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. 


1595

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. 

1837 

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. 

1920s

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

1940s

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

1952

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.

1960s

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. 

1970s

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

1982

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.

1988

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

Now

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. 

Shop the story