The History of Maternity Fashion

At Isabella Oliver we design clothes that love, comfort and support mothers through pregnancy and beyond. Clothes that fit and flatter you and your bump. However, 'maternity' hasn't always resonated within the realm of fashion. Historically, pregnancy was expected to be fashionably hidden rather than fashionably celebrated. 


The idea of maternity fashion first started in the Baroque period.  The garment was called the ‘Adrienne’. It featured an empire waist, skirt and several layers. Prior to this bumps were to be hidden, not shown. 


During the Victorian era pregnancy was something to be concealed. The maternity corset was constructed in order to accommodate this. The design was structured with whalebone with the intention of minimizing the appearance of a bump. 


 Softer silhouettes with dropped waistlines emerge during this time. This accommodated growing bumps.


Maternity separates become available. No longer are pregnant women refined to a dress, rather pleated trapeze tops and skirts become very fashionable. 


Lucille Ball becomes the first woman to appear pregnant on screen. In effect, the concept of ‘maternity style’ gains momentum. Pants are also finally introduced as an alternative for burgeoning mums-to-be.


After Lucille Ball brazenly showcased her pregnant silhouette on national television, the paparazzi followed suit and began snapping shots up of pregnant stars. Here, Liz Taylor shows off her pregnancy in a tailored two-piece. 


The bohemian fashion of the time had a direct impact on maternity style. Just look to Jane Birkin – simple smock dresses with high boots. 


All eyes fell on Princess Diana when she became pregnant in the early 80s. Oversized shirtdresses in pastels and polka dots became an instant trend for pregnant woman worldwide.


Maternity denim hits the market. Juicy Couture creators Gela Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy design a line of maternity denim called ‘Travis Jeans’. 


Maternity fashion celebrates the growing silhouette. Body con dresses are now very popular and flattering for mums-to-be.  Alternatively, tailored shirts with optional ties (to highlight or conceal as you choose) have become maternity sartorial staples. The modern maternity wardrobe is stylish, chic and contemporary. Graphic accents, cut-outs, ruching and draping are all ways to stylishly accentuate and accommodate your bump. Fortunately, it's what we do best. 

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