History, art and culture

The royal baby and maternity-wear through the ages

In the wake of Kate Middleton’s second pregnancy announcement we’ve decided to celebrate the furore around the royal baby and take a look at some of the past royal pregnancies and maternity wear through the ages. All eyes will be on Kate and her sartorial choices during her nine month term, as she impressed us so much last time. Over the ages, clothes have become much more bump-friendly for women in all stages of pregnancy and now there’s even an industry solely for maternity clothes and stretch-fabric garments. It all started with the changing fashions of the 14th century and the production of dresses with seams and figure-forming structure, as wealthier people and the royals started commissioning tailor-made dresses and clothes. Before then, large flowing gowns were the norm, so if they didn’t fit in your pregnancy, you’d have to accommodate your bump (and your modesty) with an apron, to hide the gap where your clothes no longer fastened together! It wasn’t until the Baroque period where the first maternity dress was made, called the Adrienne dress, which consisted of folds designed to expand as the bump grew. Women also wore men’s waistcoats with laces at the back to adjust for the growing waistline, too. Later on, bibs were created to allow for discreet breastfeeding but to think women (both from the Royal Household and otherwise) in the 18th century - and even in the early 1900s - would still wear maternity corsets seems almost modern torture? To give us some more context, let’s look at some of the most influential royals and their maternity fashion over the years: Princess Charlotte was the first pregnant British royal to have a formal portrait painted. As the fashion at the time was double laced corsets, she went for comfort over style and opted for an empire-line gown with puff sleeves instead. A trend of boundary pushing we’ll see repeated in the later years... In the 1920s when glitz, glamour and flapper dresses were all the rage, the flapper style was a much more forgiving shape. When the Queen Mother gave birth to our future Queen Elizabeth II in 1926 she would have worn the straight, loose fitting style of flapper dress, popular at the time - slightly more disguising than designs in the past. Up to and including the 1950s, when pregnant bellies were a thing to be hidden away, the style of maternity dress in the 1960s was a cocoon style large top or coat – adopted by Queen Elizabeth II during her fourth pregnancy (with Prince Edward) in 1964 to carry on business as usual. In the seventies, maternity wear was a little bolder and influenced by the inescapable hippy and floral styles. Princess Anne - who was known to be experimental with her fashion sense - rocked some of the iconic shapes and patterns during her pregnancy with Peter. Paving the way for best-dressed royals, Princess Diana took it up a notch and influenced women around the country with what to wear when expecting. Although the eighties styles were less flattering, Diana still made it work. Who can forget the blue polka-dot smock and scarlet evening gown she wore when she was pregnant with Prince William in 1982. But there's noone who does it better than Kate Middleton whose maternity wear choices couldn't be faulted back when she was pregnant with baby Prince George. Preferring British highstreet brands she championed the affordable, revolutionising maternity wear for the 'everyday woman'. Now, with baby number two on the way, we’re keen to see the Duchess of Cambridge’s new maternity wardrobe and the impact it might have on future styles of maternity wear and royals to come. Want to learn more about the royal family? Check out our infographic on the Modern Monarchy Royal Family Tree. Credits: Images from EssentialBaby.com.au and People.com

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