A few days ago I posted a blog on “Where are all the Pregnant Women?”—noticing that in period paintings very few pregnant women were to be seen, in spite of the fact that woman were often pregnant in those centuries.
Now I’m following up on what they wore:
From the Wikipedia entry on the history of maternity clothes:
“Dresses did not follow a wearer’s body shape until the Middle Ages. When western European dresses began to have seams, affluent pregnant women opened the seams to allow for growth. The Baroque Adrienne was a waistless pregnancy gown with many folds. Aprons were also worn to close the opening left by jackets.”
in French fashion, pregnant women would sometimes wear a “robe battante” or “robe volante“, sometimes called a “flying gown.” All of these were full, wide garments that would cover up any sign of pregnancy. Pregnant women were encouraged to wear loose fitting clothes.
Here is an image of maternity dress from colonial Williamsburg:
Madame de Montespan, the Sun King’s lover, was so often pregnant that she devised a new costume, sometimes credited with being the first maternity gown.
Ironically called “The innocent,” it is described as an ample, beltless gown closed with ribbons tied on each side. (Rather like a smock, I imagine.) As soon as she put it on, people assumed she was pregnant, so it didn’t succeed in disguising her condition, although it no doubt was more comfortable (and she was all about comfort).
It is, unfortunately, rather difficult to find an image of “the Innocent” much less descriptions of the lovely Marquise in this gown, so it is left to our imaginations. If anyone has more specific information on this, please let me know!
Loose fitting clothes? Sort of. Their dresses might be a bit shapeless, but they wore corsets under ’em :)
I don’t believe that corsets were worn under clothing until later. Please correct me if I’m wrong. The bodice (or “bodies”) that women wore were on the outside of their gowns.
This quote is from a wonderful on-line series on the history of the corset, re. 18th century fashion: “Corsets are now a truly separate undergarment … .”
I believe the costume can be seen in the movie Amadeus — Mozart’s wife Constanza is seen wearing the outfit in the scene where she has a fall out with Mozart’s father. I’ll look for more pictures to see if I can send you.
Thank you, Jennifer — I’d love to see them. Let me know if you find them.