Maternity wear is as different as each individual. Some choose to wear clothing that conceals their baby bump while others prefer form-fitting outfits. Luckily, these days we have the choice to opt for whatever style is to our liking because things were not always that easy. Throughout the ages, women had to contend with a huge range of maternity attire, from apron-like dresses to maternity corsets. Curious as to what expectant mothers wore in the past. Keep reading.
The 13th century was all about flowing fabric and very few seams. Since attire back then was loose and forgiving, pregnant women just wore whatever they already had on hand.
Women’s fashion changed in the 14th century, with outfits becoming more body-hugging. For the first time in history, there was a need for maternity clothing. Seams had to be let out and those well-off had their dresses specifically made by a tailor.
The 15th century saw women wear heavy velvet gowns that concealed their baby bumps. The dresses usually came with lace-up panels that could be adjusted to each stage of the pregnancy, eliminating the need for seams. Aprons and lace-up overcoats were also commonly worn.
Maternity wear was not a huge issue in the 16th century since most women just stayed home at the late stages of the pregnancy. Nevertheless, the first official pregnancy gown with an empire waist called the Adrienne was recorded in 1595.
17th Century and 18th Century
The 17th and 18th centuries were all about the Adrienne dress, which featured flowing fabric and massive folds under the waistline that could accommodate a growing stomach. The gown gradually evolved and by the late 17th century came with a boob bib for breastfeeding.
The Baroque period also saw women wearing men-style waistcoats with adjustable lace vents at the back.
At the beginning of the 19th century, most pregnant women wore full dresses. However, towards the latter part of the century in the Victorian era, pregnancy became a condition to be concealed. This is also when the maternity corset was invented. In addition, many women used raffles and scarves to conceal their bump.
While maternity corsets still dominated the early part of the 20th century, pregnancy styles gradually relaxed as the century wore on. The idea that maternity clothes had to be comfortable gradually took hold. Women started wearing wraparound dresses and A-line dress suits, as worn by Queen Elizabeth when she was pregnant with Prince Charles, became the norm. Finally, in the latter part of the century, separates became all the rage. And finally for the first time in history, pregnant women could be seen wearing loose tops with pants.