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1930s/40s Maternity Wear

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Wearing a 1940s black crepe dress in January (at 20 weeks pregnant)

Look at how happy I was! Most of the 1930s or 1940s clothing I ended up wearing was during the first and second trimesters of my pregnancy. I was lucky enough that some of my vintage dresses fit me for quite a long time; mostly those that weren’t fitted at the hips. The items that got by far the most wear were looser slips, like this 1930s bias-cut one I love so much. So comfortable, the next best thing to being naked. I would wear an even older piece of vintage lingerie over top to be a little warmer in the winter months. These photos don’t show either item off in the best way, but gives you an idea… and shows you my guest room/walk-in closet which has now evolved into baby’s room!

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Photo by Amélie Laurence Fortin

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Now, for something I’d wear outside the comfort of my home. I was really surprised to find how comfortable this outfit was, up until maybe month five of my pregnancy. The dress was something I thrifted ages ago, just a simple black 1940s dress. The jacket was designed by Hildegard Geisler, someone who I have found absolutely nothing about in my online searches. If you look at the picture of the tag, you see the amazing texture of it. The quality of the garment! I love it. I’m not sure what year it is from, it could be from 50s, but I’m lumping it in here.

Next up: this coral top is way “cuter” than what I normally go for, but come on! Look at the collar! The buttons! Sadly, this one got a little ruined in the wash but I got a lot of good wear out of it. In these pictures I’m wearing it with pyjama pants, but I wore it with a black skirt in the earlier months, and maternity pants later. This is one that still fits, even now at 41 weeks pregnant… because pleats! Betty Hartford, thanks for designing this gorgeous top ages ago.

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Lastly, we have this dreamy dreamy dressing gown. I only found it around month 7 of my pregnancy, and it’s not necessarily exclusively “maternity.” It does make me feel really glamourous, which I definitely needed some days. Maybe a bit Veronica Lake? Femme fatale goes goody-two-shoes?

I must admit, other than the nightgown, I’m not super into the 1930s/40s maternity wear… because it was all about concealing. This post at Just skirts and dresses goes into more detail about what the dominant discourse was around how pregnant women were encouraged to dress. Witness to Fashion also outlines the impact wartime fabric rations had on the way mothers-to-be dressed, which is fascinating.

I also recoil at the idea of maternity girdles… Today, it is strange to think of how much pressure there was to avoid making others uncomfortable by being “visibly with child.” Personally, I wanted to show off my belly as soon as I had one, so the idea of emulating the style of this era wasn’t terribly appealing to me. As you’ll see in the coming posts, I think the 1970s works for me best!

I leave you with this terribly condescending fashion advice from 1944:

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