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Mommy Sewing

The home sewing ‘market’ has changed a lot in the past 25 years: large numbers of independent pattern designers, some of whom specialize, smaller numbers of local fabric stores (which in the old days used to be staffed by people who actually sewed more than quilts), sewing may (or usually may not) be taught in Home Ec in junior and senior high schools nationally. A lot has gone ‘by the way’ – on the other hand, the Internet has spawned a huge Renaissance in personal sewing with sites and blogs and fabric stores. It’s enough to make you dizzy.

But one of the things that has changed a lot and which I was frankly not prepared for was this: If you want to sew maternity clothing, you are going to be hard pressed to find more than the most rudimentary and casual patterns in the current pattern offerings. If you need business clothing in maternity sizes (and have some fitting issues such as being a petite size or very tall or have out of the ordinary shoulders and so on), then at this point, you are really being left out in the cold by The Big Four pattern houses and finding maternity business clothing in other than Missy sizing is well nigh impossible. Now, having thrown that gauntlet, I do have to say that if you go to the larger vintage pattern sites such as Mom’s Patterns or Out of the Ashes , you will find a lot of maternity patterns from the years since the 80s. Some of them are not what you might want to wear today (or maybe they are – it all depends on how much of a ‘ruffle person’ you are). You can find things that are closer in style to what you can find on the maternity clothing sites. The trick is getting enough room in the abdomen and hip area because as the pregnancy moves along, it will drop in the last month or so – so I’d figure taking the hip measurement and adding space to that. How much? Well, the taller you are, the more length you have between your pubic bone and under your diaphragm, so probably padding yourself out about 8-10″ will be enough. If you usually wear a petite size range, then you have much less length there – the baby is going to be ‘out there’ a lot sooner and a lot bigger. I’d pad myself out at least 12″ and more likely – 15″. I know it sounds huge, but toward the end, the baby grows a lot and most of that is going to be in front of you (we won’t discuss the problems short pregnant women have in terms of driving a car — let’s leave it to say that you might want to make arrangements for someone else to drive you after month 8).

Another way to do an end run around this is to actually just look for patterns that have more of a trapeze or swing shape to them (that is, they fit reasonably closely in the area of the body between the under-bust and the shoulders but flare out underneath that). Or, you can look for patterns with an Empire waist where you can expand the area under the bust through methods such as ‘slash and spread’ or ‘pin and swing out’. Or, you can look in the 1980s for dresses that are just plain loose like this one which was obviously meant to be worn with a big belt but definitely looks almost loose enough for maternity use.

This will work with tops, blouses, jackets and coats. It won’t help you with slacks or blue jeans however. Another thing is just to visit The Big Four pattern company sites and look for dresses or tops that look more like like this:
I think made out of ponte or another more substantial knit, this would work beautifully as a dress or a tunic with leggings.

For slacks and blue jeans, you have a couple of options besides just buying maternity jeans or slacks (the prices of which take my breath away).

First, you can take old pairs of jeans/slacks and do some Frankenstein-ing on them to put a stretch panel in the front. And for a nifty demo on THAT, go here: Regular Jeans to Maternity Jeans

Second, if you have a slack/jean pattern that you’ve already made up and it works for you, this can be the basis of your maternity slacks. You can take inspiration from the demo mentioned above. I will warn you, as a former ‘pregnant person’ – not all the baby weight goes into the front. You might want to build in a bit of extra in the thighs and rear end AND use a stretch woven fabric for some extra accommodation. The other thing to look at is to look at maternity slacks – either go to your local department or specialty store and get a good look at how maternity slacks and jeans are now made so that you can build some of those features into your slacks. The one thing you will NOT be doing, however, is putting in a zipper. The front of the slacks will be turning into a stretch panel right about where your pubic bone is located (and if you don’t know where that is, a little time in front of the mirror is worth it). That puts a zipper at the 2” length. Not…worth…it.
Now, if you look at some of the vintage sites, one of the interesting things you’ll see is how home sewers handled maternity clothing during different periods. During the 40s and early 50s, before stretch knits became available, they either used a separate panel with an adjustable button band or they had a round cut in the front with a tie waist. Since the style for maternity tops in those days was a longish, very loose or gathered top, they were ‘covered’. As stretch knits became available, patterns changed to put an oblong panel across the front with an elasticized waist. Again, maternity tops were still made out of woven material and usually had gathers at the bust or shoulders for a very loose look. Today’s “Look at my belly” look is a complete departure, but several of the smaller pattern companies such as Kwik Sew and Jalie have produced knit top patterns that go along with that look and there are several sites which have produced DIY “belly bands” for pregnant young ladies who want to use their jeans and regular tops for longer. Belly Bands on the Cheap

So, what is Aunt Toby doing making maternity clothing? Well, Aunt Toby is going to be magically transformed into Granny Toby next year by our Elder Daughter and the SIL, an event we are all looking forward to with great excitement and anticipation. But my daughter requires more formal clothing for work – and as someone built a lot like Aunt Toby (sigh. The power of genetics…), finding those these days has been a trial. So I’m feverishly working away on some pant suits and tops for her. I modified a jacket/coat pattern from a couple of years ago.

As you can see, the jacket has a seam above the waist. All I did was shorten the top half a little bit so that the seam was closer to the bottom of the bust. Then to give my daughter more room in the front (there’s a pleat in the back), I lined up the center front edge with the selvage edge of the fabric, moved it back an inch at the top, pinned it there and swung the lower edge out three inches away. I’m also using stretch wool suiting fabrics, which will provide a bit of extra accommodation. I’m almost finished with the jacket and have to get started on the slacks.

So, for anyone looking to make their own maternity clothing – don’t lose heart! With a little creative thinking, you can modify a regular pattern to fit for maternity use. My memory of my wardrobe through my three pregnancies is that by the time the babies arrived, I hated every…single…thing. So I figured making myself nice things was worth it.
After the baby arrives…well, that’s another thing entirely.

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  1. Suzanne says:

    congratulations toby! i’m going to be a grandma in april – my first grandbaby. luckily, jen doesn’t need formal business wear for work.

    when i was pregnant with my girls, there were still lotsa maternity patterns (70’s and 80’s) in the books. last time i was looking at patterns, i was surprised at how thin the books have become. of course, i was really there looking for quilt fabric and was just taking a gander at the pattern books.

  2. Shiphrah says:

    Mazel tov! “Torah-chuppah-ma’asim tovim” and all that.

    When I was pregnant back in the 80’s, I was the world’s biggest pregnant woman. I was skinny then, so it was all baby. It was all out front and there was a lot of him. At 18 weeks, 3 times in one week little old ladies stopped me in the street — this was in the Deep South — “Oh sugar! Your twins are due soon, aren’t they?” Uh … no … and no …. I’m short with short arms, so driving toward the end got interesting. All my tops got stained from the steering wheel rubbing against my belly. Then there was the last OB visit before Boy #2. “My, m’-my, m’-MY-my, MY, that’s a big baby!” LOL!

    Because I’m an apple shape, I occasionally look at maternity clothes/patterns. I agree: what little is out there tends to be awful or the price is heart failure city. My step-daughter, who is a busty 5’0″ if she stands very straight, had an awful time finding maternity clothes. The old rubber band trick through the buttonhole of the SIL’s pants didn’t even work for her as he’s 6’5″. She’s a nurse, so she spent a lot of time in scrubs. Not the dressiest of outfits for an evening out. Helloooo home sewing!

  3. Toby Wollin says:

    Shiprah – oh, I’m with you on the driving. At the end of my last pregnancy (well, we won’t get into how much weight I gained; let’s just say after my son was born, I got on the scales at the hospital … and cried), which was in the winter, I had a coat with a tie belt holding it together. I had to stop driving when I realized that I was jammed so far against the steering wheel, the knot on the belt was basically driving the car.

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