Maternity Fashion Through The Ages

Take a quick tour through the history of maternity clothes in Europe and America!

The first dress designed specifically for maternity wear was the Adrienne dress, introduced in early 17th century Europe. The Adrienne had layers of pleats and other folds that allowed the dress to expand as the mother’s belly grew, and later styles featured bibs to make breastfeeding more convenient. Some women also wore men’s waistcoats during pregnancy, since the laced backs could be adjusted to make the garment looser over time.

Source: Wikimedia (public domain)
Source: Wikimedia (public domain)

The conservatism of the Victorian era heavily influenced maternity fashion, and by the 1800s, women were expected to mask their pregnancies with an awfully tight corset meant to eliminate any trace of a baby bump (thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then). Women who couldn’t afford nicer clothes wore oversized dresses or even aprons to hide their bellies. Going into the 20th century, it was still commonly accepted that, once their bump became obvious, pregnant women should stash themselves away at home until the baby was born.

Source: Wikimedia (public domain)
Source: Wikimedia (public domain)

Fashion trends gradually relaxed as the western world entered the 1920s and 30s. Maternity clothing loosened up, literally, although expectant mothers still tried to conceal their pregnancy curves with things like bows, jackets, and adjustable belts. Halter tops and empire waists were in style during the Great Depression, and limited supplies in WWII led some women to craft their own maternity wear by hand.

Source: Flickr/Creative Commons
Source: Flickr/Creative Commons

In the mid-20th century, Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy became the first woman to display her pregnancy on television, rocking smock tops and wide-waist dresses. First Lady Jackie Kennedy was another maternity fashion icon, and her simple yet elegant ensembles of shift dresses and suit jackets characterized the maternity trends of the 60s. Investing in a new wardrobe for each stage of pregnancy also became popular around this time.

Source: clickamericana.com
Source: clickamericana.com

Near the turn of the millennium, celebrity pregnancies burst into the public eye with the help of stars like Demi Moore and Victoria Beckham. Designers quickly jumped on board and several high-end maternity fashion lines were born, with long gowns, chic tops, and low V-necks being in at the time. Showing off baby bumps was the new norm in the early 2000s, and expectant mothers started to wear the belly-baring tees and stretchy dresses that we still see today.

Sources: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, Tim Rooke/Rex/REX USA
Sources: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, Tim Rooke/Rex/REX USA

Even over the last hundred years, the western world’s attitude towards pregnancy has progressed from embarrassment to pride. So ladies, go ahead and flaunt your maternity fashion to match that pregnancy glow!