MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we want to talk about fashion, but a very specific type of fashion that's taken a big step forward in recent years. We're talking about maternity fashion. Pregnancy is a special time in most women's lives. But even the happiest moms used to dread those Peter Pan collars, those giant bows, and do I even need to mention, the T-shirts with the, you know, arrow pointing to the belly.
Today's pregnant women have much wider style choices. And now that fashionistas Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian are expecting, we're wondering whether designers are putting even more runway-ready fashion to the public.
To talk about this, we've invited Robin Givhan. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, a journalist, and she's with us now. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.
ROBIN GIVHAN: My pleasure.
MARTIN: Do you think that celebrity moms have an effect on the way that, you know, regular moms dress?
GIVHAN: Sure. I think what happens is that, you know, you see the photographs of these women, these celebrities going about their day and if they happen to be wearing something that strikes you, it's like a giant advertisement. And, you know, I think it does give people inspiration because oftentimes celebrity moms have the benefit of professional stylists to help them be more creative in how they dress. So yeah, I think they can provide both inspiration as well as an actual garment that someone might want to go out and buy.
MARTIN: Now do you feel that maternity fashion has in fact improved over the years? I mean I don't think it's too many years ago that women used to complain, bitterly, about the choices that were available. I mean you see it all over across the board, you know, people in the armed services, people who have to wear uniforms for, you know, a living.
And yet, now I hear some women say that they actually prefer some of the maternity clothes to the clothes that they buy for their regular lives...
MARTIN: Because they say that they are affordable. They're fashionable. They're washable and durable.
GIVHAN: Yeah. It's...
MARTIN: Why is that? Why do you think it's improved?
GIVHAN: Well, it seems like, you know, talking about someone like Liz Lange who really pioneered the idea that maternity clothes could be fashionable. I think a lot of other brands and other designers have sort of followed in her wake. And one of the, I think, big issues is that women are older when they're having their children and so they need clothes that fit for so many more aspects of their lives. Whether it's professional, whether it's the business dinner, whether it's a cocktail party, where they'll be drinking sparkling water, of course. I mean I think their needs are so much broader. They have more money because they are farther along in their careers, and so they can actually afford to be bigger investors in maternity wear. And I think it's also because there's been this idea of the sexy mom. And so you have maternity clothes that are more creative because they're not now simply made to hide the baby bump.
MARTIN: Well, to that end though, I think one of the issues is that women used to essentially be expected to disappear while pregnant. On the other hand, I do hear some women complain about the pressure they feel is now put on them by the celebrity moms...
MARTIN: ...to look fabulous all the time, when you may not feel so fabulous. And I wonder if you hear that as well.
GIVHAN: What happens is you think back to - and I don't remember what year it was - but the famous Demi Moore cover in Vanity Fair, where she's naked and pregnant. And there have been many other naked pregnant celebrities featured in magazines. I think...
MARTIN: Nia Long, Jessica Simpson.
GIVHAN: Exactly. Jessica Simpson, by the way, who just expanded her licensed maternity wear business. But I think that those images did, on the one hand something very good, which is it said pregnancy is natural, it is beautiful, there's no need to hide. You can be sexy. You can be a fully formed woman. You're not just mommy-to-be. But on the other hand, when those images appeared, they are beautifully lit and there is no cellulite and there are no stretch marks and it's, you know, it's the equivalent of another fashion photograph that is this, sort of, pseudo soft-focus reality. And I think that's what women stress about, the sense that OK, I can show off my body when I'm pregnant but, oh my gosh, is my body supposed to look like Jessica Simpson's or Demi Moore's or whoever, you know, the mother of the moment happens to be.
MARTIN: Speaking of showing off your body and obviously, these are two very different public figures, Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge...
MARTIN: ...with two very different requirements - shall we say - for their public appearances. But do you expect there to be trends, fashion trends, that these women will then put forward that then will be copied by other people? It is worth noting that, you know, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, does buy ready-to-wear.
MARTIN: And then when she, things that she buys often become quite popular.
GIVHAN: I suspect that the Duchess of Cambridge, whatever she wears, if it is off the rack, there will be runs on everything that she wears that is in any way shape or form affordable and attractive. I fully expect that Kim Kardashian will be launching a maternity wear brand at any moment.
MARTIN: Well, you can keep us posted on that.
MARTIN: Robin Givhan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer. She joined us from our studios in Washington, D.C. Robin, thank you so much for joining us.
GIVHAN: My pleasure.
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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
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