Celebrities and social media are driving a shift in the pregnancy apparel market.
There was a very brief, beautiful moment in time when the biggest news in the world was Rihanna‘s pregnancy announcement, replete with an incredible, bump-baring look featuring vintage Chanel, colorful jewels and low-rise jeans. More important things have happened since, but that doesn’t change the fact that the singer and entrepreneur spent the following weeks making headlines by pushing the boundaries of maternity fashion at every opportunity: a lime-green beaded halter top at a Fenty Beauty party; black, sheer lingerie at the Dior show; a Coperni silver crop top with cut outs, accessorized with a diamond belly chain, to celebrate Fenty Beauty at Ulta — to name a few.
Most of these looks were at least partially custom-made. “It’s a lot of custom lately,” Rihanna told me, while wearing custom Alaïa at the opening of her Los Angeles Savage x Fenty store. “I’m pushing myself to just go for it, and I’m having fun. So the stuff that’s more strappy or more revealing or that’s not for maternity, I want that.”
Of course, not everyone can have that, as in custom maternity clothes, designer or otherwise — nor would it be worth it for the average pregnant person to buy couture when their physical shape is constantly changing. But soon, those who do want to show off their bumps in trendy, fashion-forward crop tops and formfitting dresses will likely find it easier to shop the look off the rack. Maternity crop tops are on the rise.
Hatch, a leading purveyor of stylish-yet-accessible pregnancy wear, just introduced crop tops for spring, alongside more body-con styles than it previously offered. And it certainly won’t be the only brand embracing this trend: Already, fast-fashion retailers like Shein and ASOS have crop tops in stock (as well as on-trend bump-hugging skirts and dresses) in their dedicated maternity sections; Gap has one as well.
Brands whose production timelines aren’t quite as…hurried will probably follow, especially since there’s demand. Fashion shopping app Lyst found that searches for “maternity crop tops” jumped 51% in the month since Rihanna unveiled her pregnancy. The app also said low-rise baggy jeans have been selling twice as fast as other denim styles, and that demand for chain belts rose 70%.
In addition to maternity brands offering more adventurous styles, one could also imagine mainstream trend-driven brands venturing into the category. Rihanna herself actually put two pregnant models in her Savage X Fenty lingerie show in 2018, though the brand doesn’t currently offer designated pregnancy wear. We could also see a label like Skims offering formfitting dresses and crop tops to accommodate growing bellies; it already sells a few maternity shapewear styles, but it would make sense to expand that offering, especially given founder Kim Kardashian’s own role in pushing the maternity fashion conversation forward during her first pregnancy in 2015.
“I think it started with Kim Kardashian,” argues Hatch Founder and CEO Ariane Goldman, recalling the star’s then-novel penchant for long or knee-length, figure-hugging dresses, usually paired with a long coat. “[That’s when we were] really seeing the shift from beautiful draping and effortless clothing, which I always prided Hatch on, into body-hugging, tight clothing. All of a sudden, the bump became the hero.”
That evolution of maternity fashion didn’t stop when North West entered the world. Perhaps emboldened by Kardashian’s refusal to alter her signature curve-hugging aesthetic, others followed her lead by showing off their bumps instead of camouflaging them. Goldman feels social media has also played a role in this evolution, giving influencers and the like a platform to be open about their pregnancies, including posting outfits that show them off, empowering their followers to do the same. And now, daring pregnant people are taking things a step further than a mere body-hugging silhouette.
“Now it’s about showing your skin and this crop top-and-skirt vibe or jeans and your belly out,” says Goldman. “You have literally no clothes on top of your belly. Like, your belly is your accessory.”
Rihanna has obviously dominated this look, but stars like Cardi B, Slick Woods and Gigi Hadid dipped their toes in before her, though more often for Instagram and photo shoots, as opposed to attending events IRL. Shay Mitchell began posting belly-baring outfits just days after Rihanna. Kylie Jenner went belly-out in pregnancy photos posted to Instagram just this week. Of course, the look may not be for everyone, and no one should feel pressure to serve a full look while pregnant just because famous people do. Still, you can’t deny that Rihanna has played a significant role in changing this kind of dressing forever.
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“I’m not sure that maternity fashion is going to take a page-by-page playbook from Rihanna, but it certainly moves the needle into giving permission for women to decide how to rock their belly any which way they want, and to be as fierce as they want,” says Goldman, who relies on “young people” on Hatch’s team to stay on top of what relevant, cool celebrities and influencers are doing. “[Maternity style] is changing so quickly that you just have to keep on your toes and be super nimble.”
Though, given how bold and prolific Rihanna’s pregnancy looks have been, one wonders if that needle can actually be pushed much further.
“I just laugh,” says Goldman, “because once you take clothes off the bump, there’s not much left to take out.”
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