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The different types of maternity apparel include most articles of clothing that a woman would normally wear with adjustments to make room for expansion. Special tops, pants, and dresses to accommodate a woman's growth during pregnancy are the most common types of maternity apparel. Other varieties include special bras and stockings to make pregnancy more comfortable.
Maternity tops are uniquely cut to make room for a woman's stomach. Shirts, blouses, T-shirts, and tank tops are often cut longer in the front to completely cover the stomach, and wider in the bust area, than non-maternity tops. This type of maternity apparel may be loose or form fitting; a top often has small slits or folds of fabric on the sides so it can be worn comfortably and fashionably from the early stages of pregnancy to right before labor.
Maternity pants can include jeans, khakis, and slacks. Among the most popular styles are pants with a stretchy, fabric panel at the top that fits over the bottom of a woman's abdomen. For many women, this extra support is more comfortable during pregnancy, and pants with the panel tend to provide a more fitted look. Maternity pants may also come without a panel and are usually cut to rest underneath the belly. These pants usually have adjustable waists, thereby making it easier for women to wear this type of maternity apparel throughout their pregnancy.
Standard dresses, especially when worn late in pregnancy, often ride up in the front, making them look lopsided. As with tops, maternity dresses are typically cut longer in the front to make room for the stomach, thus providing a more even look. More form fitting dresses may have small pleating down the sides, allowing a woman to wear the dress late into her pregnancy without it becoming too short.
Pregnancy bras, another type of maternity apparel, are typically adjustable in both the cup and the band and more supportive than standard variants. Maternity bras often have longer bands with more hooks in the back, and the cups are usually made of stretchable fabric. The straps over the shoulders are often thick and supportive. As breasts tend to grow larger throughout pregnancy, these adjustments to a standard bra can make pregnancy, especially the final three months, much more comfortable. This can also limit the amount of bras a woman has to purchase during her pregnancy.
Support stockings specially designed for pregnant women can help to reduce swelling in the legs and feet while still being fashionable. A woman's body produces significantly more fluid during pregnancy than normal; when coupled with gravity, this often results in uncomfortably swollen feet, ankles, and legs. The support stockings fit underneath or on top of the stomach, and reinforced material helps to keep excess fluid from moving down the legs and accumulating.
If a pregnancy bra also doubles as a nursing bra, that's an even bigger plus. That way, the mom knows her bra fits and she can still use it if she's nursing.
Adjustable jeans are also a great purchase. Most of them have an elastic panel, and also have adjustable waistbands so the mom can wear them at any point during the pregnancy, and even after delivery. All she has to do is snap the waistband in the position where it fits.
I have also known women who benefited from a pregnancy girdle because they had a lot of back pain. The girdle seemed to help support their backs and really did ease a lot of pain for them.
I remember thumbing through the Penney's catalog when I was a kid and seeing all the maternity stuff. In those days, it was all polyester and very tent-like. We didn't use the term "baby bump," and certainly, no one showed off said bump! The pregnant belly was hidden under "trapeze" dresses, and if the mom wore slacks, a big top covered the belly.
Women who gripe about maternity wear these days should look at a 1975 Sears or Penney's catalog and see what was available for the well-dressed mom-to-be. Their attitudes about what's for sale now would surely change!
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