Beautifying the bump

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Maternity fashion takes a positive turn

Red wrap day dress, $165, from Isabella Oliver. Submitted photo

Vancouver - Forget the Balenciaga bag or the Jimmy Choo shoes: For years now, the hottest accessory in Hollywood has been the baby bump.

With gossip magazines like Us Weekly and In Touch on permanent celebrity bump watch, hot mamas like Angelina Jolie, Nicole Richie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes and Cate Blanchett have made being pregnant into a style statement all its own.

And thats good news for the rest of expectant womankind.

Where once maternity fashions were frumpy, now theyre fabulous.

Women are no longer condemned to wear tent-like garments made of stiff, synthetic fabrics in bright brights and pastels. Instead, they can choose the latest fashions in luxurious fabrics and body-conscious cuts that flatter and emphasize their voluptuous bellies.

As new mom Annabel Hawksworth says, Finally, its safe to be pregnant again!

Still, only two years ago, when the publicist was expecting her son Heston, it was pretty slim pickings in Vancouver, she says. It was only toward the end of her pregnancy that a handful of new stores and online retailers began popping up across the city.

One of those is Vie Maternity and Childrens Boutique in Yaletown, owned by Melissa Lynne, who had experienced the same difficulties as Hawksworth when she was pregnant with her own son.

Being in the fashion industry and having to look good every day, it was just really difficult, she says.

As Lynne cobbled together a wardrobe mostly from non-maternity retailers, she started talking with other pregnant women who were having the same challenges finding maternity clothes that were stylish, flattering and good quality.

Across the border, though, it was quite a different story: Maternity fashion is big in the U.S.,"she says.

So she set about bringing those same great designs to Vancouver.

The first challenge? Definitely jeans. I wear jeans ever day to work. Like most people, jeans are a staple, Lynne says. I thought if I could find just one pair of jeans, I could get through this time.

Now her store carries six brands of designer maternity denim, including James Jeans, Rock & Republic and Citizens of Humanity.

But it wasnt just denim that expectant mothers were looking for.

Most people are looking for pieces that they would normally wear, she says.

That means office clothes, casual clothes and party clothes. It means clothes that will cover at least two seasons. It means clothes that fit and flatter. It means clothes that are good enough quality to withstand frequent washings and still look good.

It does not, however, mean trendy empire-style tops and dresses, which simply look tenty on an expectant body, especially when a woman is six months or more along.

At that stage, its all about showing off your belly, showing off your new figure, Lynne says. Its dressing to show off, rather than to hide.

One retailer whose fashions are all about showing off that beautiful belly is the U.K. company Isabella Oliver, which just became available online in Canada recently.

The company co-founders, Vanessa Knox-Brien and Baukjen de Swaan Arons, met each other when they were expecting for the first time, and had the same difficulties so many other women have had finding chic, comfortable clothes to wear. When the idea for their company was born, it was only natural that theyd name it for their babies, Isabella and Oliver.

We were really frustrated by the complete lack of stylish maternity wear, Knox-Brien has said. Clothes were too fussy or plain awkward.

The Isabella Oliver collection features mainly sleek, chic jersey pieces that wrap, ruche, hug and flatter a womans body. No wonder it has become such a favourite among celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba.

For women looking for a lower-priced range of maternity wear, there is now Motherhood Maternity, the first Canadian outlets from the massive U.S. company Mothers Work, which also includes A Pea in a Pod, Mimi Maternity and other chains across the border.

Motherhood Maternity features cute trendy and classic pieces at reasonable prices. It also carries everything from underwear and coats to basics and fashion accessories.

Special-occasion dressing is one of the biggest challenges for a pregnant woman to carry off in style. But it can be done witness Nicole Kidman in black satin Balenciaga or Cate Blanchett in deep purple Dries van Noten at the Oscars.

One great solution is to wear a unique work of art like the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind dresses and camisoles that local designer Wendy Van Risen makes for her Dahlia Drive line. These pieces are recycled from vintage slips, hand-dyed with natural colours, and custom-designed to fit any womans body.

There are several other new options for pregnant women, including boutiques like La Mama in Victoria or Belly & Beyond, which also sells through mail order. Even mainstream chains like Zara, Gap and H&M are starting to carry a select amount of clothing for pregnant women.

Whether or not we can credit the celebrity baby boom for this corresponding boom in maternity fashion, one thing is certain: The baby bump watch has finally made it fashionable for a woman to show off her burgeoning body.

It just seems that when a celebrity gets pregnant, people care about that, Lynne says. When you see a celebrity and their bodys changing like yours, you can relate to that.

It makes it even easier to relate now that you can dress almost as stylishly as the Jens, Jessicas and Angelinas out there. Yes, you have come a long way, baby.

Vancouver Sun

Shopping guide

Here are some of the best sources for stylish maternity wear:

Belly & Beyond

Chic boutique and online shop for maternity clothes, baby gifts, silver jewelry and quality childrens clothing.

Dahlia Drive

Custom-designed one-of-a-kind slips, dresses and camisoles by designer Wendy Van Risen. Order to your specifications online at

Isabella Oliver

U.K.-based online retailer of elegant jersey dresses, ruched tops, comfy tunics and more. Stylish, grown up and sexy, Isabella Olivers fans include Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez.

Motherhood Maternity

Fashion-forward, reasonably priced maternity wear for pretty much anything a mom-to-be will need. This chain store is part of the giant U.S. company Mothers Work.

Thyme Maternity

The classic Canadian maternity chain offers everything from must-have basics to stylish evening looks, all at reasonable prices.

Vie Maternity and Childrens Boutique

Best known as a source of designer maternity denim, this chic boutique also carries fashion-forward work clothes, loungewear, accessories, jewelry and childrens apparel.

Organizations: Mothers Work, Oscars, Belly & Beyond H&M

Geographic location: Vancouver, U.S., Hollywood Touch U.K. Canada Victoria

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Recent comments

  • H
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Boy the Telegram is really desperate for material by the looks of this story.

  • H
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Boy the Telegram is really desperate for material by the looks of this story.