Maternity Fashion and the Media
I am writing this article because I read something last week that really got me thinking, and I think it’s about time that something was said about it.
I was sitting on the tube and mindlessly picked up a copy of the evening standard. I flicked to a random page, and found an article about the launch of Rochelle Humes’ (from the girl band “The Saturdays”) Spring/summer collection. Above the piece was a photo of her smiling with fellow band member Frankie Bridge, who has recently disclosed her pregnancy in the press. Underneath the photo was a caption that said “Frankie Bridge, left-who skilfully managed to hide her growing baby bump in a loose white and black top.”
I was a tad angry about this, but I calmed myself down by telling myself that it was probably just a silly journalist not thinking straight, or a badly worded caption. But the more I thought about it, the more unsettled it made me, to the point where this morning, I googled the event to find out how other journalists had covered the event. The results astonished me.
All I had to do was type ‘Frankie Bridge’ into google, and dozens of news results hit me immediately.
“Pregnant Frankie Bridge keeps her baby bump hidden in loose top” (Mail Online)
“We could barely detect her growing belly thanks to her clever maternity styling” (Look Magazine)
“She didn’t even look like she was expecting!” (Reveal.co.uk)
My favourite one was on the very.co.uk blog, who simply said that although she was quite heavily pregnant, it was lovely to see her at the event, and she was “glowing”. This was the only article out of about 10 that I read, that didn’t make some comment about Frankie’s endeavours to hide her pregnancy.
But possibly most astonishing of all, this was the only article that didn’t make Frankie’s baby bump the entire focus of their coverage of the event. Almost all of them mentioned her outfit in the headline. Just to reiterate the point, when I googled “Rochelle Hume”, who is the designer of the collection being reported, there were no results about the launch at all!
So what is the problem? Why am I so furious? This is a question I have been asking myself all day, but there are other questions to ask that I think hold the answer.
Why are we celebrating a woman’s ability to hide the fact that she is pregnant?
Are we really from a society so preoccupied in glorifying a Size Zero frame, that we can’t even allow a pregnant woman to just look pregnant?
Now in my mind there are two possible scenarios:
One is that Frankie Bridge herself is indeed trying to hide her baby bump, in which case that’s fine, she has the right to dress however she likes. But my question is why does she feel the need to do this? Is it because she wouldn’t feel attractive embracing her bump, or because she is worried about how the media would perceive her? Both are sad but, if it’s the media thing, I think that is a problem, and we should probably do something about it. Now I have no experience in this department, but I think as a mum-to-be, your first instinct should be to be excited about your news and to want to celebrate it, not to be thinking “how am I going to hide this growth on the front of my body?” A woman should be able to flaunt her beautiful stunning pregnant body without fear of public judgement if she wishes.
The other option is a little more complex. It might be, perhaps, that Frankie’s intention was not to hide her beautiful bump. That actually, she was just wearing comfortable clothes in light of her pregnancy, and so she should. She should wear whatever she wants. In this case, it is rather presumptuous of the media to assume that she would want to hide her baby bump. Because obviously, if a woman gains a little weight, she MUST want to hide that right? Even if it’s due to the conception of her child. Also, women on the red carpet ALWAYS wear tight clothes, so obviously women must always be desperate to show off their bodies right? If a famous woman dares to wear something that hugs her a little less tightly, we have a tendency to assume that it’s because she wants to hide her body, not for any fashion or comfort induced reasons.
Women ALL have the right to wear exactly what they want, even if they’re pregnant. We shouldn’t question their reasoning, or make assumptions about their relationship to their bodies (with or without bump). Also, if Frankie did not feel comfortable showing her bump, then fair enough for her. She should not put herself in an uncomfortable place, but I think that it’s about time that we asked ourselves why it is uncomfortable. Women shouldn’t be made to feel that they are ugly or undesirable in pregnancy, but be celebrated for the beautiful thing that their body is doing. Besides, I think women look fierce when they embrace their pregnancy!
Pregnancy is an extraordinary thing. The female body carries and nurtures new human beings for nine months at a time. It literally makes that other person possible. That is beautiful! Women’s bodies should be celebrated for that, openly, so that pregnant women (famous or not) can feel happy in public. We need to create a media in which pregnant women know that they are being looked at with a supportive eye, and not a critical one.