Fashion lingerie is crossing over into the specialized field of maternitywear.
Helping fuel the demand for fashion undergarments is the glamour factor combined with the baby boom by Hollywood moms — Katie Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Brooke Shields, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tori Spelling, Heidi Klum, Rachel Weisz and Salma Hayek, who is expecting her first child with her fiancé, French entrepreneur François-Henri Pinault.
Weisz, who in 2006 won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, as well as a Golden Globe for her role in "The Constant Gardener," told WWD she enjoyed wearing the lifestyle designs of maternity innerwear brand L'Arrivo, designed by Loretta Schneider.
"I wore L'Arrivo all through my pregnancy and then after my son was born," said Weisz. "Loretta's designs are fun and funky, and the clever snap tops are so practical for nursing. The tanks and dresses are indispensable, as are the stretchy pants."
Interest in pretty underpinnings for expectant moms began to bloom in 2004 when supermodel Elle Macpherson was on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Macpherson recalled that she "happened to mention that Paltrow had asked her to design a nursing bra" for her first baby, Apple.
"There were no nursing bras in my collection, but after 'Oprah,' I received so many calls for a nursing bra that I created one," Macpherson said.
Elle Macpherson Intimates, a unit of Bendon USA, now features two stylish nursing bras, La Mere and Maternelle, as well as a style called Evolve by Fayreform, and three maternity styles by Bendon — Yvette, Body Lace and Body Lavish.
Sales of the two nursing bras by Elle Macpherson Intimates in the U.S. reached 16,384 units in the first nine months of the fiscal year ended March 31, from 7,384 sold in the year that ended March 2006, according to officials at parent Bendon Ltd. of New Zealand.
"It's actually shocking, but one of our maternity bras is on replenishment and is our third best-selling bra. Nordstrom is a key store," said Victoria Vandagriff, president of Bendon USA.
Although the category has been dominated by basic nursing bras for decades, there has been a sizable demand from consumers lately for maternity undergarments and related lifestyle pieces that have a fashion twist, such as dual-purpose daywear and sleepwear and lounge items, according to designers and retailers from specialty chains and mail-order and e-commerce businesses.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"