I became an adult in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when women wore mini-skirts and platform shoes, peasant blouses and bell-bottom pants. In high school, I had some psychedelic-patterned, tent-shaped dresses so big you could have hidden another person in there. They seem hideous now, but that was the style.
Pregnant women wore “maternity clothes,” stretchy bottoms and big blouses with Peter Pan collars, bows, and lacy sleeves. The object was not only to make room for the baby, but to be “modest,” a word we don’t hear much anymore. As desirable as it was to have children, there was something crass about showing one’s baby bump in public.
I never had a baby bump. I had a my-period-is-late-and-I’m-so-bloated bump. I had a my-period-is-late-and-please-God-let-me-be-pregnant bump. And these days I have a can’t-stop-eating-mayonnaise-and-French-fries bump, but I never had a baby bump. That did not stop me in my days as a young married woman from wearing big clothes and hoping people thought I might be pregnant. I’ve always had a vivid imagination. I might caress my belly and pretend there was a baby in there, but there never was.
In today’s tight dresses, there’s no way to hide one’s pregnancy status, but back then, it was easy to pretend, to play mommy-to-be dress-up.
More than the actual baby, I think I wanted the public affirmation of my womanhood, the approval, and the excitement of entering the next phase of my life. Instead of maternity clothes, I put on suits, narrow skirts, slacks and blazers for my career as a journalist.
Why do I think of this now? I realized the other day as I put on my leggings and matching “tunic,” that we’re all walking around in pseudo-maternity clothes. I could wear that stretchy outfit all the way to my delivery date if I were pregnant. I don’t know about where you live, but all the women and girls around here (Oregon) are wearing leggings. They’re only flattering if you have a perfect figure. They’re not warm enough in the winter. Some derrieres are showing that shouldn’t be shown. But oh Lord, they’re comfortable, and if you wear a big top, who cares how many French fries you eat.
Ironically, the women who are actually pregnant don’t try to hide their pregnancies. The other night at a concert, I saw a young woman wearing shorts and a tank top that stretched way out with her pregnancy of at least eight months. No frilly blouses and stretch pants for her. We have all seen celebrities flaunting their “baby bumps.” There’s no doubt what’s going on in their uteruses.
When you’re clothes shopping, do you ever accidentally find yourself in the maternity section? I rush out of there as if someone is going to catch me and point out that I don’t belong. What do you do? Do you long for those Baby on Board tee shirts or try not to look at them?
Am I the only one who has worn big clothes and hoped people assumed for a little while that I might be pregnant? Do you know anyone who has?
I apologize if this whole discussion is making you feel bad. From my post-menopausal perspective, it’s interesting. And now that I have Googled “maternity clothes,” I will be plagued with ads for pregnancy-related merchandise by the heartless algorithms of the Internet.
Here’s a look at maternity fashion through history. https://www.whattoexpect.com/tools/photolist/100-years-of-maternity-fashion
My novel Up Beaver Creek is out now at Amazon.com. My first hard copies arrived yesterday. They are beautiful.