Brittny Brewer had a strong sense of style before becoming pregnant for the first time in 2017. But throughout her first two pregnancies, Brewer says she ended up “losing” herself fashion-wise. Instead of wearing streetwear-minded, trendy outfits, she found herself living in stretchy leggings and maternity clothes that had little in common with her pre-pregnancy aesthetic: “It took away who I was as a woman before.”
Now, seven months pregnant with her third child, Brewer is taking a different approach to how she dresses. Instead of spending money on clothes for mothers-to-be, she’s “going a size up” at regular fashion brands and retaining her personal style. “There’s a lot of ways you can still be comfortable and still be able to dress and feel sexy like you want to be,” she says.
Brewer is just one of the many expecting and new mothers rethinking their relationship with fashion throughout their pregnancy, opting for crop tops, low-rise pants, and mesh bodysuits that highlight, rather than hide, their bumps. See: Rihanna, whose style throughout her pregnancy has remained true to her bold aesthetic.
“When women get pregnant, society tends to make it feel like you hide, hide your sexy, and that you’re not sexy right now [but] you’ll get back there and I don’t believe in that sh*t,” she told Refinery29’s Venesa Coger. “So I’m trying stuff that I might not have even had the confidence to try before I was pregnant. The strappiest, the thinnest, and the more cut-outs the better for me.” Over the past few weeks, the world has witnessed exactly that with looks ranging from a see-through black baby doll dress with matching lingerie to a blue cut-out catsuit and a diamond bra-and-leather micro mini skirt combo. “It's very inspiring and it’s empowering [to see Rihanna’s looks],” says Brewer. “But why aren't all women doing this?”
Maybe because society as a whole isn’t past dated notions of what’s acceptable to wear when dressing with a bump. Valerie Rodriguez, who was pregnant in 2020, experienced this firsthand. She recounts a moment when a stranger approached her while on vacation in Las Vegas to point out her outfit was not appropriate for an expecting woman: “I was at a sneakers store, and I was wearing a dress that was super sexy, when some girl looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant and you’re wearing that?”
This type of response also came from her family members, who were stunned by her maternity photoshoot, in which Rodriguez wore a see-through dress with rhinestones. “Their comments were very straightforward and like, ‘You're naked, please don't post something like this,’” she says. “And I'm like, ‘So what? I love my body, and I feel really good about what I'm wearing.’” Jessica Gonzalez, who was also pregnant in 2020, experienced similar reactions from her family, particularly from her grandmother. “She’d be like, ‘Why do you have to have your boobs out?’ Because they're new and they're awesome,” says Gonzalez, adding that her family members tried to gift her “mom-appropriate” clothing in an attempt to encourage her to cover up.
While maternity clothing is often presented as a comfortable solution for pregnant women, with adjustable waistlines and lactation features meant to serve a changing body, many expecting women see its baggy, shapeless designs as society’s way of suggesting that they need to change their looks for a more conservative style once they start this journey. “I remember people were so cruel to Kim [Kardashian], and she was actually just dressing in bodycon dresses with heels the way that she would normally dress,” Brooks Miller, who is currently expecting her first child, says of Kardashian’s style in 2013.
Yet, maternity wear is a modern invention. Throughout history, women wore their everyday clothing while pregnant, loosening their corsets to accommodate for the bump and wearing shawls around their bodies to cover the loosened ties on their dresses. It wasn't until the Victorian era that women began wearing maternity corsets made to reduce the appearance of a belly. This evolution continued throughout the 20th and 21st century as pregnant women adopted more maternal-looking, conservative dresses that hid their bodies and whole maternity brands were introduced encouraging shoppers to embrace a new style.
Miller says that she is most excited to sport bikinis during her upcoming babymoon vacation. Rodriguez felt a similar security in her own skin while pregnant: “I felt sexy and powerful because this is such a beautiful experience.” Meanwhile, Brewer is continuing to learn how to keep her style personality intact throughout her pregnancy: “We’re still the same person, we just happen to be a mom now.”
While it may seem that a celebrity’s pregnancy style choices wouldn't impact everyday women, Brewer says that, in 2017, when Beyoncé revealed she was pregnant with twins with a bump-bearing photoshoot on Instagram, she started to feel more confident with her changing body: “We all have that same capability of stepping into our inner Sasha Fierce and just really embracing our bump, really embracing who we are, regardless of what society is telling us what we should change.”