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Maternity fashions in Regency England


“Poor woman! how can she honestly be breeding again?”
— Jane Austen, October 1 1808

late Georgian dress with bib front closure for easy breast feeding, one side opened Historical maternity fashions – did they exist at all? Did women just make do and rearrange their everyday clothes? Did they simply stay in bed? Here are some answers.

Up to the Middle ages dresses did not follow the female figure, and thus your shape under the clothes would not matter anyway, so there was no need for specialised maternity wear. When the dresses began to be shaped by seams at the sides and elsewhere, women obviously simply opened these seams again when they were pregnant to make their clothes “fit”. You can see this on many paintings of the pregnant Mother Mary.

It is not clear how long exactly this seam-opening was carried on, but during the Baroque period women began to wear loose dresses when pregnant, such as the so called “Adrienne”, a gown-like garment with no waist and lots of voluminous folds to cover the growing body. Although I did not find a portrait or other picture that shows a specifically pregnant woman wearing such a garment, there are lots of sources showing these robes, and they are also mentioned and expressly connected to pregnancy in letters.

Also recorded is the use of garments much like men’s waist coats, which

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