Maternity Fifties Flair
July 14, 2012 7:01 PM   Subscribe

The Fabulous Fifties, maternity edition! Where can one find fifties-style/a-line dresses that are reminiscent of the fifties? Think Modcloth styling, but for a ginormous belly.

For those who are pear-shaped, or, more charitably, triangle-shaped, a-line, fifties styled clothing is often very flattering. Many maternity dresses are made out of clinging jersey or rayon, rather than a stiffer material, and, while comfortable, can be unforgiving to every little bulge. Can you give me some leads on some clothing that can be worn in the second and third trimesters that has that flattering retro shape?

For example the shape of this dress for a pregnant person who's rapidly gaining a lot - A LOT - of weight.
posted by heigh-hothederryo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't see the dress in the link, but I'm going to suggest Shabby Apple's maternity dresses.

They have a few retro-style non-jersey maternity dresses. They're not inexpensive, but sometimes they're on sale. For my pregnancy I splurged on two really good dresses, one skirt, one pair of jeans and one pair of trousers plus just a few tops (from a now-defunct source) and used a lot of accessories to dress them up - I wore the heck out of them, and then passed them around.
posted by peagood at 7:21 PM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you look at I Love Lucy episodes from the time she was pregnant (not sure what season) they are basically capri pants with a swing-coat type top with an off-center fastening, usually high up on the chest. You can also look at first season Mad Men for ideas, there was at least one pregnant character in a similar type of dress/outfit (also smoking and drinking, ha).

I'm not sure where you could buy such things; most maternity wear these days is empire waist blouses or tshirts on the assumption that comfort is most important, except for a few party dresses. You'd almost have to get some old patterns on eBay or elsewhere and get them made. Vintage maternity clothes would be hard to find because women tended to pass them along to friends or just wear them out.

I was lucky enough to work in a casual office so I could get away with oversized men's tees, cardigans I left unbuttoned over my belly plus tanks, and maternity pants of various kinds (that ALWAYS seemed to slide down, ugh).

I was never much of a fashion plate pre pregnancy, so dressing around my belly/for comfort wasn't traumatic for me (except for buying new expensive bras, Jesus). I never really considered trying to seriously be stylish while being unable to see my feet or having to go to the bathroom 12x a day.
posted by emjaybee at 7:56 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try Ticci Roccabilly on Etsy.
posted by CCCC at 8:22 PM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

emjaybee: Seconding the "old patterns on eBay idea. Even if you don't sew, it's fairly easy in most places to find a reasonably-priced seamstress, particularly if you are working from a pattern instead of a sketch. In most cases, if you're getting several garments made from the same pattern (in different fabrics, of course) with only minor variations in detail, it's cheaper than the same number of garments from different patterns as sewing the second, third and nth copy is much easier and faster than the first.

It seems to me that a the choice of whimsical prints or patterns for these retro patterns could be really handsome. A dear friend of mine when she was pregnant had made for her a A-line smock in a red and white heart print with a red collar and white button trim that she called her "Lucy Ricardo top" and it was adorable. Even if you chose to go with more sober fabric choices, the vintage crisp line of this kind of top I think is very charming.
posted by La Cieca at 8:31 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Motherhood Maternity has some cute dresses too, and they're pretty affordable. I like this one and this one, but they're a later fifties look. The materials the dresses are made of are listed, which helps to find non-jersey ones.

I have to agree with emjaybee - I've dealt with vintage for years, and only ever found one vintage maternity dress. It was a forties cocktail dress in taffeta. Otherwise housecoats and blouses and skirts or capris were what was worn and they were often homemade. This person seems to make adorable apron dresses, and may be able to customize, but they may be too twee for work. Think of what Betty Draper wore - spot on. So the thing about that is, there'd be very little to inspire reproductions. The dress you linked to is closer to an apron, pinafore or dirndle than an A-line, and all of those shapes depend on having a waistline. Full-skirted maternity dresses mean there's a lot of material to make flow in the later trimesters, which is why you see so much jersey these days - tailoring fabrics with body costs more. Even other retro fans with great advice have a hard time.

So, searching under empire waists gave some results, but if you get one good pattern (and I'd go for something forties/early fifties, because that's more the period of the dress you linked to) and find someone to run a few up for you? You might also check in with this blogger - Twila Jean. She has her finger on vintage fashions and has a very new baby. Lots of vintage sources advertise on her blog, and she might know which ones can accommodate a pregnancy. And congrats and good luck!
posted by peagood at 8:31 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I needed a vintage dress for a performance at 6+ months in, I ended up buying a nonmaternity 40's dress on ebay that was way too big for me and having it altered to fit the belly. Of course the alternations were more expensive than the dress, but even then it was cheaper than a lot of stuff out there...When I looked for similar styles to what your asking for I didn't have much luck, but nthing vintage patterns on ebay and maybe trying Shabby Apple.
posted by snowymorninblues at 8:37 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This isn't a kosher thread response, but, I love you all.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:48 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't sew much but with my last child in 1980 I made a couple of simple tent dresses out of lightweight cotton, he was born in July and the last few months were hot. Yeah if Motherhood Maternity is still around, they had some nice styles and are probably still current, I used to work there. They are affordable, I never had much money when I was pregnant so that was a plus. Also check nicer thrift stores, you never know what you might find. With my first born in 68 I had a navy wool winter A line dress with bright colored trim that I loved. Natural fabrics feel best, and comfort is really important. I hope you can find some styles you like too at a price you can afford and good luck with your baby.
posted by mermayd at 4:23 AM on July 15, 2012

Peter Lappin over at Male Pattern Boldness regularly sews vintage outfits for Cathy Lane, his fashion model "identical twin cousin." His most recent ensemble for her was maternity wear. Here are the relevant posts:

- Maternity Pattern Madness!
- Makeup, Maternity, Girdles and MORE!
- The Maternity Mix-Up
- MPB Shocker: Bizarre Maternity Smock - Baby Doll Pajama Link Revealed!
- SMOCK it to me!
- The Maternity Scoop-Front Skirt - Strange but true!
- Cathy Models the 1950's Maternity Ensemble!
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:45 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Taking my mentally disabled adult brother on a...   |   Reverse culture shock, a broken heart, and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.