My husband and I are thrilled that we are expecting a new addition to our family in April of 2023! At the time of this writing, I am currently 23 weeks along, and I am getting to that point where I really need some better fitting clothes!
Ever since I began sewing my own hand made wardrobe, it has become increasingly difficult to stomach the idea of buying modern, conventional clothes. Especially maternity clothes. So it's time to plan a hand-made maternity wardrobe!
Join me, will you?
In this article, I will share with you:
My unique take, as a mother of four (soon to be five) on why I prefer hand made historical or vintage maternity clothes over modern maternity clothing.
A confession about how this pregnancy so far feels very different from my last in terms of what I want to wear. (hint: it has to do with my maternity stays!)
I will then take you on a "tour" of my pattern stash and closet to see what is currently working for my body, what isn't, and what I may need to get cracking on making more of.
We will go "shopping" together as I buy some fabric and patterns (or draft one!) to make some maternity basics.
Showing you the exciting process of fitting a mock-up for a reproduction of a GORGEOUS Regency dress.
So let's jump into it!
The Story of Four
As a mother of four, it has been very interesting to witness my own personal evolutions of how I like to dress during pregnancy. Let's break it down quickly!
In my first pregnancy, I was your typical first time mom. Super excited to be pregnant, and wanting to showcase my "baby bump" to the world. I wore lots of modern maternity clothes which, especially back 9 years ago, were all about showcasing the baby bump. Perfect for me at the time! I also wore some oversized thrifted clothing with a more bohemian vibe.
In my second pregnancy, I wore a mixture of maternity clothing, thrifted clothing, and a few "vintage-esque" dresses from April Cornell, one of my favourite sources for buying classy, pregnancy-friendly dresses.
My third pregnancy was much the same, but with a few hand-made items as well. I was just beginning to sew my own clothing at this time!
During my fourth pregnancy in 2020, I was just starting my blog and Youtube channel. Understandably, I was very excited about sewing a fully hand-made, historically-inspired maternity wardrobe! I especially loved my 18th century maternity stays, and made an 18th century wardrobe to match it, including a jacket and an 18th century pleated skirt. I also had a couple vintage inspired dresses and a couple Regency dresses.
This pregnancy so far . . .
This has been the busiest season of my life so far, and as of right now I am only just starting to prioritize time for sewing myself new maternity items. I have also felt more drawn towards a looser, more flowy wardrobe, and have been wearing bras on most days as opposed to my 18th century maternity stays. Since discovering the magic of vintage bras, I am able to get more of a flattering shape from my own hand made bras than the modern bras I have purchased in the past.
As of this writing, I have fallen in love with my 1790's stays, because they are actually perfect for pregnancy! Soft, short, and comfy, but they give great posture support with their shoulder straps, and yet don't cover my belly at all.
Modern Vs. Historical Maternity?
I don't like modern maternity clothing. There, I said it! When I think of modern maternity clothing, I think of skin tight dresses or shirts, that cinch in all around the baby bump, show-casing it, and as I have heard aptly pointed out, look somewhat like "sausage casings". Don't get me wrong. I think the pregnant figure is gorgeous, and I think pregnant women who choose to wear this type of clothing look beautiful! However, it's just currently not for me. Not to mention the horror of belly bands. Give me a loose, classy, woven fabric dress any day over modern stretch maternity clothing!
That being said, in all fairness I have seen an uptick in recent years of more classy, elegant, and vintage inspired maternity clothing on the market, and that is wonderful!
So why do I personally prefer historical and vintage maternity clothing to the modern stuff? Of course, there are a variety of factors, but the main one for me is that modern maternity clothing essentially strips away one's sense of privacy.
Think of it - if I went out on the street today, at 20-something weeks, wearing a modern stretch skin-tight maternity garment, everyone who saw me, down to perfect strangers, would a) know 100% that I am pregnant, and b) be able to give a fairly accurate guess at how far along I am in said pregnancy!
Having been through a few pregnancies by now, the thing I value most is privacy and having my own personal "bubble" when it comes to others' opinions about my pregnancy, body size, family size, or whatever! Historical and vintage maternity clothing helps me achieve this sense of privacy through shielding my body from such direct scrutiny. How does it achieve this?
Mainly due to the difference in fabric! Historically up until quite recently, all fabric used for clothing was woven and non-stretchy. Now a days, it is very difficult to find non-stretchy maternity clothing. Stretchy fabric clings to and showcases the curves of the body more, whereas woven fabric clothing, especially if it is loose and roomy, streamlines the body and camouflages curves. Again - I LOVE pregnant bellies. They are beautiful. But for me, when it comes to what I choose to present to the outside world, I prefer more privacy.
During the first half of pregnancy especially, this essentially means that to the average on-looker who doesn't know me, I likely just look like I have gained some weight, but do not look definitively pregnant. I appreciate this privacy, especially in those early months when I am going through so many physical and emotional adjustments myself. The last thing I need are the opinions and thoughts of strangers and loose acquaintances thrown into the mix!
One more thing that I appreciate about historical "maternity" clothing, is that there was actually no such thing as maternity clothing! Since clothing was all painstakingly hand-made, and women were on average having several pregnancies during their fertile years, this meant that clothing needed to work both for pregnancy and non-pregnancy. A perfect example of this is the Regency and 18th Century periods of fashion. Regency dresses were all inherently suitable for pregnancy with their empire waists, while 18th Century clothing was all adjustable through lacing and ties.
Closet and Pattern Stash "Tour"
For sake of simplicity, I will focus on the few items of hand-made clothing that are currently still working for my body, before we discuss my plans for future garments to make.
18th Century Maternity Stays
I loved wearing these during the latter half of my previous pregnancy. Here are articles on how I made them and why I like them so much. In this pregnancy so far, they are still too big for me currently, and I am mostly preferring either vintage bras or my 1790's stays. However, my 18th century maternity stays are in my closet "on stand-by" if I want the extra back support.
18th Century Jacket
I loved my 18th century jacket in my last pregnancy. However, my orange jacket is now a bit on the worn-out side (I have since made another version), and I don't think it looks as nice when I am not wearing stays underneath. However, this jacket is great for pregnancy because of its winged sleeve cuffs, which help to visually balance the pregnant figure.
Regency dresses are so comfy, and ideal for pregnancy and often nursing as well.
I made a couple "Regency summer dresses" in my last pregnancy, and they are still useable to this day. Now a days, I am feeling drawn towards creating a more complex, period-accurate Regency dress. More on that below.
I made a lacy Edwardian blouse during my last pregnancy, and still love it now. It is elegant, helps balance the pregnant figure, and is loose and comfortable. I have a few other shirts that are of a similar fit, but the only problem is that I am in need of skirts to wear with them. More on that below!
1950's shirt dress
I saved the best for last. My 1950's "maternity" shirt dress was arguably the best make of my last pregnancy. Why is that? Because of its versatility! It fit me right up until the end of my pregnancy, and has continued to fit during the 2 years after that pregnancy, even when I had lost all of the "baby weight." What's the secret?
First of all, its timeless and elegant "fit and flare" silhouette is flattering for pregnancy and non-pregnancy alike. Secondly, it has A LOT of extra room in the waist, and tons of pleating in the skirt, so it could fit even if I was pregnant with three babies. However, what's cool about it is its ability to be neatly cinched in at the waist with a belt when I am not pregnant, looking very chic and elegant! So good! This particular dress has seen a lot of wear and tear and much mending, and it's definitely on my "to-do" list to make a new one. I'm thinking a dark gray would be nice!
So let's get down to the nitty gritty!
Planning Patterns and Fabrics
Exactly what garments am I planning on making, and what fabric or patterns did I end up ordering?
1) Regency dress
Preferably two. I love Regency dresses, and they are really appealing to me in this pregnancy. I want to make at least one, but preferable two in different colours, especially since it will work well into the postpartum too!
2) 18th century pleated skirt
At least one. I am in dire need of skirts to wear with all of my still-fitting shirts. I have a couple that are working in a pinch, but the 18th century pleated skirts are perfect because they have a hugely adjustable waist, making them perfect for pregnancy and postpartum!
3) 1950's maternity shirt dress
I absolutely need a replica of this adored dress, especially because my first one has nearly expired *sigh*. I know this dress will work for me even when I am at my normal post pregnancy size as well. I am thinking a nice dark grey linen would be perfect.
What Did I Buy?
I ended up ordering enough emerald green linen to make a Regency dress with, as well as enough dark blue linen to make an 18th century petticoat. I also have a large amount of white and blue pin-striped cotton that I originally bought for a non-pregnancy 1954 reproduction dress. I haven't decided if I will save it for that or if I should use it for a pregnancy garment. We shall see!
After much searching of the internet, I decided to order a PDF Regency dress pattern package from Sense and Sensibility Patterns. I love her and her patterns, it was affordable, and convenient. It's funny, I ordered this because I had been telling myself I was too busy to draft my own patterns. However, after ordering, I ended up drafting my own Regency dress pattern from scratch anyway. I guess I really do love pattern drafting! More on that . . . now!
Regency Dress Drafting and Mock-Up
I decided to self draft a custom fit version of a dress I loved from "Patterns of Fashion 1" with a fall-front, and removable long sleeves. Rather than manually scaling up the pattern and then adjusting to my own measurements, I simply used my bodice blocks to draft pattern pieces that match the approximate shape and size of the pattern book ones. Except they fit my individual figure!
After extensive experimentation and "tissue fitting" of the paper pattern, I proceeded to the mock-up stage. The mock-up turned out quite well! There were a few changes that needed to be made, mainly to the sleeves, as well as lowering the back neckline a tad.
At the time of this writing, I am powering through the sewing of this dress so it will hopefully be done in time for Christmas! I am sewing it in a lovely forest/emerald green.
There will be plenty of future articles on the sewing of my maternity capsule wardrobe, including (hopefully) a light blue duplicate version of this Regency dress!
I hope you enjoyed joining me on this journey! Stay tuned for future articles on how I will be actually sewing these maternity garments! So for now, my concrete plans are to (hopefully) complete a lovely forest green maternity Regency dress in time for Christmas, as well as a dark blue 18th century pleated skirt, and another 1950's maternity shirt dress.
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Finally, I have an exciting announcement, related to my Youtube channel! I have just recently set up a Youtube membership. If you hadn’t heard, Youtube membership is a way to personally support your favourite content creators, in exchange for exclusive content.
So, for my membership program, you will receive:
For the first tier of support: 24 hours of early, ad-free access to my newest video releases, as well as an exclusive chat group, and at least two exclusive insider posts per month.
For the second tier of support, you will additionally have access to a monthly exclusive livestream with me where I will personally answer any of your questions about sewing, hair care, or anything in between. Most excitingly, you will have a sway on future video topics! Please consider joining as if enough of you do, it would significantly help support me, this channel, and my family, so I can continue producing content for you as a busy mama.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on maternity clothing, whether or not you are a mom. Do you love vintage maternity clothes, or prefer the modern stuff? Have you ever sewn maternity clothes for yourself or someone you love?
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