In M’s recent Mom Street Style post, our reader Julia discussed the practicality of shopping with her growing bump in mind in the non-maternity sections of her favorite stores, and she looks fantastic. Price is one consideration for Julia (and other readers chimed in to echo Julia’s sentiment) when considering maternity vs. non-maternity lines, giving rise to the sensible question: Why are maternity lines often priced noticeably higher than non-maternity contemporary women’s clothing?
Stephanie Moore, the owner of Becoming Mothers in Boulder, CO (a shop that S adores) and a virtual expert on the topic, was kind enough to contact us and provide some answers.
The most direct answer to the question of price is this: unlike most lines from big box stores and large retailers, many of the smaller companies specializing in the maternity market manufacture their clothes in the United States.
In contrast, many contemporary lines are manufactured in third-world countries. For example, Stephanie spoke with Armon, a manufacturer in California, who pays his sewers minimum wage and provides benefits. While he’d love to keep his business in the United States, the reality is that sewers overseas would earn $1-1.50 per day and wouldn’t be given benefits. Simple math creates a reality where products manufactured in the United States (or other developed countries) have to cost more in order to cover the expense of maintaining an operation domestically.
Things get less simple when considering the ethics of our shopping choices. Not so long ago M discussed the human costs that are paid by workers who create our fashions in order to produce a product that has a low price tag. These unseen but very real consequences of our quantity-over-quality culture should certainly play some role in our maternity wardrobe selections as we make choices that accommodate our budget and our conscience.
Skinny Cargo Pants by Maternal America– around $50 on various sites
Aside from the economics and ethics of where the clothes are made, the of size and proportion of quality maternity designs must be taken into account. Like Julia, due to both budget constraints and style preferences I chose my maternity wear carefully and fleshed out my wardrobe with my ‘normal’ clothes. But there came a point where this grew less practical. And by less practical I mean nothing cut for a non-pregnant woman would fit over my body in a comfortable, flattering way. I got bigger. And bigger. And while cardigans or accessories could stretch into the larger stages of my third trimester, maternity wear became a necessity because nothing else (perhaps a sheet? a tent?) would cover my bump in the front and some of the lumps I grew in the back.
The maternity-wear I splurged on out of necessity, especially jeans, leggings and camis, made me feel better about my growing form. The fit was flattering and the comfort was addictive. Perhaps most importantly, these items all came in handy while my post-partum, nursing body recovered and morphed in the weeks following Vesper’s birth. Of speciality maternity lines Stephanie says, “The designers of the lines are trying hard to create styles that work “both ways” (pregnancy and nursing). The designers are sourcing fabrics that will expand with the pregnant figure and truly, “bounce back” when she is no longer pregnant. Yes, one can wear bigger clothes when pregnant but the proportions of contemporary styles don’t compliment the fully pregnant physique.”
Woven tunic Lagoon by Noppies- €70
Which brings me to the final consideration (and a cornerstone of ANMJ philosophy): CPW, or cost per wear. When I was pondering the need vs. want of quality maternity clothes (and before I had Stephanie’s wisdom to guide me) I always felt trapped by the fact that my pregnancy would eventually end. And imagining my carefully chosen third-trimester wardrobe packed in boxes for a while (possibly forever, because mamas I am tired with one so what would it feel like with TWO!?) made me cringe. But the truth is that because my pregnancy closet was so limited, I really did stretch my dollars when considering CPW. I had two pairs of jeans and one pair of cords that I rotated exclusively. I had 3-4 t-shirts and several camis that fleshed out every single outfit. While the time you will wear these pieces might be limited, the number of times you’ll wear them in an average week will likely be much more than the average staple in your bumpless wardrobe.
And, for those mamas who have or want more than one little bundle of sleepless nights, you can carefully choose your maternity wardrobe (and choose to splurge on certain staples) to assure their use in subsequent pregnancies. And whether you’re done procreating or are simply on hiatus, consider how CPW is affected if you lend your maternity wear to friends who are expecting. Well crafted, well cared for clothes can be passed around between mama friends as needed to help us all feel and look our best as our bodies do crazy, amazing, expansive things.
So there you have it mamas. As we all seek the easiest, most practical way to dress the various shapes of motherhood, information is power. ENJOY the time you have dressing your bump and open your mind to the idea of opening your wallet for a few carefully chosen, domestically manufactured, well-deserved maternity pieces!
Want to read more from Lane? Check her out here….and psst – she’s now in Japan!