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Maternity fashion takes a few steps forward

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Published Monday, August 26, 2013, at 2:06 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013, at 10:49 a.m.

— You never really know what to expect when you’re expecting, but it’s always a good idea not to stress out.

It’s good advice to practice breathing and staying in the moment rather than leaping months or years into the future. But living in the now for the woman whose waistline is rapidly expanding can be vexing.

“You think you’re going to get away with wearing most of your own clothes all the way through, but at the end you’re so huge you need real maternity clothing,” explained Stephanie Crouppen of St. Louis.

She’s about 15 weeks pregnant with her second child and just ordered a supply of maternity clothing online. She said her baby bump grew much more quickly the second time around.

When she was pregnant a year and a half ago with her first child, Eloise Ruby, Crouppen said she attempted to supplement her wardrobe with items from Target and Old Navy. She kept everything because she expected to be pregnant again soon, but the fast fashion pieces weren’t worth preserving. This time around, Crouppen, an executive working mom, said she wanted to be more fashionable, so she made more of an investment in her clothing.

And she expects to wear many of the items long after pregnancy.

One of Crouppen’s favorite finds was her Isabella Oliver maternity wrap coat. It has a cape shape that flows over her pregnant belly and a belt that cinches it tight to show off her waistline later.

She’s been trading fashion secrets with a handful of friends who are all currently pregnant, including Cabanne Howard of St. Louis.

At 25 weeks pregnant, Howard said, “I hope to be able to wear a few of the tops post-pregnancy, but the pants and most of the tops and dresses will be put away in storage ... until I need them again.”

She said friends have told her that maternity fashion is “miles ahead of where they used to be. I can believe that. I was pleasantly surprised.”

It’s a trend in shops that not all of the maternity wear is strictly maternity, which means there are fewer bows on bellies and more style.

The assumption that “even pregnant women don’t want to wear maternity clothing” is no longer true. Look at the hoopla over the wardrobe choices of the famously pregnant Duchess Kate Middleton. Everything she was photographed in during pregnancy sold out of stores almost immediately.

While attending a tour of the Warner Bros. film studio in Leavesden, England, with her husband and brother-in-law in April, Middleton wore a polka-dot Topshop dress with Ralph Lauren jacket.

Despite being six months pregnant, the frock was not maternity wear. The $76 dress caused a frenzy and was out of stock online and in stores within a few hours, according to news reports at the time.

A British newspaper reported that one high-end department store saw sales of “sophisticated dresses and smart styles in their maternity collections increase by more than 500 percent compared to this time last year and is attributing this to pregnant women wanting to emulate the Duchess’ well-documented elegant look.”

It was dubbed “the duchess effect.”

The same was likely observed in the states from the plethora of Hollywood stars gracing the red carpets while pregnant in recent years, including Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba.

Sure, they are benefiting from custom garments for A-list occasions, but the women were photographed daily in clothing ranging from casual gym attire to garden party charity events. And none passed up an opportunity to flaunt their expanding shape, so most opted for form-fitting or tummy-grazing attire.

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