By  on November 27, 2007

Mama-la-mode.com, a London-based online retailer that launched this month, wants to dispel the idea that pregnancy means nine months of shapeless smocks.

Instead, company founder Fee Craig wants to cater to fashion-conscious expectant mothers by offering ready-to-wear from designer labels that will accommodate a baby bump.

The e-commerce site carries lines such as Notte by Marchesa, Clements Ribeiro, Temperley and Paul & Joe. Often, the pieces are items from designers' mainline collections that are appropriate for pregnancy, rather than maternitywear — such as an Empire-line silk evening gown by Amanda Wakeley, a roomy silk day dress from Temperley and a bell-sleeve wool swing coat from Paul & Joe. There is also maternity denim by Serfontaine, Paige and Rock & Republic that is tailored to pregnancy, with stretch panels at the waist.

"Sixty to 70 percent of the product is clever buying," said Craig, who also owns Lotus London, a brand of caftans and accessories sold at stores such as Intermix in the U.S. "I would see pregnant women in [the Lotus store] who would wear top-to-toe designer clothes, and then when they became pregnant they'd have nothing to wear. These are [collections] that you can wear for maternity, but that you would wear anyway."

Alongside rtw — shown on the Web site in 360-degree shots on mannequins, with a guide to what trimester the garment is suitable for — the online store carries swimwear, lingerie, beauty products, gifts and a small collection of baby clothes by brands such as Baby Marc and Craig's own cashmere line, Mini la Mode. Prices range from about $12 for Burt's Bees baby powder to about $3,100 for a silk Issa dress. The company will ship orders worldwide.

Craig isn't alone in seeing the potential for fashionable maternitywear. Gap launched its maternity line for spring 2007 in the U.K., and the Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara also launched its maternity collection there for fall.

"The celebrity endorsement of pregnancy has made it a glamorous phenomenon," said Craig, citing paparazzi images of celebrities such as Nicole Richie looking stylish while expecting a baby. "[We want to create] an inspiring way for women to dress when they're pregnant."

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