Stylists are the masterminds behind how celebrities craft their wardrobes, and they're with them through a slew of landmark events in their lives: the first time they win prestigious awards, marriage, and even pregnancy. The latter has exploded into its own category, long evolved from the empire-waist dresses and leggings that marked what is known as "maternity wear" in years past. Just as Tinseltown's finest are setting red carpet trends, they're doing the exact same thing in the pregnancy fashion realm — and of late, many aren't choosing traditional maternity lines at all.
The conversation starts between stylist and star quite early on, often long before she even goes public with her pregnancy. "As their stylist, I usually know they're expecting before everyone else, so any discussion we have in the beginning is usually how to fashionably hide the bump until they're ready to announce," says Jessica Paster, the stylist currently dressing Emily Blunt, who is set to give birth to her second child very soon. One of the most recent looks Paster chose for the expecting star was a custom sapphire, sequin-embroidered lace Michael Kors Collection gown at the 2016 Met Gala. Lately, she noticed, women aren't even trying to hide their growing bellies. "Recently, women are embracing their bumps instead of hiding it throughout their pregnancy," she said. "Just a few years ago, when the bump got too big, they would throw that trusty muumuu on top; now I see women who are proud of being pregnant, and proud of their personal style, and don't want to compromise one for the other."
For Simone Harouche, who styles Nicole Richie and Christina Aguilera (as well as designs her own line of handbags Simone Camille), it's all about creating a pregnancy wardrobe that's simply an offshoot of her clients' signature aesthetic. "Sure, you can discuss possible directions, but pregnancy is a very crazy thing, and you literally have no control over how your body gains weight and in what areas," she states. "So I keep my clients' signature style in mind while also being open to change, because we never know how their bodies are going to transform."
Karla Welch vividly remembers her own pregnancy and what she wore during that time, using her personal experience to dress mommies-to-be like Olivia Wilde. "When I was pregnant, there wasn't too much change from my trademark look and I didn't really buy maternity clothes. For Olivia, we've stuck to her smoldering style, especially on the red carpet. We've made dresses work with her changing body. And, surprisingly enough, we haven't planned it too far advance; we've kept it fluid as we've gone along."
Welch recalls two key moments during awards season that were major style wins for Wilde, relying on the help of two of the world's most tried-and-true high-fashion brands. "We got a VIP Premiere piece from Gucci's atelier for Olivia for the 2014 Golden Globes and I just knew it would work by looking at it." Welch's trained eye has been honed after years in the business, but the main thing she avoids with red carpet gowns is a seam at the waist. "I look for pieces and tailor [them] around that caveat, molding it by slightly nipping them in for her bump or under Olivia's bust. I just need designs where the stomach can be expanded; that's key." For Wilde's Valentino moment at the Academy Awards, "that was a beautiful cloak, sheath dress that worked perfectly," Welch says. "I actually look for special details that really highlight the bump or her arms, which is an area she's loving at the moment."
Though much of the fashion world is still a bit reluctant to give Kim Kardashian credit for influencing the industry, there's no denying how much she's changed the maternity style game while expecting daughter North and son Saint. "Kim set a very different bar when it comes to maternity wear," says Paster. "Like her, I don't rely on maternity wear either, because as great as it is, it doesn’t really cover all of my clients needs. I mix and match maternity, ready-to-wear and even some sample-size pieces to get the looks we need." But according to Harouche, Kim's proclivity during pregnancy for non-maternity spandex was something she's been doing for years. "Even prior to Kim's pregnancy, I never bought maternity clothes for myself or my clients," she adds. "I just always looked for fabrics with a lot of stretch."
Welch credits big-name celebs like Kardashian for getting brands on board with pregnancy-friendly pieces. "These women are influencing the change by documenting their maternity moments and designers are catching up to that shift." Spandex dresses like Kim's favorite Wolford numbers are designs Welch counts as great basics for pregnant women, though her clients always opt for a maternity jean. "Women are the biggest demographic of shoppers, so brands would be foolish to not offer really cute, affordable options for mothers to be. It's one of the most captive markets there is."
She also believes Instagram is one of the strongest platforms for style, and it has definitely shifted the idea of fashion while pregnant by giving the world a view into how pregnancy actually looks and feels every step along the way. "Social media is so much an extension of my clients' style and identities, as well as my own," says Welch. "When you feel and look good, why not show it? Celebrities understand it's a great way to support their favorite brands and that there are benefits that go along with that continued support." It's the new reality in her eyes and in her realm as a stylist, she's even found that Instagram photos are becoming increasingly more important and valuable than those taken on the red carpet.
Maternity wear has also undergone a great change over the past five years, with brands emerging that truly care about style and trends. Both Paster and Harouche rely on Hatch and A Pea-in-the-Pod as maternity wear go-tos, and Paster also uses a French brand called Envie de Fraise that has exceptionally beautiful designs. When it comes to non-maternity brands that work for pregnancy style, Harouche opts for three incredibly popular contemporary lines for both her own pregnancy style, as well as for the women she dresses. "Rachel Pally doesn't do maternity, but I lived in her clothes as they're all stretchy and super comfy." She also counted on Splendid's long cotton dresses and separates from T by Alexander Wang. And it's all about the classics for Welch. "A great black dress with long-sleeves and a high neck that’s form-fitting can be worn at any stage, as well a great oversized blazer, or a cute T-shirt that’s longer-line," she suggests.
Welch loves that there's such a positive sentiment now about how women look while they're pregnant, as that wasn't always the case. In fact, pregnancy dressing is among the most fun work for her, as she gets to make her clients look and feel great during a constant time of change. "It's a natural part of life and the majority of women go through it, celebrity or not." And it's certainly something to be celebrated.
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