I’ve spent the morning in floods of tears.
Not because something horrendously bad has happened.
Not because ‘just hormones’.
Because the way my body has changed during pregnancy doesn’t fit society’s norm.
All my daughter wanted to do this weekend was go swimming, which is a nice easy request, not something that requires much, if any, effort. I shaved my legs yesterday anyway. She wants to show me that she can now go right underwater and touch the floor, like she learnt in her lessons this week. And I desperately want to see it! But I can’t go swimming with her, because no matter how hard I search I cannot find a swimsuit that offers a big cup size, support, fits a growing bump, and is, to some level, stylish. It doesn’t exist. Especially not in my price range. So I didn’t get to go swimming with her today. (This also puts our plan for a spa day before baby comes firmly in the bin.)
It’s not just swimwear, it’s all maternity wear. Pregnancy is for most of us the one time in our lives our bodies change in unrecognisable ways, it’s not an easy thing for anybody to experience. We watch our bodies stretch and grow and scar and swell and we have no say over how it happens. Carrying a life is, of course, incredible and special, but we are not just a baby carrier. Despite what certain right wing politicians will have you believe, we are more that just ‘hosts’. Nine months is a long time, why should we be forced to feel less than who we are during that time? Why should we be forced to feel fat and ugly and rejected?
Yet browse through any maternity section and you’ll suddenly believe that all women remain a size 6, with at most C-cup boobs and not an ounce of fat on their bodies. Yes, some women do get that lucky. Some women work their arses off to keep their bodies tight and everything vaguely where it should be. But more women don’t have the time, energy, or ability to do that. More women are so exhausted, physically sick, medically banned from heavy exercise, or just so filled with aches and pains that nipping down the gym at 6am every day just isn’t possible. And some women just gain weight in pregnancy, that’s how life is. But how life is isn’t what us accepted by the media, look this way or be wrong. That’s how it works.
I understand the use of a prosthetic bump for maternity shoots, and companies love to shout this at you if you ever complain about the lack of diversity on their pages. Pregnant models have a sell-by date, and fashion shoots are long, as ASOS have told me at least four times now, model welfare is important to them. But if a prosthetic bump, why not add some boobs? Or why not use a plethora of models, we know they have plus size models, they use them for their Curve range, stick a couple of them on there maybe? Model welfare is important, but so is customer welfare. At least Topshop don’t use models…doesn’t mean their clothes actually fit though.
Personally I haven’t put much weight on, a little around my thighs, a little around my hips. And obviously the bump. Nothing too terrifying and I know I’ve been lucky. I do however grow tits bigger than Piers Morgan’s head. And end up covered in stretch marks. You win some, you lose some! Or gain some…
Yesterday I had to buy the world’s most ugly bras. I was measured a few weeks ago and there was one bra in the entire shop that fit me. A 36E, not that large in the scheme of things. I didn’t buy it then because it was designed for your gran and did absolutely nothing for my self esteem. But I couldn’t find anything else, so I had to give in and go back.
I want to walk into the office of whoever designs DD+ (what a fucking stupid category) bras and show them photos of me sat hunched on my bed, crying, because once again I’m having to wear underwear designed for a 70 year old. At 26.
I want to shake maternity designers everywhere who design underwear, swimwear, and tops to stop at DD.
The use of restrictive materials, sizings that make no sense (‘shop the same size you usually do!’), cuts that don’t flatter the body shape pregnancy introduces, and inexplicably always a saggy fanny on jeans! Every pregnant body is different, every body is different. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse for some women not being able to fit though, this should be used as an excuse for companies to try and expand their designs to ensure that every body can be dressed comfortably.
Inclusive advertising is on trend at the moment, companies everywhere are using models who are different sizes, differently abled, of different skin colour, different genders…but yet the clothes don’t match the message. You might be more likely to see somebody who looks like you in a glossy magazine, but that doesn’t mean you can actually buy clothes that fit. Don’t be silly.
I had a little moan on Twitter about the lack of reality in maternity clothes, about how I can never find anything that fits. It seems I’m not alone. I had a fair few women who are pregnant or recently have been agree with me, one thing I noticed? None of us have the same body type, at all. So it’s not just my body that isn’t catered for…
I know the idea that women are misrepresented by models isn’t a pregnancy specific problem. I know that dress sizes and options are lacking for women at all times in our lives. Trying to find clothes as a woman is a hideous experience for most of us, but imagine adding leaking breasts to that experience…
Do ASOS, Topshop, New Look, and the rest of the high street who offer a maternity section realise how it affects the women who are shopping with them? How heartbreaking it is to make a £200 order and send it all back, bar one pair of leggings? How difficult it is to feel good about yourself when your body is expanding daily and your 90% gas?
How absolutely horrendous it is to have to miss out on joining in on having fun with your child because designers refuse to accept different body types?
It’s a small thing, we should be bigger and bolder and able to understand that they’re just models…but it hurts. It’s painful to see the way clothes stores refuse to accept different body types. It’s painful to see designers who seemingly have no understanding of the female body, especially not the pregnant ones. It’s painful to not be able to feel good about yourself. And I’ve had enough of it.
And while we’re talking, ASOS, guys, come on…what is this?!