Maternity clothes. Love them or hate them they are a staple of most women's pregnancies. The problem with maternity clothes is that they always seem so expensive for an item you might only wear for a few months, but that is not necessarily so. Bite the bullet at the four-month stage, and you can buy a few mix and match pieces that will last you until the first few months after you push out your little bundle of joy.
These days, with internet shopping being what it is, it's relatively easy to pick out something that suits your style and budget. Specialist online stores are everywhere, and a large number of clothing retailers now produce a pregnancy line that is available in your local mall or high street.
It was not always so. At one time it was near impossible to but off the rack clothes for the pre and postnatal period and the best solution was to make your own or have them made by a friend or family member who was handy with a sewing machine.
In time, the more substantial retailers began to develop maternity lines and sell the items in their flagship stores. For those women who didn't have access to a brick and mortar store, you could pick up a copy of the catalog and order your new wardrobe.
15 The Finest Polyester
The seventies was really the first decade in which women were able to buy maternity clothes that were not fundamentally giant smocks designed so that people could see you were pregnant but the bump was not particularly defined.
However, even in this period, when being with child was beginning to be seen less of an affliction and more of a natural state of being, the clothes on offer were still the kind of thing that could double as a circus tent.
As you can see, this perkily captioned layout "Polyester knits...A whole wardrobe of fashion-right looks" is still very smock orientated even if it does give you the option of pairing your billowing, manmade fiber top with a pair of hip and stylish flared pants, wide enough in which to hide your toddlers.
14 The Special Waiting Time
Take a look at the face of the model in the middle. Look at her staring down, even as the model in the black dress. Stripey dress girl only got to wear the run of the mill cotton, hand wash item but her pal snagged the chance to wear the spectacular crepe and nylon outfit, how modern.
For those women who may have been under the impression that crepe in this instance was a thin pancake draped over their dress, the ad helpfully explains what it is. "Crepe is an acetate - nylon blend bonded to nylon tricot," says the blurb, which further entices us with the news that the white lace details are also made from acetate nylon.
Let's just hope that nobody who wore these had to do so during a long hot summer.
13 Frills And Froth
Frills and froth is what they called the style of shirt that in this picture is the white lacy job. Can you imagine ever wanting to buy something that was labeled frills and froth, unless it was somehow connected to a coffee? Check out the fab and groovy peach pants the shirt is paired with, as the headline says "enjoy the wait!"
Just in case you were worried about the amount of ironing it might take to keep these pants in super tiptop razor sharp crease condition, worry no more. The copywriters have made sure you know that "the stitched crease down the front of these two-way stretch nylon double stitched pants keeps it crisp!" Phew, I was worried until I read that, that my crease would only be single stitched.
12 Look At The Genuine Smile
I happen to know that one of the models in this ad was very popular at the time and totally and utterly unmarried and not pregnant. The woman at the back who is wearing the top that looks like an explosion in a thrift store is called Cathy. The reason why this is of interest is twofold.
First of all the look on her face clearly says to me that "if this is what you have to wear when you get pregnant I am never going to have children, even if I have to remain celibate until I'm 50."
The second important point is her left hand. The one with the wedding ring on, because you couldn't possibly suggest that this could be someone who was pregnant AND unmarried.
11 It Was Worse
In case you were just thinking that the seventies was the decade where style went to die, hold your judgment for a moment. Preggers women in the forties didn't have it so good either. This rare advert for maternity fashions you could buy by mail order shows just how low you could go when it came to clothes for the expectant mother.
It also demonstrates how much our language and information expectations have changed. I am sure plenty of people might know what "shirring" is when they read this picture, but I had no idea. I had to google it to find out it is "two or more rows of gathers that are used to decorate parts of clothes." In the 1940's this was apparently valuable information to the shopping mom-to-be.
10 Is That A Book?
They placed this woman in the middle with a book and the two flanking her are apparently curious as to what it is and what you do with it. Don't people know that when they started letting women read they began to have wild and dangerous ideas of their own?
The middle woman has also been given the "textured pant with the rich look of twill to make it a real fashion value" because, obviously being the rebellious intellectual type she is, mistress book lover will want plenty of fashion value.
I also noticed that shirring is still mentioned in the product descriptions. Why have I never known about this before? Oh, perhaps it is because I do not have nor would probably ever buy anything with decorative gathering on it.
9 Easy All The Way
I hope when they headlined this page they were talking about the clothes and not the women who were wearing them. Who am I kidding, of course, they were. Nobody would even have attempted to joke about a woman being pregnant in any way except the socially acceptable married state.
Anyway, enough of that, let's laugh instead at the fact that the information for number seven, those fantastic patterned pants actually says "Polyester pants are smashing under so many of your tops." This is paired with a top that is "Buttoned down brightly - That wing collar sure knows how to add snap to this baby doll." I am sure the woman modeling this outfit is looking out into the distance because looking down at her clothes would blind her.
8 Pamper Yourself - With No Ironing!
Pampering yourself apparently had an entirely different meaning in the seventies. Today when you think about pampering yourself you might think of a warm bath, a quiet sit down with a good book and something to eat, or a day at the spa. These women were encouraged to pamper themselves through purchasing maternity clothes that didn't need to be ironed if they had been tumble dried.
Perhaps that is why these women are all looking blissfully off into the distance. They feel pampered because they had a chance to put the iron away early.
This, of course, was in an era when only approximately 65% of households had a tumble dryer. If you were in the remaining 75% then sorry, you're out of luck. No pampering for you.
7 What Every Woman At 40+ Weeks Needs
When you wear one of these absolutely neat-o dresses, it is fun to wait. That's what the page says. In that case, this is what we should be encouraging every woman in the later stages of pregnancy. No more spending your days feeling like you are a giant ship slowly plowing your way through a sea of treacle. Gone will be the feeling like you have been pregnant for at least three years, and no more will you be desperately googling "ways to induce labor."
I suspect that the fabulous black and swirly dress was designed to end a pregnancy quickly. My theory is that it is so colorful even the baby in your baby would do anything in an attempt to get away from it.
6 Budget Wise AND Fashion Wise
Gosh ladies, if you buy these clothes you will not only be able to look terrific for your husband when he comes home from a hard day at work, you can save his money for him too! Can you imagine being able to change into one of these lovely offerings to welcome hubby home with a smile and a glass of gin and tonic?
You can open the door to him with the "fun flower rhinestone applique" that "lights up these super smart double knit acrylic pants." Or maybe he would like to see you in the bizarrely school uniform-type dress in the top right-hand corner? It does have a "Sassy collar and bright banded puff sleeves" so I can see why it might be appealing. Not.
5 Also Available For Women
Yes, two of these beauties are also available in women's so you can carry on looking this stylish when you are back to being a normal human being. I am disappointed to see that the blue with red trimmed top can be worn by those who do not have a bun in the oven but there is no word on whether or not those wicked pants can be worn afterward.
Just look at those babes. Can you not imagine yourself strutting down the sidewalk, giant belly swaddled in pale blue polyester pants with fake pockets stitched to the front? I am also beginning to suspect that none of these women are at all sporting a baby bump in their pants or fab and groovy stitched pleat shorts.
4 Welcome To Stepford
It would appear that women in the seventies were afflicted by some strange pregnancy condition that caused them to smile while maintaining a dead-eyed blank expression. I am pretty sure the woman who is seated is dreaming of her lost dignity.
Meanwhile, the three women at the back have struck an entirely natural pose to demonstrate just how much they can do in their maternity clothes. Not only can the woman on the right stand, but she is able to casually drape a hand onto her friend's shoulder AND put her hand in her pocket, all at once. Hows that for multitasking?
Everyone else is just waiting to be told what to do, where to go, and what to think like the good little women they were expected to be.
3 So-Phisti-Cated Moma
Don't forget your "Bow-Bright Shoes." With their "perky bow accents" and "unlined split suede leather uppers" these must-haves were also resplendent with stacked heels and a sole that was made of "Sanitized" - a trademarked substance that claimed to stop you being a stinky footed momma. Available in the full range of blue or black, these foot prisons were perfect for the kind of wild night out pregnant women were allowed to attend at this time. Namely, going to a friend's house or being their husband's arm candy at a work outing.
They were also suitable for work wear at a time when women were actually beginning to have jobs they wanted to continue with after they had dropped a sprog. Hence this page of "sophisticated" clothes designed for the "young mother to be."
2 No Relief In The Eighties
By the time the calendar ticked over into a new decade, you might think that the eighties might have bought a new wave of maternity style to go with the backcombed hair, neon colors and fake tan, but you would be wrong.
The only thing that makes the eighties a little different was that it was the time when the press began to encourage an interest in famous women when they became pregnant. Up until this point there were celebrities who had been photographed when they were pregnant, but it was always in passing and couched in such a way that it was a reminder she was still around.
Now we began to see the emergence of what we think of today as maternity fashion with a capital F, although this picture of Sarah Ferguson shows pregnancy stylings were still pretty suspect.
1 The Last Word
I thought I'd round off the post with this photograph of Princess Diana when she was pregnant with Prince William. At a time when royals had been expected to hide away their baby bumps in formal clothes, Diana opted instead to wear items that were readily available to a broader range of women, to dress like a "normal" person.
This dress is therefore proof positive that it doesn't matter how forward thinking, how trend-setting, how glamorous, or how well loved a woman is, maternity wear can still look unappealing on her. Diana may have broken the mold in what was expected of a pregnant royal, but even she couldn't make the kind of shapeless dresses available look good.
So, next time you feel like complaining you can't find anything to wear when browsing the maternity clothes, remember how much worse it could be.