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Hot mama! Pregnant women can still have style

Being pregnant doesn't have to mean hiding inside a muu-muu. Today there are several stores selling maternity fashions that are perfectly suited for the runway, the red carpet and real life.
/ Source: The Associated Press

When Angelina Jolie was expecting twins last year, she announced her pregnancy without saying a word. She simply walked one of Hollywood's red carpets in a slim-fitting black sheath that showed off a burgeoning baby bump beneath.

Gwen Stefani didn't miss a fashion beat when she was expecting her first child. The singer and clothing designer rocked an empire-waist, animal print gown from her own collection at the Grammy Awards that skimmed over her belly and put the spotlight on her toned arms and shoulders.

Nicole Richie even bared her bump in a green bikini when she was pregnant with daughter Harlow. Now expecting her second child, Richie is sticking with her hippie-chic style, sporting colorful maxidresses and Boho skirts paired with belly-hugging tanks.

These hip Hollywood moms are bold symbols of a trend that's grown like triplets in the third trimester: maternity fashions that are perfectly suited for the runway, the red carpet and real life.

Fashion revolution for stylish moms
Two decades ago, "there was little in the way of fashion and maternity," says Rebecca Matthias, president and chief creative officer of A Pea in the Pod. "It was kind of an oxymoron: maternity fashion."

But that was then. Today, pregnant women can wear the same sleek business suits, designer jeans, flirty dresses and trendy tops their non-pregnant pals are wearing. Thank the women's movement — and stretch fabrics — for the shift.

"It was a sociological change that led to a fashion revolution," Matthias says. "Women had to dress nice when they were pregnant. They could afford to, and they were probably earning their own money."

That's what led Matthias to the maternity marketplace. She was a working professional when she got pregnant and she couldn't find business clothes that would accommodate her growing belly. Her company, which includes A Pea in the Pod, Destination Maternity and Motherhood Maternity stores, now dresses more than three million moms-to-be each year.

For spring and summer, tiered ruffle tops, boho-inspired blouses, fitted dresses and floral bikinis are among the anticipated trends.

The company's new luxe line, A Pea in the Pod Collection, has A-list fans such as Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba. It offers elegant silk gowns, bejeweled tanks and jeans from True Religion and 7 for All Mankind — lust-worthy pieces whether you're pregnant or not.

"It lets you dress as fabulously as you did before you were pregnant," Matthias says.

Show your pregnancy
Liz Lange, who designs both high-end maternity wear and a line for Target, relies on stretch fabrics to create flattering silhouettes. As a young designer, she saw her pregnant friends trying to squeeze into non-maternity dresses rather than wear the oversized attire that was de rigueur at the time. They immediately looked thinner, which Lange says inspired her "a-ha moment."

"It may seem like the opposite is true, but when you wear something fitted, close to the body, it is so much more flattering," she says. "It shows you have some new curves, but also where you don't."

Lange credits stars with bringing show-your-pregnancy style to the fore.

"It really has gone from hiding your pregnancy to wearing clothes that celebrate it," she says. "When you see all the coverage of these fabulous looking celebrities and they look so good in their fitted clothing, completely keeping their sense of style, it's very, very influential. Other women want to look like that too. They realize it looks great and it looks sexy."

Her line's spring offerings include maxidresses, off-the-shoulder floral tops, breezy tunics, slim cigarette pants and pencil skirts.

Lange and Matthias say the recent Hollywood baby boom isn't a boom at all. It's really nothing more than celebrities finally having stylish, camera-ready maternity clothes.

"When celebrities stopped hiding their pregnancies, all the sudden there was this `baby boom,'" Matthias says. "There wasn't any difference in the number of celebrities getting pregnant, but they were willing to be photographed and look great."

Ten years ago, you'd never see a pregnant star on the red carpet, Lange says, "and if you did, you certainly weren't interested in what they were wearing."

The muu-muu is gone
Of course, celebrities are known for their enviable figures — before, during and after pregnancy — but even those without such buff bodies benefit from today's fitted maternity styles.

"Today, people stay healthy and in shape while pregnant," Matthias says. "Why not show your body off a little bit? These are young women in the prime of their lives."

Find fashions that flaunt your best features. Choose a tank top to reveal toned arms. Let legs take center stage in an above-the-knee skirt or tight leggings topped with a tunic.

"Look for a slim cut," Matthias says. "The muu-muu is gone, thank goodness."

How trendy is maternity wear these days? Even "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano is dabbling in designs with his Fierce Mamas for Moody Mamas collection, which includes jersey dresses, party frocks in silk charmeuse and a cropped linen bolero jacket.

"The Hollywood mom has built the entire maternity world," Siriano says. "They made it OK for women to dress stylish and still be yourself when you're pregnant."