Modesty in Maternity Clothing

Mother and child silhouette

Modesty is classic for all seasons, including maternity. Expectant mothers who find modest choices with skirts that are long enough and necklines that are high enough will help the rest of us to not be nervous about their inadvertently showing more than they intended. Modest clothing is a courtesy not only to yourself, but also to others around you.

A Fashion Belle website visitor joined our discussion of modesty in maternity clothing in July 2013, around the time Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, had made fashion news for her maternity wear selections prior to the birth of Prince George. The discussion has been lightly edited for readability. The visitor wrote, "A question regarding modesty and maternity wear: the most notable thing about pregnancy of course is the belly. The question is, from the perspective of modesty, what ought we to do with that? How much 'baby bump' can be shown? It seems that in the past to some extent pregnancy was viewed as unbecoming/unseemly and that 'baby bumps' were considered vulgar. Much of maternity wear seemed to be intended to hide pregnancy or at least play it down/de-emphasize it (also in Queen Elizabeth's age and later on). Pregnancy and baby bumps seem to not have been seen as natural, normal and attractive until more recently. My personal opinion is that they actually are natural and normal, as well as very beautiful and attractive. They are part of being female and carry a great lot of femininity in them. I do not believe that hiding away or playing down pregnancy is required for modesty. Some of the stuff out there, supertight and overly form-fitting, flaunting and immodest stuff I think are obviously no good. But it would seem to me that big ole tents and frumpy clothes are not required for maternity either. In terms of fit, the same rules should, I think, apply for 'baby bump' time as under normal circumstances. There is probably a balance/happy medium between supertight and hide-away tent. . . . What is your opinion on 'fit' around pregnant bellies? How much 'maternity' can show and what is required for modesty?"

Fashion Belle replied, "You bring up several excellent points, that maternity styles have changed since the time of Queen Elizabeth II. What has been culturally considered modest coverage for maternity clothing has changed throughout the centuries in different nations, with some societies showing off the shape and others going to every effort to conceal it, even insisting that women stay out of the public during late stages of pregnancy. In modern European and Western cultures, the pregnant shape is celebrated. Today's modest woman may have difficulty knowing where to set her standards, since most maternity clothing available at retail is tighter and lower cut around the bust than even regular clothing. For tops, woven fabric naturally conceals the shape better than knit. Trendy maternity tops made from woven fabric that is non-transparent may be difficult to find. Sewing your own tops may be one solution. Shopping among plus sized clothing, something that Kate Middleton has done during her pregnancy, is another option. In the end, pregnancy is designed by God to be a joyful occasion. Standards of modesty that apply for all women also extend to maternity wear, that is making sure the clothing is long enough, thick enough and loose enough to be appropriate and put people around us at ease. Over the years of reading literature from many different authors about modesty in women's clothing, my personal favorite remains the Modest Clothing Bible Study available on the Fashion Belle website thanks to generous permission from the copyright holder. I would encourage you to take time to read through this study for thoughts that may contribute more specific answers to your questions."

Another visitor, "Rose from Texas," added the following comment, "Thank you for this post. My husband and I have friends from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were surprised recently to learn that they recently had a baby. It turns out that announcing a pregnancy, and/or wearing pregnancy-revealing clothing, is not a culturally acceptable practice in DRC. This is because perinatal and neonatal survival in their home culture is less sure than in developed countries. According to the World Health Organization, the DRC has among the highest rates--16.7%--of pre-term labor. Problems leading to death include lack of prenatal care, low birthweight/prematurity, breech presentation, asphyxia, and infection. So, some cultures have reasons for modesty that have less to do with attitudes toward the female form and more to do with protecting the privacy of families who are not sure about the outcome of their pregnancies."

Mother and child silhouette courtesy of Open Clip Art