Saturday, June 26, 2004

Defining Femininty via Maternity Wear

Against maternity clothes by Sarah Madsen Hardy explores the maternity dressing experience, which can be fairly horrendous. This is a subject near and dear to my heart at the moment, considering I am just about to enter month 7 of my pregnancy, and that I spent hours at the Mall of America a few days ago shopping for my second round of maternity gear: they say stuff will fit you through your whole nine months, but from friends and books I have learned this is not true. Five maternity stores or sections under one roof, and I had a hard time finding things that fit right and didn't offend my sense of style, which Masden Hardy notes, is linked with our sense of self. She writes:

Clothes give us our public identity. This is especially true for women, who are more intensely scrutinized by men and women alike. Our clothes have a big job — they moderate between our naked selves and an often hostile public. In the store that day, however, applying my own exhaustively arbitrated principles of style was out of the question. Judging from the racks of clothes in front of me, I was being welcomed into the ranks of the gentle, the sweet, the profoundly uncomplex.

Insulting in principle, this struck me as more egregious because the experience of pregnancy had, in fact, made me less gentle and sweet and certainly more complex.

It's hard to argue with the fact that a pregnant woman is quintessentially feminine. The scary thing is how these clothes defined femininity. They gently communicated a new set of rules: Even though a pregnant woman is uniquely potent, she should not look strong. Even though she is tangibly more than she was before, she should look simple. Even though she is fulfilling a biologically mature function — and a sexual one — she should look childlike.

More contradictions for women. Joy. Just what we need. Of course, the frilly pink fashions of this spring and some of the more girly-girl summer trends are ensuring that, generally, maternity clothing is frothier, frillier, and sillier than before.

- posted by laurie @ 6/26/2004 07:20:00 AM
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