Back in the eighties, maternity clothing had little to do with actual fashion. The entire point, it seemed, was to drape the body with as much material as was necessary to completely camouflage the baby bump, and to make the mom-to-be look as demure — and, let’s face it, dowdy — as possible.
Even the gorgeous 21-year-old Princess of Wales bought into this concept, as evidenced by one of the dresses she wore while she was pregnant with Prince William. The shapeless blue polka-dot tent with a ruffled collar (shown below) could hardly be considered flattering. That said, the Princess clearly had a fairy godmother on her side, because despite wearing a gown that would make the team of Project Runway weep, Di somehow managed to look kind of adorable.
From her favorite designers
A maternity wardrobe for mother-to-be Diana, Princess of Wales
by Anna Parkinson
Not all of Diana’s favorite designers in Britain would reveal what they had in mind for the Princess of Wales’ maternity wardrobe. The Emmanuels, for instance, the young couple who designed her wedding dress, were keeping mum on their plans for her.
Some designers would admit to me that yes, indeed, Diana had been in to browse or even that she had ordered maternity clothes. (Bellville Sasson let slip that Diana had recently ordered about a dozen dresses from them, all white with frilly collars.)
Plans for Diana
But, happily, still others were willing to talk about designs they had in mind for the world’s most famous mother-to-be. And their plans were most exciting. One such designer shop was Tatters.
For one of her first public appearances with Prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer (as she was then) wore a dress from Tatters. It was a silk ball gown adorned with fine lace that is the Tatters trademark. Designer Missie Crockett (who, with Graham Hughes, owns Tatters) showed me a long, soft, off-the-shoulder taffeta dress with a bodice caught in a V-line below the bust.
Missie, like another of Diana’s favorite designers, Julia Fortescue, feels that the secret of highlighting a pregnant woman’s beauty lies in exposing the neck and shoulders. Missie also has a dramatic design for early pregnancy: a tiny bolero in silk with matching Turkish trousers, worn with a silk shirt.
Smock-style dresses with lacy collars
Though the Princess of Wales can no longer slip into Laura Ashley’s shop and choose a dress off the rack, Ashley’s traditional smock-style dresses with lacy collars can be worn during pregnancy because they have plenty of room at the waist. Ashley designer, Lynda Kee-Scott has designed two low-belted dresses with ruffles and the high collars that Diana favors.
The Princess of Wales has often chosen romantic clothes designed by Julia Fortescue and David Neal, who also make maternity dresses for members of Diana’s circle. Julia Fortescue loves to use yards of chiffons, organzas, and silks. Her evening gowns are gathered below the bustline or pin-tucked across the bust.
The one she had in mind for Diana is off the shoulder. Fortescue has also designed a most original day dress in flannel with a four-panel tunic over it. Her third design was a velvet dress with tucks and an organza collar with a ruffle. Fortescue uses lots of ruffles and bows at the neck to emphasize the face and draw attention away from the rest of the body.
Most of the dresses for Diana were to be worn with low-heeled shoes. Clive Shilton designed the low-heeled shoes Diana wore at her wedding. They were soft satin slippers with hand-sewn sequins on them. The soles were hand painted with a gold design. It is this kind of detail that makes Mr Shilton’s shoes suitable for celebrations.
Asked for a design that would suit the pregnant Princess, he took great pains to explain that a pregnant woman needs lower heels and a wider shoe than normal. A wider shoe because the feet tend to swell; a lower heel because a high heel throws the balance of the body forward and can cause back pain or headaches. Luckily the Princess of Wales always wears low heels anyway.
When I spoke to hat designer John Boyd, he had just emerged from a workroom where they were in the throes of completing a batch of 50 hats ordered for the Princess of Wales. Mr. Boyd makes no secret of being one of Diana’s greatest admirers. “Youngsters are being led by the wrong people these days, and you want to see the right sort of person giving them the lead,” he says.
Top it off with a hat
Whether or not the Princess of Wales likes hats, they have become part of her overall outfit. Boyd’s special design for her is an Edwardian hat, tucked into the head at the back, and with a large brim at the front. She has worn the style repeatedly. He is now working on a hat to wear with a “Twenties” style dress (like the low-belted ones by Lynda Kee-Scott), but he shuns the small round cloche usually worn with the style.
“You couldn’t have anything so close to the face for her,” he says. “A hat to suit this look would have to be very small, popped on the top of her head.” For John Boyd, as for most of the designers, anything the Princess does deserves admiration, and designing for this special occasion is a very real pleasure.
Maternity design illustration aptions:
A Tatters design for early pregnancy: A silk bolero with Turkish trousers that have an elastic waistband.
Also from Tatters: An off-the-shoulder taffeta dress that will show off Diana’s pretty neck and shoulders.
Julia Fortescue designed this demure velvet dress with longer, full skirt and a large organza collar.
A chic grey flannel dress with Tudor-like tucks and collar and floating panels is also a Fortescue design.
A third Fortescue design for pretty pregnancy is an off-the-shoulder flowing chiffon gown with ruffles — which Diana loves.
Lynda Kee-Scott of Laura Ashley has designed a low-waisted tunic of wool serge with a voile shirt — again with ruffles — underneath.
This fine-cord, pin-tucked dress has full sleeves and lots and lots of room around the waist. It was also designed by Lynda Kee-Scott.