Apr 20, 2022Why is maternity wear undergoing an image overhaul? New forms of representation in the media are helping to rapidly shift the narrative around pregnant women's bodies

Maternity fashion is pretty nondescript – it doesn't usually conjure images of designer labels and daring styles. But leave it to none other than pop princess Rihanna to shake up the maternity market. Through daring outfits and stylish streetwear credentials, many female celebrities are reclaiming the narrative and taking back ownership of their bodies at this crucial life stage.

J’Nae PhillipsJ’Nae Phillips is a Junior Editor at Canvas8. With a background in fashion, she’s experienced in understanding how trends influence culture and play a part in shaping our human behaviour. When not working or studying for her journalism postgrad, she can be found writing for her style focused newsletter and is an avid reader.

Women want relatable idols for all of life's stages

Whether she's strutting around a snowy New York with an exposed and expanding baby bump, or hanging out in desolate car parks in a custom Jacque Aiche gold bra costing $36k, Rihanna's pregnancy style and her out-there ensembles are a celebration of body positivity and glamour as she transitions into this next stage of her life. “I’m really pushing into the idea of sexy,” says Ms. Fenty. “When you get pregnant, society tends to make it feel like you hide […] you’re sexy and that you’re not sexy right now [but] you’ll get back there and I don’t believe in that shit.”

Other fan-girl faves like Shay Mitchell are taking note by rejecting traditional maternity wear and embracing their bumps as something to be seen and celebrated. But why hasn't this been the case before now?

As the global maternity market grows – analysts predict it will be worth $24.5 billion in 2025 – celebrities are winning praise for stylistically dressing their baby bumps rather than trying to hide them. And as research from the Mental Health Foundation finds that 41% of women who have been pregnant feel more negative about their bodies afterward, rising to 54% for women aged 25 to 34, relatable idols that can appeal to women at different life stages may give them the confidence boost they never knew they needed.

New maternity aesthetics are being embraced Rihanna (2022)

Women want better maternity wear options

If Riri's swoon-worthy fits are anything to go by, we’re entering a new era of maternity wear in which dressing for yourself can, and should be, embraced. She's pushing the boundaries of self-expression and changing the perception of how women should behave at this pivotal life stage. Bland, boring, and baggy maternity attire is on its way out – opening up the space to welcome in a new range of maternity wear, appealing to the 41% of women who feel worse about their appearance during and after pregnancy.

As ingrained expectations of maternity dress continue to play into harmful stereotypes, pop culture and mainstream media may be partially to blame for why evolving female figures and growing baby bumps are often hidden from view. If a more diverse range of bodies are represented in the content we consume, won't this allow people to feel that all bodies are worthy of celebration and praise?

It's about time that brands welcome the concept of designing for pregnant women as a style challenge rather than a hindrance. Brands like Beyond Nine and Nike are catering to this underserved market by appealing to women's desire for a greater range of clothing as their bodies change. Maternity apparel demand increased by 3.5% between 2016 and 2020, with growth expected to continue. And if wearing sheer lingerie and black patent heels in the front row at fashion week is anything to go by, expectant mothers want to be seen as well as heard.

The concept of bump-friendly fashion is expanding Rihanna (2022)

Women want to feel supported and empowered when pregnant

Social media, fashion trends, and an evolving influencer landscape are shifting people's perceptions of pregnancy style. Model Emily Ratajkowski and actress Jodie Turner-Smith are proof that pregnant women have free reign to wear what they want, when they want. Maternity style need not be the drudgery we've come to know it as.

With 85% of Gen Yer mums believing society doesn't understand women raising the next generation, and as they continue to feel under-supported and overlooked, brands can empower women to take ownership of their bodies when pregnant without having to surrender their identity and sense of self.

There's no longer a need for women to fade dismally into the background when pregnant, and Rihanna is a fine example of someone who is making a statement with her bump. By staying true to her pre-pregnancy style and making daring sartorial choices that may raise a few eyebrows, she's showing expectant mothers-to-be that they can continue to thrive and feel comfortable in their own skin. Who doesn't love a new fashion moment?

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