Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Maternity Dresses

I have dresses on my mind this morning.  More specifically maternity dresses.  Sewing them.  Buying them.  And especially shopping for them.  Because to be honest... I usually dread shopping for them.

I've sewed two maternity dresses so far, with fabric that I ordered online when it was on clearance that I didn't end up liking for snoods, and I was wondering if I could keep designing a new maternity dress each week throughout the pregnancy.  Maybe I could sell dresses, I say to myself as I sew, before asking when exactly I would have time for that little venture.

I have a strategy that worked pretty well for my newly sewed favorite-dress-in-the-whole-world (which I desperately need to wash and then take a picture of since I walked nearly eight miles yesterday pushing a huge double stroller while wearing it, in heat that rose to 80-something humid degrees by the time we arrived at home!).

For those who are interested and like to sew, this paragraph is for you:  I took a pattern that I liked and cut out the top portion of the dress.  Then I cut the fabric of the dress off a few inches above the waist.  I took the remaining fabric and made a super wide strip (sewed into a circle) and gathered the top.  Then I fitted the skirt to the short, sewed together top.  It took a couple tries of gradually attaching the skirt at a higher level on the top before I found the perfect maternity fit (there was enough fabric that I could flip the dress inside out and just sew a new seam a bit higher up until it was absolutely perfect).

My newly sewn dress, however, is not the dress I was thinking of when I began this post.  In the past I've lamented the dresses that have been available throughout my pregnancies.  Finding a dress for a funeral when I was pregnant was pretty much impossible (salesgirl to me:  "Oh we don't have anything below the knee here!")  I ended up wearing a cover up from Old Navy with a huge sweater.

Yesterday however, at the midway point in our walk (my walking buddy and I have found Target to be the perfect place to turn around!) I paused in the maternity section of Target and saw a maternity dress that I could not live without.  At least that was how it felt at the moment with a major momentary lapse of self control.

I held it up.  It was navy blue with cute little white stripes.  It was a comfy knit fabric, and it was gathered at the bottom with elastic and buttons, so that it had a little runching at calf level.  And it was a large.  I'm not a large now, but my  bigger than average pregnancy bumps make it hard to find even maternity clothes that fit by the third trimester, and this dress looked like it would have room to grow.  And didn't I just sell something?  Didn't that deserve a dress (the actual answer is "no, no it did not..." but sometimes reality doesn't overcome my pregnancy logic).

One dress?  I asked myself.  What's the harm in buying one maternity outfit for an entire pregnancy?  Besides, I could figure out how to do the runching at the bottom and then I could make my own!

Two hours later I was staring in the mirror with an internal debate battling it out in my head.  Trying on the dress with the giant stroller, Sadie and Mae had been pretty much out of the question.  And it had looked so very big in the store.

But that runching.  It sucked the dress in.  Half the fabric just draped in front of me.  The other half was clinging to every curve, no matter how I tugged or adjusted.  The dress made my baby bump look very cute.  But it left nothing to the imagination.  With the super stretchy fabric, I was sure it would fit me now and in 50lbs.  I was also sure I would want to wear it less and less as my bump grew and that I would never be comfortable wearing it out of the house.  And frankly, that level of clinging, felt more than just immodest.  After years of wearing dresses where I can actually move my legs to walk, the dress was downright uncomfortable.  I put it back in the bag with the receipt and sighed.

We returned to the store with Paul.  This time Sadie came with me into the dressing room, along with three dresses.  I tried on the first one, which I'd kind of liked on the hanger.  "That one works!"  Sadie said.  "I like that one!"  It was true.  This one had a tiny bit of elastic gathering around the waist, but not the massive amounts of elastic on the back side which made the blue dress unbearable.

We gave dress number two a try.  I had grabbed this dress because I liked the fabric, but I really didn't think it was very pretty.  "That one is so pretty!"  Sadie said.  "Can you curtsey?  Are you curtseying?" Sadie was right again.  This dress looked barely bearable on the hanger, but was the prettiest of the bunch when I put it on.

Now it was time for dress number three.  The dress that I'd thought was beautiful on the rack.  I tried it on and Sadie and I both looked in the mirror.  "Not that one."  She told me.  "That one doesn't work."  And it was true.  It didn't work at all.  While it looked like the loosest of the dresses off of my body, the sheer fabric was practically nonexistent when I tried it on.

This time the decision was easy.  And I was impressed with the selection of Maxi-Dresses available at Target at the moment... with one exception that Paul is now tired of hearing about.  So I'll share it here.

Why are they so long?!?!?  I am 5'5".  I don't think that's short.  I don't think that a small dress should go five inches past my feet.  That means that it would touch the floor on someone 5'10" and fit someone who's what... six feet tall?  Most women are not six feet tall!  I understand having "tall" dresses" (like how they have short, regular and tall jeans) but making certain that 95% of your customers will have to take their dresses to be hemmed (or hem them themselves) seems a little silly.  Or are they supposed to drag on the ground?  Because if they are that's just ridiculous!  

End "why do they make these dresses so long" rant.

Anyways... those are my thoughts on maternity clothing at the moment.  At least there are long dresses this season.  2009-2010 was not a fun time to be pregnant with maternity wear.  Maybe stores have figured out that most pregnant women don't want to wear mini skirts?  Do I dare hope they've discovered that insight?  Probably not.  Oh well.  Stock up on maxi-dresses while you can!


  1. The super short maternity dresses are the worst! Last summer I had to go to my cousin's wedding and I was shocked at how hard it was to find a dress that at least went to my knees. I wound up finding a nice black wrap dress at JC Penney on clearance that worked out. I tried in vain to find something at Motherhood and it was a disaster. The sales girl kept trying to convince me to go with these horrid low cut super short dresses. With one particular dress I remarked that it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't see through and she starts going on about how it's so sexy to see through a dress and see where my legs are. Ewww! She didn't like it when I told her that anyone who wanted to gawk at a woman who is 7 months pregnant in that way has some serious issues.

  2. Just had this conversation with a friend of mine.

    Since I was pregs months 7, 8, and 9 through the summer, I lived in bohemian skirts and tank tops. They've got the super stretch elastic waistband and the maternity tanks fit nicely over my extra 50 lbs (Vince was a 9-lber, too).

    Good luck!

    Oh, and about the long dresses - highly irritating to someone who is also 5'5". I always thought I was average height, but it seems I'm always having to hem stuff. Humpf!

    Good luck!!!

  3. Sounds like you've got a great shopping consultant. I'm with you on the maxi dresses (except now I don't look good in them anyway. When I did look ok in them they puddled on the ground for miles. I think they were designed with my sister-in-law in mind. 6 feed and weighs 120 lb. If only...

  4. I wanted to check out the dresses you were talking about from Target, so I went to their site this morning. First picture on the maternity page answers your question ... you're "supposed" to be wearing 5" wedge sandals with these dresses! ;-)

  5. Hi Cam!

    Congratulations on your pregnancy. May you have a peaceful and healthy 9 months!

    Here are some links to affordable, modest maternity wear. Hope this is helpful!

  6. I bought two maternity dresses from target (I'm 28 weeks) and I'm 5'7" and they are still long on me!!! I will probably just deal with it and hem them at 35 weeks or so if the growing belly doesn't make them shorter. I have a long skirt from Gap maternity that I love, so that might also be an option for you. Even with the maxi dresses I end up having to add a modesty shrug. I wish someone would make a one piece maternity maxi dress that wasn't inappropriate in one way or another.

    -alicewyf from CAF

  7. I found this tutorial, looks very promising:

  8. I was fortunate to find a really good dress that was just an extra-large one during my pregnancy. And it's a universal truth I've found: that you can never know how good something looks if you just view it on the hanger.

  9. I have a similar rant about Maternity skirts. NO ONE sells maternity jean skirts that are long. It's hard enough finding one that goes past your knee, let alone down to your ankles. I don't get it! At my height, 5' 3", I should NOT have an issue finding a skirt that goes past my knee (jean or otherwise).

    So why is it that the dresses are too long, and the skirts are too short?

  10. As I'm all of 5'2", maxi dresses and I really do not get along. Aside from the fact that most aren't very fitted, which make them a stupid choice for, there's generally enough fabric there for me to turn into an extra skirt. Hmmmm. Come to think of it, I might be onto something...:D

    Is it asking so much to find summer dresses (or shirts and skirts, for that matter) that are fitted but not skin-tight, not cut so low that anyone larger than an A cup is in danger of a serious wardrobe malfunction if she takes a deep breath, and not so short that taking a normal step might lead to a rendition of that famous European playground chant?


    Sigh. I thought so.

  11. Last year my teen and I had to laugh at all the maternity "skinny jeans." Even my 14 year-old had enough sense to know most women aren't comfy in those.

    They don't make clothes for regular women. I'm five feet tall and... well, built like Dolly Parton. I need to learn to sew to buy clothes that fit my Girls but I can alter so they are dragging the ground by that time or showing too much cleavage!

  12. You just made my day with your "Why are they so long rant" I'm 5'11 and you bet I'll be going to Target to look at their Maternity Maxi dresses since I'm 15 weeks and definitely starting to show sooner this time.

    I often say to my short friends (and I'd put you in the category at 5'5) that it is very easy to hem something to make it shorter but it is nigh on impossible to make anything longer.


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