As Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah left Downing Street, Samantha Cameron and her baby bump have stepped in to fill the style gap. Cameron’s pregnancy has made the issue of how to dress a rapidly changing figure almost as topical a question as how long the Con-Lib coalition can last.
Not so long ago pregnancy and looking fashionable were uneasy bedfellows, with the options for mothers-to-be limited to tent-like smocks and shapeless dresses (think Princess Diana circa 1982). Even 10 years ago, when Cherie Blair was pregnant while in 10 Downing Street, fashion hadn’t exactly embraced the baby bump. Blair was photographed in dresses or suits with tailored jackets, often concealing her stomach behind a well-placed briefcase or handbag. Cherie Blair is a barrister and Samantha Cameron a former creative director of Smythson with a sister who is deputy editor of Vogue, but it’s clear times have changed.
A combination of high-profile pregnancies, including that of artist Sam Taylor-Wood and Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, and the prominence of empire lines, kaftans and loose-fitting styles in mainline collections has sparked a notable evolution in the attitudes of both mums-to-be and of designers.
Claudia Schiffer, for example, continued to wear larger sizes of her favourite labels such as Chanel, Emma Cook and Temperley during her recent third pregnancy. For her part, Cameron mixes maternity items such as J-Brand jeans (£178 from Mama-La-Mode) with adapted styles from designers such as Emilia Wickstead, who offers customers a made-to-measure service (from £450) and dressed Cameron for events both before and during her pregnancy – including her first much-photographed appearance in a purple belted dress outside Number 10. “High-waisted belts are great for accentuating the smallest part above your bump,” says Wickstead.
“Women want to look like themselves and not adopt a totally different style just because they are pregnant,” says Baukjen de Swaan Arons of Isabella Oliver, a London-based online boutique specialising in fashion-led maternity wear such as ruffled wrap dresses (£109) and Grecian tunics (£75). Isabella Oliver now ships to customers in 77 countries across the world.
Another online company, Mama-La-Mode, also focuses on the market of fashion conscious women unwilling to compromise their style during pregnancy, selling a range of specially adapted pieces by brands such as Temperley, Velvet and Issa alongside their own range of essentials, a premium denim line, and maternity lingerie (prices from £33) from Elle Macpherson Intimates. Mama launched in November 2007, and had first year sales close to £500,000. Since then, sales have grown year-on-year, with the average customer spending around £225 three times throughout their pregnancies.
Bridget Cosgrave, fashion and buying director of London’s Matches boutique, says: “Being pregnant and stylish is not as difficult as it used to be. Designers such as Matthew Williamson and Stella McCartney often cut glamorous dresses and shirts on the empire line or in floaty fabrics that can be worn easily as you get larger. Other collections such as DVF, Issa and American Vintage incorporate soft jerseys that can be layered over leggings and teamed with a favourite blazer. Megan Park and Lemlem are also ideal, as kaftan shapes work really well.”
Anita Barr, director of women’s wear at Selfridges, says: “We see customers sizing up to suit their style and accommodate a changing silhouette rather than seeking out specialist maternity brands.” It seems that having purchased a number of maternity essentials (regular jeans and lingerie simply cannot stretch the necessary nine-month amount) women are simply adapting non-maternity fashion lines to wear throughout their pregnancies.
The line between what constitutes maternity and non-maternity-wear has blurred to the extent that companies such as Isabella Oliver are also offering clothes for women without bumps.
Fee Drummond, founder of Mama-la-Mode, says: “Women’s main concerns are confidence and adapting their fashion style to their new body shape. Why should you suddenly have to change the quality and way you are used to presenting yourself, just because you are pregnant?”