The New York Times

Showing? It’s Time to Show Off

The New York Times
June 8, 2006
Thursday Styles Section

By RUTH LA FERLA

JENNIFER KOLITCH, a mother of four in New York, recalls with clarity a defining moment during her latest pregnancy last year. “I was having a very good hair day, wearing my Seven jeans and a black tank top with a black knit shrug and little black ballerina flats,” she said. “I was shopping for a pair of sunglasses, and the saleswoman came up to me and said, ‘Oh, you are so Angelina Jolie-pregnant.’

“It made my day,” she recalled.

In invoking Ms. Jolie, who looked alluring throughout her recent and widely seen pregnancy, the saleswoman paid Ms. Kolitch the ultimate compliment. She affirmed her status as a member of the chic maternity brigade.

 


Lars Klove for The New York Times

A Cadeau silk Empire-waist halter dress, $295.


Lars Klove for The New York Times

A lacy cotton blouse from Pea in the Pod, $135;
Cadeau jeans with a spandex top, $174.

 

Was it only a half dozen years ago that expectancy was viewed primarily as an awkward condition to be borne with what grace one could muster? Today women flaunt their pregnancies, take them public on Web sites and blogs and show them off with low-slung jeans, slinky tunics and dresses that mimic those on the runways.

The phenomenon is in part a result of women who delay pregnancy into their 30′s, when their tastes in fashion are more refined and they have the income to indulge. Some are also clearly inspired by expectant film stars like Ms. Jolie who parade through the gossip magazines, their every coffee break and shopping spree chronicled in “belly bump patrols.”

“We have gone from a cultural mind-set of pregnancy being an endgame, with the focus on the moment the baby is born – I’m going to get through this; I’ll wear what I have to wear – to one that is very much focused on the experience of the journey,” said Julia Beck, the founder of Forty Weeks, a marketing company in Washington that studies expectant and new parents. “Pregnancy has become its own focal point.”

 


Lars Klove for The New York Times

A Cadeau cotton sundress with folkloric embroidery, $495.


Lars Klove for The New York Times

A Diane Von Furstenberg silk baby-doll tunic, $195;
7 for All Mankind jeans with a spandex top, $255.

 

One with its own lustrous image, for sure. While stylish maternity fashions were once scarce, today there are scores. “We have seen an explosion in fashionable maternity clothes,” said Maria-Stefania Vavylopoulou, the fashion editor of Plum, a magazine for pregnant women in their 30′s, the fastest-growing market for high-style maternity clothes. “All kinds of designers have jumped on the wagon, and the people who have traditionally worked on maternity lines have updated their style focus dramatically.”

As recently as five years ago, the dominant, some would say solitary, force in maternity fashion was Liz Lange, the design pioneer who dressed Manhattan’s gilded set. Today the field encompasses a raft of coveted brands. “It used to be about one company,” said Emilia Fabricant, the owner and chief executive of the progressive Cadeau maternity line. “Now it’s a whole movement.”

Diane Von Furstenberg, Lilly Pulitzer and style-driven labels like Chaiken, Juicy Couture, Vince and Theory have all entered the arena in the last 18 months, some with a style quotient so high that their looks are coveted by nonpregnant women. “You can spot those women in the store,” Ms. Fabricant said. “Sometimes they will look at a top or two, and it’s, ‘Oh, I’m looking for my friend.’ “