Ranging from structured suits and flowing maxi dresses to designer skinny jeans and yoga wear, the newest clothing for pregnant women doesn't fit the conventional image of maternity wear. It does, however, fit the lives of soon-to-be moms who want to celebrate their pregnancies while maintaining active lifestyles.
"We see working moms, women who are shopping for baby showers and other celebratory events, women who want sports bras and yoga pants so they can continue with their workout routine," says Brandy Wright, store manager at Motherhood Maternity Outlet (The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, 500 Port of New Orleans Place, Suite 220, 504-558-9095; www.motherhood.com). "They aren't trying to hide [pregnancy] any more. They're saying, 'I have a bump, I'm going to have a baby, and I'm excited about that.'"
Women generally need to switch to maternity clothing after the first trimester. Julie Allen, owner of Baby Bump Maternity (2917 Magazine St., Suite 102, 504-304-2737; www.nolababybump.com), stocks non-maternity pieces that can help women transition through the first three months and can be worn postpartum as well. "About 30 percent of our selection is non-maternity," she says. "I bring a fake belly to market and try on every piece to make sure it will work. It depends on the fabric and how it is cut."
At about 12 weeks, she says, women may notice their jeans don't fit any more. That's why it is important to stock up on a few key wardrobe items early in the pregnancy. Allen recommends leggings, which can be worn with sandals in the summer and boots in winter, a camisole for layering, and a black dress that can be dressed up or down. Both Allen and Wright recommend a good pair of maternity jeans. Baby Bump stocks designer labels J Brand, Citizen of Humanity and Paige Denim.
"We have black lacquered J Brand denim," Allen says. "They're so trendy looking. I still wear mine, and I had my child two and a half years ago. I call them my Thanksgiving jeans."
Allen isn't alone in wearing maternity clothes postpartum. Wright says her customers sometimes wear their maternity clothing for a year or more after giving birth. That's the beauty of maternity clothing: It can serve a woman's wardrobe while her body shape is in transition. Throughout the process, a nursing bra is a crucial undergarment, because it adapts to a woman's changing breast shapes.
"Your breasts go through multiple changes, and at the end, they can be huge," Wright says. "Make sure as soon as something gets uncomfortable to come in and get fitted, whether for a bra or pants."
Baby Bump Maternity also offers maternity Spanx. "The belly [of the Spanx] is soft, but it smooths out the back, thighs and booty," she says.
When it comes to trends, maternity fashions follow contemporary fashion designs. Virtually all the fall fashion trends show up in maternity clothes. Right now, printed shorts and kimonos are popular, Allen says. "Pregnant women like kimonos because they provide lightweight coverage for their arms," she says. "You can belt it and throw it over a maxi dress or shorts with booties."
Maxi dresses and skirts are another mainstream trend that's having a moment of popularity in maternity, Wright says. For fall, she sees boyfriend jeans, lightweight sweaters and tunics. Purples, teals and golds are popular colors for fall, says Allen, who has launched BUMPstyle Box (www.bumpstylebox.com), a maternity fashion delivery service.
"You fill out a form online and a stylist pulls four to five pieces for you and ships them to your door for free," she says. "You try it on, and what you don't like, you send back." Shipping is free both ways, and customers are only charged for what they keep.
Allen's nationwide clients include professionals who don't have time to shop for themselves. By obtaining a few staples, they're able to stretch their wardrobes to fit their changing lifestyles, without sacrificing style.
"Moms want to be trendy, too," Wright says. "Our clothes don't look like nursing [or maternity] wear at all — they look like women's wear."