Being Pregnant: Maternity Fashion and Body Shaming

The post I had originally planned for this week was about a different type of fashion, ADORABLE BABY FASHION. I was going to post pictures of all the tiny little clothes I’ve bought for Baby Laramie so far (for the record the first time I went baby clothes shopping was TWO DAYS after my positive pregnancy test) and we were all gonna squeal with delight and make cutie faces all over the place :3 :3 :3 Then something happened that got me all het up and I decided to make this post instead since it’s about something that’s important to me: BODY SHAMING OF PREGNANT WOMEN.

If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me having a little snit-fit last Thursday evening about a very popular blogger, who is also currently pregnant, and who in a fashion post linked to a dress and said the dress’s sleeves would be perfect to “hide those pregnancy arms.” OH HALE NO. PREGNANCY ARMS??? WHAT EVEN THE. Yeah. I flipped out. This isn’t a call-out post: she and I talked and she deleted the offending remark and apologized. I really and truly believe she didn’t mean to be rude in her original statement, so please don’t go saying anything mean, we all make mistakes, she’s a human being, nobody’s perfect, it’s fine. However, the whole incident did serve to highlight a problem that puts me into a rage blackout, and it’s this: so much of maternity fashion seems to be about hiding and diguising the fact that you are pregnant, like a pregnant body is something you have to be ashamed of.

I’m pregnant. Why should I hide myself? I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of how I look when I’m not pregnant so why should I be now when I am? Shouldn’t I be celebrating my wonderful life-growing earth mother womanliness? Why then, when I look for decent looking, reasonably priced maternity clothes that fit* (that I DON’T have to order online) do I find nothing but clothes designed to hide as much of the body as humanly possibly? Huge wide-legged jeans (to hide those pregnancy legs), Bermuda-length jorts (to hide those pregnancy thighs), vast high-necked one piece swimsuits (to hide those pregnancy upper chests) and thick heavy tops with 3/4 sleeves and ruching all over the whole thing (to hide those pregnancy torsos and arms). By the way, ruching is the bane of my life, what is all that fabric even for? I swear designers think that if you ruche all over clothes for fat or pregnant women all the gathers will somehow minimize their bodies? Here’s a newsflash: it doesn’t and it looks gross as hell. BAN RUCHING NOW.

The problem is there seems to be this attitude that the only people who actually look beautiful when they are pregnant are women who already fit into the societal standard of physical attractiveness. You have to still be skinny and have nice boobs and slender arms and legs, but just stick a cute little round belly on the front, which of course will flatten down to nothing .5 seconds after you finish giving birth. It’s like we’re all supposed to be Happy Family Midge dolls: pop off the round belly, remove the baby and pop on the flat belly. EASY PEASY!

sorry this video is en français; I couldn’t find the english version but you get the gist

… and WOE BETIDE if you gain weight anywhere else on your body or get stretchmarks or EVEN WORSE if you were already fat or even average-sized when you got pregnant, because you are gonna have to hide all your regular “flaws” as well as all your new “flaws.” Like there’s only one way for women to look, and if you don’t fit into that narrow definition then you have to scramble around, looking for “flattering” clothes to try and trick people into thinking you’re taller or thinner or larger breasted or smaller assed or less pregnant than you really are**.

Eleven years ago when I was pregnant with Sym I was very, very insecure about my body and the changes to it. I felt sad and ugly all of the time. It was my first pregnancy and I was young and I didn’t have a lot of positive and supportive people in my life. I even had one “friend” who LITERALLY cackled when she found out I was pregnant and crowed in delight “You’re gonna get so fat!” Like fat is a worse thing to be than say…. a horrible mean body shaming asshole? Whatever to that girl, we not longer speak. But if she’s reading this: CHRISTINE, I THINK YOU ARE A BAD PERSON.

The timing for that pregnancy was exactly the same as for this one (What can I say, I’m consistent!) and I was pretty pregnant over the summer. It was hot, there was a bus strike going on and I had to walk to work at my two jobs. I was carrying extra weight and I don’t know if you all know this, but when you are pregnant your body has more blood and fluids in it, so you sweat more. Especially when it’s hot, and you’re walking all the way across town to some crappy job.

One day in late summer I was on my daily trek, wearing shorts and a tank top. These were not maternity clothes- we were poor as hell and I couldn’t afford to splash out on a whole new wardrobe (which kind of explains the stupidly expensive Hatch Collection maternity dress I’m wearing now as I type this). The shorts belonged to my then-boyfriend and the top was a pre-pregnancy one of mine, probably from like Le Chateau or something. It was a tiny scootch too short and I was showing about one inch of baby belly. Some random guy came up to me and asked “Are you pregnant? How far along?” I answered “Seven months,” and he said “Maybe it’s time for you to think about getting a longer shirt so people don’t have to see that,” aaaand then he sped away on his bike while I stood there blinking back tears on the street corner and screaming “FUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU” ineffectually at the sky. IT STILL GRINDS MY GEARS TO THIS DAY.

The idea that anyone has the right to dictate what is or is not appropriate for a woman to wear when she is pregnant (or, you know. EVER) drives me out of my mind. You know what are the right clothes to wear when you are pregnant? Whatever clothes you want to wear, whatever clothes you feel most comfortable in! You don’t want to show a bunch of skin? Cool, cover up as much as you want! You want to wear frayed daisy dukes and a Budweiser string bikini top? Do that too! Maybe you don’t like the way your arms look. Wear a dress with sleeves, but do it because it makes you feel good, not because you’re afraid other people are judging you and your pregnant arms. Be happy and comfortable in your body and wear clothes that make you feel that way. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t wear a minidress or a tank top or a crop top or a cropped tank top or a bikini, or an ankle-length skirt or overalls or a muumuu or a parka or anything else you like. Wear a big black plastic flight suit like in that old Missy Elliot video. Wear body paint. Wear a tuxedo. Wear leggings as pants with a shirt that doesn’t cover your butt. Wear what makes you feel good about yourself, not what other people shame you into wearing.

And here’s a newsflash for all the bad friends and rude strangers and misguided clothing designers of the world: I’M NOT GONNA HIDE MY PREGNANT BODY. I’m gonna wear what I want when I want, and if you don’t like it then that’s your problem, not mine. So go fuck yourself.

Everyone else: I’ll post all those cute baby clothes next week :3 :3 :3

* I wouldn’t have any of these problems if the Gap would just carry maternity clothes in their Canadian stores. WHY YOU GOTTA PLAY ME LIKE THIS, GAP? I JUST WANNA BUY YOUR SKINNY JEANS. Ugh they won’t even ship maternity stuff here, it sucks. I guess Asos is gonna be getting all of my maternity dollars.

** I HAAAAAATE the concept of “flattering” clothing. I’ve unsubscribed from pretty much every magazine I’ve ever read because there’s always some story on how to dress to “flatter your body,” but it’s always about hiding these perceived and totally bogus flaws. My smart and beautiful friend Bronny, who blogs at Fat Aus has a great video about “flattering” clothing and why it is such a bs concept that you should definitely check out. Warning: there is lots of cussing in this video, but she has a pretty sweet Australian accent soooo….

31 Replies to “Being Pregnant: Maternity Fashion and Body Shaming”

  1. I think it’s awesome for a popular blogger to apologize and remove the remark, good for her. And of course, I don’t think it’s entirely her fault, either, because this is what society says. Like, icky, pregnancy arms (ie, fat arms, I guess?). Icky, swollen feet! When I was 8 mos pregnant, I bought a chocolate croissant and bit into it right at the Panera. The person behind the counter looked at me in complete disgust and said, “you could at least wait until you leave the store”. What?? I cried the whole way home.

    Speaking of, baby fashion is cute and all, but I totally want to read about your maternity fashion.

    1. Oh it’s totally society’s fault, but just because society says it doesn’t mean we all have to go along with it. FIGHT THE PATRIARCHY LINI!!!

      My maternity fashion is basically the same as my regular fashion: slovenly.

    1. I think it must be like…. some EXTREME type of ectopic pregnancy where the zygote escapes your reproductive system entirely and starts developing in your limbs. This would also explain why when I complained to my neighbor that I couldn’t find decent skinny maternity jeans in stores here that cost less than $200 she was like “Ewwww, why would you wear skinny jeans when you’re pregnant? They are so constricting!” Um. My calves are still the same size, thanks.

  2. Its so sad to me because I caught the exchange with the popular blogger, and because she is nice anyways, AND she apologized, its more like, one more person feeding into this idea that they’ve been fed over and over that they have something to be ashamed of, or at the very least, hyperaware of.

    All of the praise on the internet for women in the family way is usually only when they don’t appear to be. Like, we love that you’re pregnant but love even more that we don’t actually have to see you being too pregnant.

    I don’t know, I have a lot of feelings here that you summed up way better than my rage will allow. Every body is a good body, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE CREATING THE MIRACLE OF LIFE

    1. I agree that she was probably just repeating something that she’d heard so much she’d internalized it. And it is sad because as women we’re told so often how we need to hide or disguise the parts of our body that don’t pass muster that we then think that by passing on this kind of advice we’re being helpful, when what would be ACTUALLY helpful would be to celebrate and appreciate bodies in all shapes and sizes and colours so that we can learn to not be ashamed of our bodies, pregnant or not.

      It took me a really long time to properly sum up my feelings on this subject because I have so much rage about it too. It took hours to type up the first draft of this post and by the end I was all sweaty and jittery and red in the face, and I’ve been going back every day for the past week and editing it. TOO MUCH WORK TBH, from now on I’ll just be posting pet pics lol.

  3. We all know it is a perpetrated idea that if you are a women you body is up for judgement by anyone, and god-forbid you are pregnant or nursing or have your period you are some sort of devil and you must be shunned. COVER YOURSELF ASAP.

    1. They need to bring back menstrual huts and also invent more huts to hide more kinds of women from society.

  4. I hate that on top of the normal day to day judgment women receive on their bodies, it’s totally fair game to go after women who are dealing with the increased hormonal load, blood volume and general lack of personal space accorded to pregnant women. Everyone touches you, you’re either burning up or freezing all the time and you might just feel like you’ve been taken over by an alien face-hugger AND some asshole is either implicitly or explicitly telling you how disgusting your body is. Set them all on fire.

    And GOD I love that video of Bronny’s. My mother watched it and loved it and my father actually got in a little trouble watching it at work for some reason. At full volume. In a US Army building.

    1. I feel like I’ve been really lucky so far this pregnancy and everyone has been really polite and respectful but anyone who isn’t better WATCH OUT because I’m not the sad, insecure girl I was last time and I’m not just going to stand there and accept their offensive commentary.

      Seriously I will slap people. Right in their faces.

      1. That dick telling you you needed a longer shirt is just inexcusable. It just….that would have CRUSHED me. So uncalled for and atrocious.

        1. It really sucked. If anyone says anything like that to me during this pregnancy they better be ready to get clobbered.

    1. Thank you! And yes, I would like to reiterate that you are NOT the Christine I mentioned in the post. You are a lovely and kind Christine, the best sort of Christine.

  5. Since I was 17 I’ve had my maternity wear planned out: stretch pants, baby t’s to show off how big my belly baby is, and I will finally take the plunge and purchase a really nice leather jacket. Sort of like a pregnant Fonz.
    Awesome post, Tanie.

  6. this post actually makes me look forward to being pregnant, at some point in the near future, my husband and i hope. i still need to watch bronny’s video, but this was written excellently and i really enjoyed it (though i enjoy all your posts!)

    1. Didn’t you know? Unborn babies are freaky giant parasites that infiltrate every part of your body, making it bloated and disgusting. ONLY THIS MAN CAN SAVE ME:

  7. God, you’re smart.

    I loved being pregnant. You know, minus the fact that my spawn kept trying to stab my kidney and kill me. DETAILS.

    I loved my body. My mom tried to get all, “You shouldn’t wear a bikini.” And I was all, “Uh, hush now.”

    Flaunt it. Flaunt it hard. More pics. Stat.

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