Tabloids sell a lot of magazines with their “celebrity bump watch” features. While most stars make it easy, tooling around in tight, midriff-hugging gear, Jennifer Lopez has put up a fight. Her defense: discreet clothing.
Last September, when speculation began that Lopez and her husband, singer Marc Anthony, were expecting their first child, or children — she’s reportedly having twins — Lopez did her best to keep the public guessing by opting for the standard free-flowing, trapeze-type getups. During the couple’s Jennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony En Concierto tour, virtually all of her onstage Roberto Cavalli-designed ensembles were of the Seventies-only-slightly-more-shapely-than-a-muumuu ilk. Of course, the is-she-or-isn’t-she approach to dressing is par for the course in the early stages of the pregnancy game (see Angelina Jolie’s vintage Hermès gown at the SAG Awards). But even after Lopez confirmed everyone’s suspicions in highly public fashion on stage at the tour’s finale performance, she never dispensed with the classic, covered-up maternity look. Such modesty was the norm say, 40 or even 20 years ago. But at a time when many women, particularly those in Hollywood, seem to regard their burgeoning bump as a marketing mechanism, flaunting it in tight T-shirts and body-conscious dresses on the street and au naturel on magazine covers, Lopez appears almost old-fashioned by comparison.
“[Once] it was all about barely even showing that you were pregnant,” says maternity designer Liz Lange. “Then the pendulum swung.” Indeed, the days of dowdy, unapologetically matronly moms-to-be are gone. “I didn’t believe I had to let go of my love for fashion just because I was pregnant,” notes Nicole Richie, whose daughter was born last month.
“I’m kind of fascinated by what’s happening because I’m old enough to remember when maternitywear was designed to disguise the bump,” says David Wolfe, a creative director at the Doneger Group, of the current maternity trends and Lopez’s retro reaction. “Pregnancy was sort of naughty or in bad taste, and now it certainly seems totally the opposite. It’s like being pregnant is like a badge of sexuality and something to be flaunted.”
Take, for example, recent mother Christina Aguilera, who posed for Marie Claire in a cropped jacket and little else midway through her pregnancy, and favored the taut sweater dress look in her final expectant days. Says Richie, who was often seen in a tight T-shirt and skinny pants: “I love when a pregnant woman shows off her belly. Of course naturally, I had my days where I would wear baggier things, but during most of it I embraced my new body.”
Aguilera’s and Richie’s maternity looks were in stark contrast to Lopez’s billowing Grecian gowns and, most recently, the swingy black trapeze coat atop stacked heels that she wore to her New York baby shower last week. In fact, few if any photos of Lopez, who could not be reached for comment (as of press time, rumors have her delivering any day now), in anything less than full-on voluminous glamour outfits have surfaced over the past nine months. Of course, age could be a factor in the maternitywear differences between Aguilera, 27, and Richie, 26, and Lopez, 38. But then there’s Halle Berry, who, at 41, is showing off her pregnancy in all manner of form-fitting garb.
Whereas Wolfe contends that accentuating one’s pregnant curves is all about being sexy — and certainly anyone baring her belly and then some for a magazine only supports that theory — mothers and mothers-to-be say it’s much simpler. “I tried some really loose fitting things, like this Marc Jacobs dress,” explains New York socialite Allison Aston, who has a one-year-old son. “It made me look huge.” Likewise for Celerie Kemble, now eight months pregnant with her second child. “I think the worst thing is to cover it up and then look like you just got fat. The more it’s obvious and localized, the less you sort of get those grazing looks like, ‘Oh, poor girl.’ And there’s something more charming about a marsupial than a hippopotamus.”
Certainly it seems that Lopez is bucking the current trend. Yet that may have more to do with her overall approach to fashion these days than with a newfound maternal modesty. Lopez’s plunging, pasted-on Versace dress at the 2000 Grammys remains her most memorable fashion moment, although that was eight years and several fashion incarnations ago. Today, she is more about grown-up glamour queen than sexpot.
“I think she’s more covered up because she’s simply grown out of the booby-tape thing — she’s done that,” says Jill Kargman, author of “Momzillas.” “She’s more mature, and the husband probably elicits her more nurturing, grown-up side versus Bennifer on the boat in that video [with Ben Affleck] untying her string bikini.”
Lange concurs. “If she had gotten pregnant six years ago, I would expect her to be more like the young Hollywood starlet, but I feel like she’s dressing very much in keeping with the way she likes to dress now. She’s gone fairly ladylike in the past few years, very appropriate for a woman her age. And she’s a young woman, but she’s not 19.”
Regardless, Lange and fellow maternity designer Emilia Fabricant, of Cadeau Maternity and Babystyle, agree that the two extremes of celebrity choice reflect a greater reality. “It’s indicative of how maternity clothes are today,” says Fabricant of the market’s increased styles. “There’s so many different designers providing that service that allows a woman to actually choose which direction to go in when she’s pregnant.”
Designer Rachel Roy, who is expecting her second child with husband Damon Dash, appreciates the idea that a woman can easily stay true to her personal style during her pregnancy. Yet she wants to stay comfortable, too, and guesses that Lopez does as well. “It’s hard. Some women live to be pregnant, and they glow,” Roy says. “It’s not like that for me. It’s difficult, and your body goes through changes. You bloat and your feet are flotation devices and shoes don’t fit and your skin itches because it’s stretching. It’s not something you want to slap something tight on.”
Lopez photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Aguilera by DEN/Fame Pictures