I USED to look forward to getting knocked up. To me, pregnancy sounded like a mini-retirement. You could walk around in slippers with food stains down your front and groan when you stood up too fast. Greasy hair? Blame those bumptious hormones. Thunderous belches? Ditto. Sure, I have always thought being a mom would be a supreme blessing and all that jazz. But the freedom to act like a frat boy for a few months? Priceless.
How I longed for that sabbatical from being stylish. A chance to ditch the skyscraper heels and sashay into cocktail parties carrying a Ziploc bag of Cheese Nips instead of a Jimmy Choo clutch. Pregnancy, after all, was once the ultimate pardon for any breach of chic.
Not anymore. These days, expecting is anything but an excuse to let yourself go. In fact, there's more pressure than ever to look great.
Hip denim designers like Rock & Republic and Seven sell maternity skinny jeans. (Personally, I don't think the words "skinny" and "maternity" should ever nuzzle.) Isabella Oliver just added a $170 pinstripe pencil skirt to her vast maternity collection. And last month, style sprite and " Project Runway" victor Christian Siriano announced that he would unveil a maternity line called Fierce for next spring. I don't ever want to hear the expression "hot mess" when I'm pregnant.
It used to be that all you needed was that glow -- not platform heels and maternity miniskirts. Clearly, the trend is fueled by the recent spate of celebrity moms and the tabloid reports of what they wore all nine months. Nicole Richie opted for Balenciaga through most of her first two trimesters, and Manolo Blahnik supposedly designed special kitten heels for Sarah Jessica Parker when she was pregnant.
But just being fashionable and trendy doesn't cut it. According to the website BabiesNBellies.com, "crazy, sexy" maternity wear is a must. Another online retailer -- FirstImpressions -- sells a maternity string bikini. (Better get enough Bain de Soleil for two.) There are even denim short shorts at Motherhood.com.
Is a pregnant centerfold in Playboy next? (I can just imagine her likes: romantic buffet dinners, long naps on the beach and elastic waistbands.) Don't laugh. Last November, Maxim debuted its "Hottest Pregnant Women, Ever" list, with Halle Berry topping the roster of nine moms-to-be who merited a membership in the "sexy swollen-ankles club." I'm not pregnant, but I'm feeling a touch of morning sickness.
Now, I understand that some pregnant women might want to feel sexy and pretty. "Just wait until you haven't seen your ankles in three months and you feel like a water buffalo," they huff at me. I can't wait, frankly. I never liked my thick ankles, and from what I hear, water buffaloes spend most of their day submerged in warm, muddy water. Sounds like an extended spa treatment to me.
The biggest affront, though, is the pressure to look foxy while you push. You would think that going into labor would provide a respite from keeping up appearances. Not when there's a new category called "birthing apparel" and a Binsi skirt to consider. Yes, it's a skirt designed exclusively for those last, sweaty hours of pregnancy. FYI: There are also "fourth trimester" style kits for that brutal segue back to your svelter, pre-pregnancy look. Oh, and did anyone else get a glimpse of Nicole Kidman wearing tiny white jeans with a midriff-baring blouse a mere two weeks after her delivery?
Way before epidurals and maternity thongs, women simply wore aprons over their outfits to cover those burgeoning bellies. Now, that sounds a heck of a lot easier to tie at eight months pregnant than a string bikini. Make my apron stain-resistant and reversible.