presents a whole other dimension of problems – and usually offers no additional information on how to navigate it. Many maternity garments are sized Small, Medium, and Large – and I mean just like that, three choices only. Many brands don’t provide a maternity size chart and leave you guessing with a size chart that still assumes hourglass proportions. Am I supposed to pick based on what my size was before pregnancy? Or am I somehow still supposed to have a waist which I totally do not have? The garments sold in numerical sizes tend to have at least more options, but they generally don’t make it clear if a maternity 6 is supposed to be what happens to a regular 6 when she gets pregnant, or is there another scale of averages for pregnant women with a maternity 0 being the tiniest pregnant lady you’ve ever seen and a maternity 6 being several sizes up from that? And then there’s the matter of stage of pregnancy.. a former size 6 at four months pregnant is going to have a whole different situation going on than she will at eight months – is this garment supposed to get through the entire spectrum of the pregnancy or not? If not, which stage is it theoretically sized for? And if there IS a size chart, and it HAS measurements that clearly reflect a pregnant belly.. there’s often no detail on what part of the belly should be measured for fit.
6. Its hard to find pieces with any sort of spark of unique style.
As Susie Bubble puts it, “scroll through #Bumpfie on Instagram and your eyes adjust to that linear striped pattern…” She’s right. There are a lot of horizontal stripes. What’s worse – the horizontal stripes ARE the flavorful pieces! There might be a little lace, there might be a little floral, but basically, if you’re looking at a maternity piece that looks like one of your regular basics but fitted for a pregnant person… that’s about as good as it gets. Trying to get pregnant? Well you better start working on your necklace collection now because necklaces will bear 65-73% of the burden of interest in your outfits for the next several months. Or you could wear a scarf – better time that pregnancy for some time that isn’t summer..
7. The graphic tees tend to be unspeakably awkward.
I’ll be honest – I almost didn’t put this on the list, because I ignore this type of tee SO HARD. I’m talking about tees that have some sort of slogan about being a future mom, as if every stranger didn’t already look at your belly and round your existence into “mom” or “impending victim of the experience of birth who I should warn about it”. I’m also talking about tees that feature some sort of a weird image of a baby on the bump area, sometimes creepily peaking out of- something – is that supposed to represent the baby peaking out of the bump? Because that’s not how that works exactly… Or is that supposed to be for people having a C Section? Do they make underwear for those hoping for a vaginal birth? Tees that awkwardly reference how the pregnancy came to be, I’m also talking about you! And tees that reference pregnancy stereotypes ala “The baby made me eat it” or any “clever” variation of “I want to take a nap”.. all I have to say is thanks, bro. Thanks. Thanks so fucking much.. no, bro, I’m not serious.
There are many, many worse than this watermelon seed one – but I’m not putting them on my blog. Check out Jessica Probus’ Buzzfeed list for the last visuals you need before clawing your eyes out.
8. The Bra Situation.
Just before I discovered I was pregnant, I had the realization that I had achieved the zenith of having the near-perfect bra wardrobe. I had well-fitting bras in almost every style and color family. Now, not so much. Bras marketed for pregnant people tend to have huge thick straps, yet feel flimsy and unsupportive in the usually-stretchy cup area. I’m pregnant in the summer. I want to wear spaghetti straps – and I’m fine with a little strap showing – but I don’t really need a chunk of industrial textile about the thickness of a tow strap showing with my delicate little tank top. Then there’s the sizing. I’m not the same size anymore, but its (again) unclear if maternity bra sizes are exactly like normal sizes or if they have some shape and proportion differences. Because, spoilers, my boobs now have different proportions that they previously did. And there’s a shape thing with the band – many maternity or nursing bras tend to have a thick band that comes down lower. But at least on me, the slope to pregnant belly starts basically immediately where the bra band hits. So an extra thick band can’t accommodate that correctly, and tends to scrunch up into a wad in the underboob. There’s also the possibility of nursing bras, and I understand that I’m going to need them. But SHOULD I buy them now? Am I going to be the same size after I have the baby? No one seems to know, most certainly not me. Most maternity/nursing bras are also ugly, which you probably didn’t need me to point out. I don’t need everything to be exceedingly glamorous all the time, but couldn’t we go with a simple yet not offensive to the eyes design? There are a couple of companies making “pretty” nursing bras.. but to enjoy those you’ve got to endure the indignity of purchasing something with a brand name like “Hot Milk”.
9. The disturbing lack of pockets.
Newsflash: four pockets on a pair of pants is standard. Anything less than this is sub-par. I have a couple of pairs of maternity pants that have proper pockets – one is a pair of Joe’s Jeans that came from Poshmark (I never would have got them at full price…) and one is Asos Maternity’s Tall Ridley. Pretty much everything else is slightly lacking (two back pockets, no front pockets; or front pockets, no back pockets) or totally lacking, as in, no pockets at all. One of the “go-to” pregnancy outfits is supposed to be leggings, but I have a hard time getting on board with that, because POCKETS. Yes, I carry a purse sometimes – but not throughout the day at work, and I hate to HAVE TO carry a purse, and I hate to walk around with useless hands full of phone and wallet and whatever else. Pregnancy is already clumsy and awkward, why add not having pockets to that? The really insulting thing about the pocket situation is that, in a lot of cases, there’s no good design reason why we can’t have normal pockets. They just didn’t put them there, likely to maximize profits on garments that are in many cases already price inflated just for being maternity. And designers who put fake pockets on garments that could easily have had real ones: you may be in danger of eternal damnation and should probably get your life right.
10. The layering proposition doesn’t compute.
This final point is the culmination of several of the other points, most often #1, #2, and #8. Just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I want or need to wear six layers of fabric. No, actually, its August, and I conclusively want to wear between zero and two layers of fabric on any given point on my body (and the places where I’m ok with two layers aren’t many). I don’t even care, when I’m not at work, if a little bit of the skin of my huge belly shows. Its just skin, and we all know I’m pregnant so.. hashtag deal with it. But you know what I’m not ok with showing? That stupid maternity band. So I’ve got to wear underwear. I’ve got to wear pants. The pants have that stupid band. So I’ve got to wear a shirt long enough to cover it. If the shirt that works with what I’m wearing isn’t quite long enough, I’ve got to find another absurdly long shirt to go under it. We’re up to three or four layers now in that area. Unacceptable. And I have so many NOT maternity shirts that still fit, but they are hard to wear because of the length vs. that stupid band.
I also don’t care if a little bra shows. In fact, a lot of my favorite styles for summer involve drop cut arms, and therefore encourage bra showing. But I don’t want to show off my giant, industrial, ugly colored bra that makes me a little more depressed every time I look at it. I don’t want to inflict that on others.
I would love to be wearing sheer shirts on the weekends because its one of my favorite current styles, its hot, and as I mentioned before, I don’t give a crap if you see my belly skin (I kind of like the slight edgy touch of a pregnant person wearing sheer in fact.) But that damn maternity band makes it so hard.
Oh, and also, lets bring those leggings mentioned in #9 back up – along with stretchy dresses which one would think would be a sensible summer choice. Turns out, I can’t just wear my regular underwear. I can’t be quite sure if its just hip expansion or the approximately eight zebra cakes that I’ve eaten since January, but my regular underwear are, in general, so much too tight that they don’t even LOOK like a size adults should wear to me anymore. I tried just sizing up too – but the waistbands hit me in an uncomfortable spot and throughout the day would cause a lower belly pain point. So I bought maternity underwear, and everything is fine. Except for the fact that none of my reasonably priced maternity panties have any sort of “no line” properties. So they don’t go with smooth stretchy dresses of leggings as they should, leaving me with a choice between wearing no-show underwear that aren’t that comfortable, or putting on a long enough shirt or long enough jacket to cover/distract from the panty lines. And here I was, trying to be comfortable, only to be thwarted by forced layering yet again.
That concludes the ten worst things about maternity clothing. Stay tuned next week for some actual solutions to pregnant style problems to wash down this bitching. *
*I will only be providing solutions if a better mood ensues.
Pink Gumbeaux’s strange encounter with an aunt’s ideas on maternity wear.. (Maybe I’ve overlooked a “worst thing”. Maybe people trying to give you wildly inappropriate maternity clothes is the actual worst.
Colovibe’s maternity looks round up – including this despite its high positivity content. It looks like she got to be pregnant in a much more appropriate climate than Dallas in the summer but I’ll try not to be resentful.. Also a bilingual post which I think is cool.
Val’s Bits and Bites calls this post “Maternity Fashion Favs” but she also appropriately acknowledges some of the suck of pregnancy which makes my negative self happy. (She did the whole belly band/unbuttoned jean thing though – I was like “people do that to themselves?! Oh hell no.”)
FashionGramIndia gives an Indian perspective on maternity wear, and how its changed since your proverbial mother’s day.
The Susie Bubble post referenced above, complete with very Susie Bubble maternity OOTD shots..
Thanks Facehunter book for being my photo prop and everything else you’ve done for me since you accidentally crawled into my suitcase in my room at the W London.