Tuesday, August 5, 2008
“Fashion, Maternity or Otherwise, Makes No Sense”
A couple of weeks ago, I chuckled over a fellow columnist’s bemoaning the challenges of being “fashionably pregnant.” She said the shirts “looked like nothing more than small tents topped with ridiculous bows, and I seemed to gain 100 pounds just by putting them on.”
I remembered my own efforts to clothe my rapidly expanding body and mused about what has happened to the way we dress, in general, in the last decade or two.
I’d been trying to get pregnant for many years, so the minute I found out my eldest son was incubating, I rushed out to buy booties and maternity clothes. I was thrilled to be joining the ranks of bulging tummies. In those days, “maternity” was a special category of fashion; the clothing was designed to “draw attention from the waistline to the special glow of pregnancy.” Women’s magazines in the Seventies were kind of schizophrenic–lauding female heavy equipment operators and chiding stay-at-home moms about wasting their talents on one hand, while touting natural child birth and urging women to “free their senses” on the other.
I remember wandering through the maternity section at a local department store. I saw racks of pastel smocks embroidered with ducks and bunnies or cutsie sayings like, “My Heir is Becoming Apparent.” Donning a smock designated the wearer as “in the family way” so I bought the most obvious one I could find, gave myself a back ache poking out my stomach, and beamed with pride when somebody said, “Are you expecting?”
The pants were all alike with stretchy panels and were designed to go under the smocks without making a big deal of the whole thing. As my friend said, dresses were basically tents with lots of shirring, bows, and ruffles, all strategically placed and designed to shout “Pregnant!” while modestly covering everything.
I think the idea behind these fashion statements was “better pregnant than fat.” Besides, pregnant people went to the front of the line in the ladies rest room, found seats on crowded commuter trains, and, in general, enjoyed a privileged status.
Today, maternity fashions of yore seem to have given way to a more “in your face” kind of attitude. But, then, I notice that current fashions consist of little more than a few bits of cloth strategically placed, so why should the fact that a baby is “hatching” make any difference? The other day, I saw a woman in a cropped halter top and low rider pants that had to have been stapled on; her belly bulged between the two like a skin covered basketball. I wondered if she had any idea how ridiculous she looked. ... I don’t think anybody would have wanted to give her a seat on a crowded commuter train.
She strode along, holding the hand of a little girl who looked about six and must have been her daughter. The child wore a red spaghetti strap top that stopped just below her breast bone, white micro-mini shorts, and pink flip-flops. When the girl grows up, she’ll probably wear a thong bikini as a maternity outfit and call it good.
Unfortunately, this “barely there” fashion statement is far from unusual. Most young women bare their midriffs with little thought. When I shop for my granddaughters, I can rarely find anything suitable, unless I buy an extra shirt for them to wear under the top. I notice even my friends from church let their babies and little children wear skimpy sun dresses and go swimming in bikinis. These same women will struggle with their teenaged daughters who will wonder why skimpy sun-dresses, strapless formals and bikinis are now off limits.
If we ever needed Help From Above, we sure need it when we decide what to put on our bodies–and the bodies of our children! I hope you consider the example and precedents you’re setting when you wear revealing fashions or dress your little girl like a miniature street walker.
Does all this bother the rest of you? Or am I just pretty much out of step with today's world?