Dressing my bump

There are many advantages of being pregnant in New Zealand, rather than in my ‘old’ life in England: I don’t have to commute for two hours a day, for starters, and I have friends and family members handy for on-going support and advice.  And I don’t have to work all day at a formal law firm, dressed smartly and being forced to keep my wits about me.

However, the big downside of a Kiwi pregnancy is the difficulty in finding decent maternity clothes.  In the UK, many of the high street fashion shops stock a maternity range, making it easy to find things to wear as your bump develops.  In New Zealand, the options seem to be restricted to a few junky-looking tops at The Warehouse, a small range at children’s clothing store Pumpkin Patch (the website offers far more maternity options than most of the Pumpkin Patch shops – I’ve visited two branches recently and found no more than a few garments), and a few online shops.  And I’m not hugely keen on buying clothes online, unless I know the brand well and can be confident that what I order will actually fit me.

However, my bump is growing at a rapid rate and I have started to struggle for things to wear, so I had to go shopping.  I went online at Pumpkin Patch and bought two pairs of jeans – a boot cut ‘vintage’ washed pair, and a skinny black pair – and a pair of leggings.  The leggings fit very well (and I’ve since bought two more pairs of leggings from Farmers – they seem to only stock leggings and tights for pregnant customers), but the jeans are quite large.  I chose size ‘medium’, which – given that I’m 5’10” and usually NZ size 10 – 12 – seemed appropriate.  However, Pumpkin Patch’s medium is a lot bigger than me.  The boot cut jeans are OK, albeit slightly loose, but the skinny jeans are enormous (although I know that they’re likely to be too tight before long, given how quickly I’m expanding).

Although the boot cut jeans are wearable, they’re also hideous – they’re that kind of bright navy colour that you automatically associate with really geeky mothers.  I’m going to buy some black fabric dye today and see if I can sort them out.

I realised that I didn’t have much to wear over all those pairs of maternity leggings, so I visited Max and picked up some merino stuff in their end-of-season sale: a blue dress (which will also work with tights), a red tunic, and a green top that I bought in a large enough size to enable me to wear it as a tunic.

I also cleared out my wardrobe yesterday, packing away into plastic crates all of the things that I have no hope of wearing in the next twelve months.  This has left me with a fairly tiny capsule wardrobe – I think I’ve probably packed away 95% of what I had in there.  I’ve got a few dresses that I can also fit at the moment, so that’s handy.  I’m all about the clingy dresses (there’s no hiding a baby bump, so you might as well flaunt it), or empire line dresses.

My main issue is that I don’t like my pregnant shape very much – I’m not one of those women who revel in the ‘goddess’ nature of it: instead, I really miss having a small(ish) waist.  However, I know that I’m going to be enormous before my twins arrive, and I’ve made my peace with that, even if I don’t love the thought of it.  It won’t be forever, and eventually I should be able to unpack all of my lovely normal-sized clothes again.

Of course, celebrities swan through their pregnancies looking far more stylish that mere mortals like me.  I’ve been perusing lots of celebrity pregnancy photos while writing this post, and it’s interesting to see that they almost all follow the ‘clingy or empire line’ rule for dresses as well – really, there isn’t much else you can do.  Here’s Sarah Jessica Parker rocking the empire line:

And here’s Kourtney Kardashian in something more body-con (she’s actually more stylish when pregnant than she is normally, in my opinion – it must be because she’s got less scope to dress like a complete idiot):

It’s also funny that the celebrity press are often obsessed with pregnant women ‘confirming’ their pregnancy, as if they have an obligation to do so.  For example, Glamour magazine ran this photo of Angelina Jolie:

and captioned it:

Looking back it’s hard to believe it, but Angelina Jolie still hadn’t confirmed her pregnancy (with twins Knox and Vivienne) when she set out on the promo trail for Kung Fu Panda at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. But there was no hiding her bump in this apple green empire line gown – a classically flattering shape for mums-to-be – by Max Azria Atelier.

Perhaps Angelina Jolie assumed that, given her massive pregnant stomach, ‘confirming’ the pregnancy was somewhat unnecessary?

Barbarella & Swan

Have you ever walked into a shop and realised that you would quite happily buy and wear every single garment that it contained?  It’s like somebody has looked into your head and designed your dream boutique.

This happened to me last week.  We were on holiday in Port Douglas, in Northern Queensland, and amongst all of the resort wear shops and cafes I found Barbarella & Swan.  It’s owned by a lovely South African ex-pat who, like me, adores 1950s and 1960s styles.  She’s sourced fantastic dresses and skirts from a wide range of Australian designers – this isn’t a place to look for trousers.

I really wanted to get my Betty Draper on and buy something like this gorgeous little number from Elise (and all of these photos are from the Barbarella & Swan website):

Or this one from Heartbreaker:

Or maybe this lovely frock from Retrospec’d:

(Actually, I’d buy pretty much anything from Retrospec’d – their dresses are adorable).

But I was thwarted by the fact that I’m 14 weeks pregnant with twins, making my figure fairly fashion-unfriendly: my bump is expanding at an alarming rate and my chest is no longer one that can look good behind a boat neck.  So annoying!  I consoled myself with the thought that, when we return to Port Douglas next year, I’ll have excellent motivation to try to lose some baby weight beforehand.

I did buy one dress – this little number from Leina Broughton, which I will wear for my sister’s engagement party in six weeks’ time.  It’s a stretchy jersey fabric, and you can see that it’s got a lot of pleating going on in the front, so I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to fit it then…

If I can’t wriggle into it by then I might be forced to fashion a toga out of a very large bed sheet, and wear that instead…

Five celebrity fashion trends

Stuff has suggested that its humble readers might like to follow five fresh celebrity red carpet trends, so I thought we should look at the trends in question and see if they represent anything that a normal person would want to wear.  I’ve illustrated this blog with the same celebrities that Stuff used.

1. A statement skirt with a classic shirt

In theory, I’m all in favour of this trend.  However, I’d suggest choosing a slightly less hideous skirt than the one that Leila Bekhti (who?) is wearing here.  And her outfit needs a belt to better define her waist – the shirt is billowing out and making her waist look large.  And the skirt is a bit too high-waisted for her, if we’re really being picky.  The more I look at this outfit, the less I like it, although I do still like the basic ‘statement skirt and plain shirt’ concept.

And OH MY GOD will female celebrities please stop with that stupid, faux-demure ‘toes pointing slightly inwards like an uncertain young girl’ pose?  It’s ridiculous.

2. Lengthen your body with a ‘sleek pantsuit’ in a single hue

Again, this is OK in theory (who doesn’t want to look sleek and lengthened?) – but not in this vile, 1980s shade of blue, please.  And wear a shirt under the jacket.  And don’t use the term ‘pantsuit’ when you’re in New Zealand and would typically say ‘trouser suit’ – it’s a dead giveaway that this article has been lifted from an American publication and not sub-edited locally.

And I’ve got to say that this particular ‘sleek pantsuit’, designed by Elie Saab, doesn’t lengthen Blake Lively’s body at all – instead, the length and cut of the jacket makes her hips look wider than they probably are.  Probably not the look she was hoping for.  It’s a hideous outfit, particularly with the lace shoulder pads.  Very Joan Collins of the Dynasty era (and that’s not a good thing).

3. Mix high and low

‘Mix high and low’ isn’t particularly illuminating, but Stuff goes on to suggest that, like SJP, you pair a leather biker jacket and a formal gown.  I think that this is one of those ‘nice in theory, naff in practice’ looks.  That jacket is quite cool and would look decent with jeans, but I don’t entirely see the point of pairing it with such a sickly pink skirt.

And while we’re looking at this photo of SJP, can we spare a thought for those gloves she’s wearing?  I’m sure she’s doing a Madonna and trying to disguise the one part of her body that can’t hide the effects of ageing.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if women like this felt confident enough about their place in the world to simply embrace their age?  SJP will be 50 in 2015, people.  Do we really need her to look like a 30 year old forever, and call her old and ugly if she spot a grey hair or a wrinkle?  (‘We’ being the world at large, not the wise and sensible readers of this blog, obvs.).

4. Bright red lips and an all-black outfit

For goodness sake!  This has been a standard glamorous look for eons – let’s not pretend that it’s a new trend.  And if wearing all-black outfits is a revolutionary fashion trend then Kiwi women are global fashion trend-setters and have been for a very long time.

This photo of Dita Von Teese isn’t actually the one in the Stuff article, but is one of the 40 million photos of her with red lips and a black outfit on the interweb – further demonstrating how unrevolutionary this particular ‘trend’ is.

5. ‘Mash’ your patterns with two separate prints

I think I’ve explained my views on crazy print-combining a while ago.  Emma Watson’s outfit is nowhere near as ridiculous as the kind of thing that Karen Walker sent down the runway, but I still don’t really see the point of it.  Cute skirt, though.

Brogue-sneakers for the masses

Great news – my favourite ridiculous shoe trend of recent times has made it into the mainstream. Look what I saw in an Albany Mall shoe shop this morning:

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I’m now hoping to see brogue-sneakers everywhere. The cracked out shoe designers at Prada will be so proud! Kiwis, buy them from Overland Footwear and make my day.

Chic in Paris

I adore this photo of Hilary Swank, currently filming in Paris:

She looks great.  Her outfit is, in my opinion, perfect: simple, elegant and stylish.  Who wouldn’t want to look like that while walking one’s dog in one of the world’s most iconic cities?  And I love that she doesn’t look ‘done': she hasn’t been styled for a photo opportunity – she’s just a well-dressed woman, walking her cute dog.

She also looked pretty good in a different type of outfit, a day or two ago:

I really like that blouse.  I can’t wear mustard – I’m pink and white and pale, and it looks dreadful on me – but I do like it on women with the right skin tone for it.  And I’ve always loved the combination of a patterned blouse and a plain pair of jeans: it’s a bit of a standard look for me if I need to look vaguely smart, but don’t want to look too formal.

First Ladies’ fashion face-off

Barack and Michelle Obama hosted David and Samantha Cameron at a state dinner at the White House, and this is what the two First Ladies wore:

Hmmmm.  Michelle appears to be checking out Samantha’s Alessandra Rich dress with a classic ‘WTF’ expression on her face, and I can’t say that I blame her.  I like a good print, and I love blue, but this is just too much fabric – it would have been lovely if it didn’t have the high collar and the sleeves.

SamCam’s got a bit of a track record of being what is politely described as ‘fashion forward’.  Sometimes she gets it right, but sometimes she looks like what the American bloggers amongst us would term ‘a hot mess’.  However, I do admire her for choosing not to bow down and become a safe, dull dresser.

I love Michelle Obama’s Marchesa dress.  That teal blue colour is gorgeous, and so flattering on her.  I think that, generally speaking, she’s got great, preppy style – I’d like to see her and Kate Middleton together, because I think they both rock the stylish classics (although Kate Middleton did wear a teal-coloured suit recently, so they’d have to call each other when getting dressed in the morning and check that they weren’t going to be too matchy-matchy).

However, I’m not sold on Michelle’s huge pile of necklaces (which may well be one necklace with several strands).  She had a gorgeous, elegant neck and this accessory hides it, which is a shame.  I think that the fewer strands would have looked a lot better.  And I would have preferred the necklaces to not be blue.  Maybe a coral colour instead?

Fab grey dress

My love affair with Kate Middleton’s wardrobe continues:

This Orla Kiely dress is great – stylish and flattering, and perfectly appropriate for an art gallery visit with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.  Indeed, if I ever find myself invited to an art gallery with senior members of the royal family I intend to wear something similar.

I struggle to think of any outfit Kate Middleton has worn in the past year that I wouldn’t be delighted to add to my wardrobe.