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NEW YORK — Since I’m six months pregnant and packing a significant belly, I volunteered to survey four of the foremost purveyors of moderately priced and hopefully moderately hip maternity clothes for the masses: Gap, Old Navy, Target and H&M. Target is in Elmhurst, Queens, the rest are on Manhattan’s West 34th Street.
Here’s a look at how their mom-to-be offerings stack up in terms of price, style and service.
Given that the entrance to the 34th Street Gap is festooned with posters of Gap’s splashy maternity ad campaign, I was surprised to see fairly slim pickings that constitute the maternity department here, currently the only one in Gap’s New York City stores.
Best Buy: A pair of Trina Turk-style black polyester and wool trousers with an adjustable elastic waist, priced at $68.
Fit: Sizing in general was positively hippo, which explained the surfeit of mediums and larges.
Service: According to the Gapster manning maternity, all employees are trained to fit pregnant customers.
I sailed into an Old Navy maternity department throbbing with Seventies funk classics. This area seemed to be the least of an afterthought, overseen by a phalanx of large-tummied mannequins and not one, but two helpful yet unpushy staffers. The department was rife with peasant-blouse looks, as well as hipper variants on the standard maternity tie-back shirts, with three-quarter-length sleeves and/or Johnny collars, and some striped sleeveless Ts. As for bottoms, in addition to basic chinos and capris, Old Navy boasts the best denim, with good fits, cool washes and a stretch panel for every trimester.
Best Buy: A clingy floral-print dress with ruffled cap sleeves and ruched bodices, highly reminiscent of Diane Von Furstenberg’s frocks, priced at $34.
Sizing: True to size, with trimmer, hipper cuts than is the norm.
Service: Kudos to the dressing room attendants, who cheerfully swapped items I’d sized up incorrectly.
H&M’s Mama line specializes in stealth maternity wear, relying less on the ubiquitous belly panels than a range of superstretchy fabrics, evidenced in a pair of somewhat Britneyesque lace-up gray denim pants ($29) or persimmon-colored flat-front capris made from a light-wool blend. Not surprisingly, H&M was the trendiest of the four retailers, with offerings like a weimaraner-gray sweatsuit à la Juicy Couture and an almost laughably slinky black rayon pantsuit with a plunging neckline.
Best Buy: An off-the-shoulder smocked peasant top with tie-dye detail, priced at $15, that provides great belly camouflage.
Sizing: Runs fairly true to size.
Service: The staffer on duty clearly grooved on helping pregnant ladies, doling out compliments and helpful opinions, as in, “You should probably get the bigger size.”
Last month, the store launched its much-ballyhooed Liz Lange line, prominently featured in its 10-rack maternity department. It’s grounded in Easter-egg colors and basic silhouettes, with tops ranging from $14 to $29. Examples: a sleeveless lavender-and-white-striped mock-neck silk blend sweater; standard button-up blouses, and a pale pink-paisley peasant top with faux-leather ties. Bottoms ran to relatively standard shapeless trousers, as well as the nerdiest elastic-waist pull-on jeans ever.
Best Buy: A pair of funky capris with Seventies-style stripes in aquas, white, olive and brown, priced at $21.99.
Sizing: Clothes were clumsily cut, though tags offered detailed info on fit.
The Final Verdict: All four stops provided well-priced, kicky weekendwear, but little in the way of career-minded basics. Paging Ann Taylor….