The Philadelphia Inquirer

High style, with child
Pregnancy has become a time to indulge in adorning the bulge.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
July 23, 2006

Inquirer Fashion Writer

At eight months pregnant, Jennifer Abrams loves wearing her Citizens for Humanity maternity jeans and sexy tanks with built-in bras. She carries a camel Chloe Paddington purse and wears denim Louis Vuitton sandals with kitten heels.

Last month, she enjoyed a Peppermint Patty spa treatment, designed especially for expectant moms. She’s contemplating the latest in strollers – a $1,000 Spider Duo – because it will seat the new baby and her 20-month-old son. And soon after her bundle arrives, the Bala Cynwyd mom plans to start yoga classes with her baby.

“I think being pregnant is such a special time in a woman’s life and I am embracing it,” said Abrams, 32. “It is a nine-month journey leading up to the most amazing experience ever, and I want to enjoy the ride as best as I can.”

Abrams is among the new breed of moms who don’t see their pregnancy as a mere means to an end.

To them, pregnancy is a time to live lavishly. From six months prior to delivery through the first year of the child’s life, these ladies are indulging themselves with new clothing, pedicures and pricey mommy-centric items ranging from $60 Tummy Honey stretch-mark removal cream to $600 Gucci diaper bags.

“The culture of pregnancy has changed dramatically because there is just a wide array of great stuff to buy,” explained Kyla Lange Hart, an analyst – and a new mom herself – at New York brand strategy firm Toniq.

“Everybody is always telling you how fast it goes, thereby it gives you permission to indulge,” she said. “It’s the same theory as a wedding – there [are] only so many times you are going to do it.”

In February, Philadelphia-based Mothers Work Inc. opened its newest branch of Destination Maternity, in Manhattan. The store has a 10,000-square-foot boutique, workout room, and lavender-infused Edamame spa for expectant mothers. Conceived as a “pregnant woman’s heaven,” the place offers financial training classes, a space for dads to watch television, and a playroom for toddler siblings.

There are 12 stores, including locations in Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, and Danbury, Conn. Mothers Work president Rebecca Matthias said the company is looking for a location here.

Maternity fashions have seen some big changes. Style once limited to tent dresses received a boost in the mid-1990s when companies like Liz Lange and Mothers Work started designing more fashionable options for expectant shoppers.

Then the industry hit a lull. The clothing was better, but not great. Diaper bags were, well, just diaper bags.

No more. In the last two years, celebrities have given babies cachet. Diaper bags – especially from Petunia Pickle Bottom – can run you thousands of dollars, thanks to their quilting and pockets, pockets, pockets.

Actress Demi Moore made pregnancy sexy when she boldly exposed her tummy in 1991 on the cover of Vanity Fair. A five-months-pregnant and dark-haired Britney Spears will pay homage to the now-famous pose on the cover of August’s Harper’s Bazaar.

But she’s only one of many celebs working the bulge. You can’t pick up a celebrity magazine these days without seeing someone’s bump fashionably displayed. Angelina Jolie, with her below-the-belly designer jeans and fitted tanks, is the gold standard for trendy pregnant women.

Part of the appeal comes from practicality; the days of moms stopping their lives because they have a bun in the oven are over. Now children – both in utero and out – sit front and center at fashion shows, hang out at the mall, and eat at swanky restaurants with their moms.

“It’s definitely become a lifestyle,” said Monica Miraglilo. Miraglilo, 37, runs the Haverford boutique Fill-A-Pillow and is seven months pregnant.

“I still have to do what I have to do. Last night I was out past midnight – and I have to go out tonight. I never say, ‘I’m pregnant, I have children, I can’t do this.’ “

Experts say older moms are driving the trend. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 951,000 births to women between 30 and 34 in 2002, compared with 375,000 in 1975.

Already well into their careers, these women can afford a fabulous lifestyle and are hungry for information about what to expect during their 40 weeks.

Two years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists introduced Plum, the first pregnancy magazine for women over 35. Recent covers featured maternity fashions by designers Zac Posen and Cynthia Rowley.

Also this year, Essence magazine senior editor Kimberly Seals-Allers sold close to 5,000 copies of The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy (Amistad, $14.95).

“I think part of what our generation is doing is redefining everything about our lives, from what it means to balance home and work, to career success,” Allers said. “It’s only natural that pregnancy would be swept up into this movement.”

Most spas offer special treatments for pregnant women. These massages are gentle around the breasts and are easier on the muscles. Many spas – like Edamame – have special mattresses that moms can rest their expanding bellies in.

“These places pamper you to death,” Abrams said. “It feels so good to just indulge.”

However, moms agree that true fabulousness starts with looking good. And whether they are shopping for maternity clothes or non-maternity waistbands to fit under their bellies, the abundance of outfits now makes it fun to shop.

Sales of maternity clothes jumped 28 percent from 2000 to 2005, according to the Mintel Group, a market research company. Mothers Work sales – which include brands A Pea in the Pod, Motherhood, and Mimi Maternity – rose 24 percent from $453 million in 2002 to $561 million last year.

The company’s most influential brand, A Pea In the Pod, started carrying designer jeans two years ago, including 7 for All Mankind, Vince and Joe’s Jeans. Nearly every trend is represented, from long, Bohemian skirts to short-shorts.

“When Vogue magazine used clothing from A Pea In the Pod in a non-maternity layout, I knew we were making strides,” Matthias said.

NPD Market Research says that women are spending an average of $253 on clothing during nine months of pregnancy – although some moms are spending much more.

Kim Silverman, 32, has spent close to $1,500 on maternity clothes to maintain the stylish look she had going into her pregnancy. She bought a pair of designer maternity jeans that she pairs with empire-waist tops and multicolored flip-flops. She has continued to get her hair highlighted and loves getting prenatal massages.

“I’m not dressing to hide anything,” said Silverman, who works for a health communications company. “Of course there are days I feel like a big sausage. But I still want to look nice.”

While there are those almost-moms who swear by maternity wear, there are many who buy regular clothes in bigger sizes and wear pants or skirts underneath the belly. Over the belly leaves a line under your shirt and that, trendy moms say, is not smooth.

“I won’t buy maternity at all,” Miraglilo says. “I go to Annie Sez, Nicole Miller, BCBG, Forever 21, and I wear the [pants] underneath my belly and the shirts big and over. That way I can keep my funky look.”

The special outfits continue even after the baby is born: this spring Liz Lange introduced her line, Fourth Trimester, for women easing back into regular clothes. Of course, by that point, there are so many cute (and expensive) outfits to buy from trendy baby boutiques that dollars may be diverted from mom.

Jennifer Raphael, another “under the belly” devotee, has spent about $400 on her maternity look. Stylewise, the 36-year-old says, she is having a lot more fun with this pregnancy than her first, two years ago.

“I’m wearing things much more form-fitted than my last pregnancy,” Raphael says. “I’m showing off a lot more.”

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or Read her recent work at