Feel-good fashion: the UAE designers creating stylish maternity and post-partum clothing for Mums
Limited clothing options led some 'mumpreneurs' to design their own stylish pregnancy and post-pregnancy attire
It’s the oldest cliche in the book. When women are pregnant, they are expected to look bigger than they usually do, and are accepted as such. However, after giving birth, there are misconceptions that women’s bodies miraculously bounce back to their pre-pregnancy sizes within a few weeks, while many are unaware that breastfeeding can be the cause of wardrobe malfunctions aplenty. Accordingly, most new mums are hardly prepared for the fact their pre-pregnancy wardrobe may be off limits for as many as two years, and that their pregnancy and post-pregnancy wardrobes will require a major makeover.
Maternity bras and swimwear
Before having children, women are often unaware that if they plan to breastfeed, they’ll be wearing a separate set of bras, specifically designed for nursing. When Dubai resident Kate Kikano was pregnant with her first child eight years ago and struggled to find the undergarment in a suitable style, she launched TKD Lingerie, which offers a range of designs that have easy snap-on panels. She also introduced services that would cater to mothers’ chaotic new lifestyles.
“We understand it can be challenging to get out of the house with a little baby, for many reasons,” she says. “That’s why we offer a home-fitting service for new mums, where one of our specialists will bring a selection of bras to your home.”
TKD’s boutiques, meanwhile, are fitted with changing rooms large enough to fit strollers, and also feature comfortable chairs for nursing. “We are committed to supporting new mums at this important time in their lives,” Kikano says.
The brand also provides swimwear, another retail category that is especially relevant in the UAE, where beach trips and pool outings are common during the cooler months. However, body-conscious mothers often struggle to find flattering designs. “We all want to look good, but we need to feel good first,” Kikano says. “That means the swimwear not only needs to look stylish, but it needs to be comfortable and supportive. Some new mums want a one-piece or tankini that provides shape and support for their post-baby tummy, others are looking for a bikini to complement their new shape.”
While some mums-to-be assume that baggy shirts and leggings will be their uniform throughout pregnancy, they’ll learn their previously loose tops will become snug at about the six-month mark, and leggings will need to be upgraded to a larger waistband size. The latter garment are made for pregnant women in either over-the-bump or under-the-bump styles, and available at Destination Maternity, which also sells maternity jeans and trousers, other worthy investments.
Giving the appearance of normal jeans and trousers from the hips down, maternity pants are fitted with stretchy jersey waistbands that can also be pulled over your stomach or worn beneath your bump. For more crafty mums-to-be, there are ways to turn your own old denims into maternity jeans – a simple search of “DIY maternity jeans hack” on Pinterest turns up a variety of tutorials.
Some pregnant women opt for figure-hugging clothing to show off their baby bumps. But bear in mind that post-delivery, these garments will be of little use; looser clothing is simply more comfortable, even hygienic, post-partum, while maternity leggings and trousers have more longevity, and are often worn for up to a year after delivering a child.
There has been a movement worldwide to normalise breastfeeding and while some women are confident about nursing in public and are able to smoothly feed their babies regardless of their attire, others are shy and modesty-conscious. However, when newborns require nursing practically around the clock (as frequently as every three hours), new mums will often find themselves in places without private breastfeeding rooms. Shirts fitted with zippered or button-down necklines offer a convenient solution without compromising on style.
Dedicated nursing tops, which are double-layered designs with discreet panels allowing for convenient public nursing, also come in handy, especially during air travel. There are a host of stylish options on the high street, with brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and New Look offering lines for maternity and motherhood. UK-based e-tailer Asos creates particularly fashion-forward nursing designs, as well as swimwear.
Natasha Bajaj, founder of maternity and breastfeeding brand Nats & Jun in Dubai, ensures the zips and panels in her designs are artfully concealed. “Our clothing comes with attached covers, so doesn’t look like nursing wear,” she says. “It can be worn while you’re expecting and even after breastfeeding, so you don’t feel guilty spending on yourself.”
The fabrics are non-clingy, light and breathable, she says, as many women experience hot flashes while feeding.
Bajaj launched her label when she was a new parent. “I started meeting a lot of other first-time mums who would just sit at home and feed their little ones, and I noticed their confidence level in terms of how they look had gone down,” she says. “After researching, I figured that apart from nursing covers and jersey fabrics there were not many options for breastfeeding mums. I wanted them to be able to step out and feed their little ones, and feel awesome.”
Others mothers invest in a trusty nursing cover. “I think it is a difficult transition for new mums to feel attractive and presentable in the early days,” Dubai mum Wendy Francis-Best says. “A big struggle for breastfeeding mums is finding clothing that has easy access and is also stylish.
There’s nothing pretty that you would still wear beyond your breastfeeding journey.”
Some nursing covers look like dowdy aprons, but when Francis-Best gave birth, she invented her own stylish solution – the Love by JO nursing cover, created from a soft and comfortable cotton-jersey fabric and available in a range of colours. “It can also be worn as a neck scarf, which comes in very handy when travelling and, of course, to cover up those embarrassing leakage mishaps,” she says.
The designer sells her covers online at Mumzworld and Sprii, and plans to expand into nursing clothing.
Maternity and motherhood fashion is a growing niche with a never-ending list of clientele, as multitasking mothers who are out and about with their new babies are always on the lookout for stylish, functional clothing. Limited lines such as Topshop Maternity and H&M Mama exist, but as the mainstream industry expands to accommodate inclusivity and diversity, we may see more retailers taking cues from mumpreneurs" who are motivated to make their peers look and feel fabulous.
Updated: January 17, 2020 02:00 PM