07 September 2008

A look back at maternity fashion

As you can probably gather from reading my posts, I am a little bit obsessed with maternity clothes. As I've been writing and re-writing and then re-writing my thesis (which is due now in less than 8 weeks!) part of my work has been constructing a history of Australian maternity wear. And much to my surprise, there has been basically nothing written on the subject. For those of you in America, you have Pregnant Pictures written by Sandra Matthews and Laura Wexler. It's not a maternity clothing history but it is one of the most comprehensive collections of images of American pregnancy and a lot of you can learn alot about the history of maternity fashion just by looking at the images.

Anyway, I spent the better part of Friday at the State Library of Victoria looking at issues of the Australian Women's Weekly in a search for maternity fashion images. I was surprised to find that maternity fashion never featured in the magazine until the 1960s and even then it was not really until 1966 and more so around 1971 that maternity clothes were even considered to be 'fashion'. As in the image above, pregnant women were never really featured in advertisements together. It's actually hard to tell that the gals in the ad above are even pregnant. The A-line dresses that they are wearing are pretty mainstream when it comes to fashion of the time period and there is nothing distinctive about their dresses that says 'pregnancy'. For the most part, in the 1950s, pregnant women were only pictured with their 'husbands'.

I was surprised, however, to find a number of advertisements for stretch mark creams which suggests the body fascism directed at new mothers in the present day is actually not 'new' at all. 'Ugly' stretch marks have been marked as the bane of a mother's existence for quite some time now in the west. Also, lots of ads for maternity bras from Berlei which go on about 'saggy' post-baby boobs.

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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.