100 Years of Maternity Fashion

Photo Credit: wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: wikimedia Commons

Stylish clothes for expectant moms haven’t always been easy to come by – and women weren’t always keen to show off their baby bumps. Check out this pictorial history to see how maternity fashion has evolved since the turn of the 20th century.

Pregnancy is by default associated with female sexuality — so up until the early 20th century, pregnant mothers masked their growing bumps (even while the corsets they wore accentuated their feminine curves!). Those in the upper classes even disappeared from public view entirely in a period of “confinement.” The circa-1880 typical maternity dress pictured above was remodeled from a wedding dress, with a bodice that closed tightly above the waist and a wide ruffled skirt.

1900s
1900s-Pregnancy-fashion-photolist
Photo Credit: wikimedia Commons

Corsets were worn by all females up to the early 1900s, first made with whalebone and later elastic, to hold in unwanted girth. Girls as young as seven years old were laced up, and even pregnant ladies sported “maternity corsets” to contain their expanding waistlines. By the 1920s maternity corsets were replaced by girdles that confined the hips more than the waist. The practice finally petered out in the 1970s, when women began wearing a super-lightweight “maternity panty girdle” that focused on support, not constriction.
Photo Credit: wikimedia Commons

1910s
Photo Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images

Through the early 20th century, maternity style remained modest and reserved: This 1916 photo of Eleanor Roosevelt (with husband President Franklin D.) perfectly illustrates typical women’s wear of the time saudemasculina.pt. Mrs. Roosevelt gave birth to five children; here she’s presumably pregnant with her last, son John Aspinwall II.

1920s
Photo Credit: American Stock Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo Credit: American Stock Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Even though 1920s flappers were known for letting it loose in fun, flirty dresses, pregnant women still opted for styles that concealed their pregnancy curves (note the loose, embellished top in this photo). Case in point: a 1923 ad for maternity wear in Good Housekeeping advertised to women who wanted to be “entirely free from embarrassment of a noticeable appearance during a trying period.”

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