NEW YORK – Maternity wear used to resemble a tent, but today expectant moms can look sexy and stylish thanks to designers who recognize that a pregnant woman is still a woman.
"Pregnant women want to wear the same kind of clothes they would wear when not pregnant," said Missy Hansen, general manager of Naissance, a line of maternity wear based in Los Angeles. "They are not afraid of showing off their body or belly and being proud of how they look."
Since a pregnant Demi Moore posed nude for Vanity Fair, celebrities and supermodels have been baring their bellies, proud to flaunt their changing form. As with other fashion trends, the trickle down from Hollywood has influenced maternity retailers and shoppers.
"The baby boomer generation opened the door to discussing everything in the public context from nursing in public to menopause," Barbie White, designer of the Japanese Weekend Maternity line said via e-mail. "This type of group openness did not exist before the '60s so it's natural that it would have an effect on how pregnant women are seen and see themselves in society."
Designers for lines like Pumpkin Maternity, Japanese Weekend, Liz Lange and Naissance all have prosperous online sales and ship their clothing to women who have a hard time finding flattering maternity wear.
"Most people get excited at the idea of showing their belly," said Hansen. "It's a relief to let it all hang out."
And models for maternity lines are no longer skinny women strapped with stuffing to portray pregnancy, thanks to Liza Elliott president of Expecting Models in New York City. Her agency employs professional models who want to continue posing during pregnancy.
"I know I went out of my way to look as sexy as I could while I was pregnant," said Elliott, a former model who started the agency because she couldn't find work once she started to show.
"I never felt sexier than when I was pregnant. My husband was a very lucky guy during that time," she said laughing. "So why wouldn't I want to look sexy too?"
Deborah Miller, 27, of Mahwah, N.J., is six months pregnant with her second child, and said she is dressing more fashionably during this pregnancy. "This time I'm already a mom and didn't want to feel washed up."
Miller's favorite item in her maternity wardrobe is a pair of black stretch pants with boot leg cut, but she says finding sexy pajamas is difficult.
Naissance may have a slinky solution to Miller's problem: their baby doll pajama set.
"Most women who come into our store are really excited," said Hansen. "We always hear 'oh gosh everything else we've seen is so boring and square.'"
And wearing pants with a panel in the front while expecting a baby is no longer necessary thanks to innovative designers.
Naissance sells Seven Jeans — the choice for fashionistas — tailored for a maternity fit.
"Two of our best selling items are our jeans designed so the waistline goes below the belly for a comfortable fit," said Hansen. "And our lace-up pants that expand with the body as you go through the months."
Doing the most important thing in life shouldn't mean putting your body on hold, said Elliott.
"Why become frumpy?" she asked. "Pregnant women are still sexy and beautiful, just more round and voluptuous. Finally, there are fashions to compliment this stage."