I have never met an expectant mother who was actively fond of maternity clothes. That is, an expectant mother who felt that the styles out there specifically designed to accommodate her growing baby bump were anything other than fugly. The world of maternity fashion is a bleak one. It is characterized by frumpy, matronly, ill-fitting garments. There are “comfort panels” glued to jeans and early 2000s-esque tunic tops for days. When it comes to plus-size maternity fashion, however, there is almost nothing. Forget shtty options. We don’t really have options at all.
For fat moms like myself, the message to be received from this exclusion is clear. Maternity brands (not unlike many facets of the fashion industry) seemingly don’t like to remember that fat women exist: That many fat women want to dress up their bodies in form-fitting, trendy, or just somewhat interesting looks. That many fat women are sexual beings who, very often, get pregnant, too. That many of those fat, pregnant babes want to show off their bodies, rather than hide them.
This isn’t just another “void” in the market, but a particularly harmful one. Mothers and mothers-to-be are frequently desexualized and stripped of their identities when children come into the picture. The pressure to conform to antiquated ideals of “what a mother is” or “what a mother looks like” (exemplified through the garments made for soon-to-be moms) is very real. These are limited ideals that do a disservice to the myriad ways there are to exist as a woman or feminine person, and as a parent.
In terms of plus-size bodies, however, we’re already at increased risk of simultaneous de-sexualization, over-sexualization, and overall stigmatization. It is already assumed, even when we are not pregnant, that we are disinterested in sex and style, for example. Or, that sex and style are disinterested in us, and will remain so until we “fix” our damaged figures. When maternity brands in positions to do something about all this simply don’t, they only end up perpetuating those misconceptions.