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Image / Editorial

I’m fat and pregnant, and finding maternity clothes is next to impossible


by IMAGE
21st Jan 2019
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Louise McSharry asks, why aren’t fat pregnant women afforded the opportunity to buy maternity clothes from the places they normally shop? 


I’m just over halfway through my second pregnancy, and things have started to get tight. You know the feeling you have when you get home from a long day and take off an uncomfortable bra? I’m having that with my whole body when I get into my pyjamas in the evening (or morning, or afternoon… basically the moment I enter my house.) The time has come for me to get into some maternity clothes.

The last time I wore them, it was the glorious summer of 2016, and I was in a phase of fully embracing oversized fashion. As a result, I didn’t buy much, opting to wear large, stretchy comfort shorts under large tent-y dresses. It was pretty great.

I have some big sloppy jumpers, but I need leggings for underneath (me and non-stretch fabric are on a break, so I have no interest in jeans)

This time, it’s January, and my needs are a little more complex. I can still wear my oversized dresses, but I need tights to go under them. I have some big sloppy jumpers, but I need leggings for underneath (me and non-stretch fabric are on a break, so I have no interest in jeans), and it would also be nice to have a few nice winter appropriate gunas for special occasions over the next few months. Unfortunately, actually acquiring these garments is difficult, if not impossible, because, my friends, I’m fat and pregnant.

Fat and pregnant

To be clear, I’m not fat because I’m pregnant, I was fat anyway, but now I’m pregnant too. I’m ok with that, and I use the term fat in a neutral fashion as it was intended. To me fat is a descriptor, like tall or short or petite.

Being fat, shopping is always more difficult for me than it is for thin women. I can’t go into Grafton Street and pick up something to wear, for example. Well, I might find something in Marks and Spencer, but that is literally my only option. If I want to buy clothes, I have to go online, because even the shops which have bothered to create plus size ranges can’t be bothered to put them in their actual stores. It’s frustrating. It means you have to plan well in advance for every occasion and can’t ever be spontaneous with fashion. It means you don’t get the experience of shopping in a store, or trying things on with pals. Having always worn plus sized clothes, I’m used to that, though.

Pregnancy is not a great time generally for fashion and style.

Fortunately what is available online has improved massively over the past decade. You do actually have choices these days. Unless you’re pregnant. Now, anyone who has bought maternity clothes will have a litany of complaints. They’ll tell you the clothes are uncomfortable, that they’re made of cheap material, that they don’t fit properly or that they’re only made for women whose shape only changes around their bump with the rest of their bodies remaining the same. Pregnancy is not a great time generally for fashion and style.

Not good enough

The difference between straight-sized women and women like me is that those women can at least go out and buy clothes that will physically go on their bodies, while we struggle to fulfill that basic task. I spoke about this on my Instagram stories earlier this week and lots of women got in touch with helpful suggestions.

H&M Maternity does XXL leggings and jeans up to a size 26. Yours Clothing have a plus sized maternity range online, and in their store in Tallaght. Next do some good basics and they go up to a size 26. Penneys’ maternity doesn’t strictly go beyond a 20 but the leggings are really stretchy! Just size up in ASOS Curve stuff!

All of this is helpful, given the status quo, but it’s also not good enough. Straight sized women are not expected to simply size up in clothes and hope for the best (although I know some do), because it’s nice to wear things that actually fit your body. They’re also not expected to entirely eschew their sense of style for the duration of their pregnancy in favour of wearing ‘basics’ from the two shops available to them, at a time when their body may already feel slightly alien to them.

Why doesn’t a brand like ASOS, which caters for style-conscious plus size women better than almost anyone else on the market at the moment, recognize that their fat customers get pregnant too

Why aren’t fat pregnant women afforded the opportunity to buy maternity clothes from the places they normally shop? Where is the logic behind H&M deciding that fat pregnant women can wear the jeans from their maternity range, but not any of the tops and dresses? Why doesn’t a brand like ASOS, which caters for style-conscious plus size women better than almost anyone else on the market at the moment, recognize that their fat customers get pregnant too, and expand their maternity sizing?

Fat women have always been neglected by the world of style and fashion, but things are improving. It would be nice if that improvement extended into maternity wear. In the meantime, I’ll be over here wearing leggings two sizes too big for me and looking enviously at the women buying cool bits from Zara Maternity.