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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This Is Not A Coincidence, And It Is Irritating

posted by on April 24 at 10:22 AM







I just returned from a weekend in New York, where I saw fashionable women en masse. They all wore shirts and dresses that made them look pregnant. Every last one.

But you know what?


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Maybe they were wearing their fat cloathes…

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 24, 2007 10:45 AM

I had almost the exact same thought last night while leafing through the latest Black House White Market catalog. Where have all the waists gone?

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | April 24, 2007 10:53 AM

We call them bag shirts/dresses. And anyone wearing them should be expelled to the moon.

Posted by seattle98104 | April 24, 2007 10:55 AM

Ya know what, fuck it, I'm just not gonna wear a shirt anymore.

Posted by Jordyn | April 24, 2007 11:02 AM

Brit's never looked better.

Posted by Paulus | April 24, 2007 11:04 AM

Hottest slog post ever. Thanks!

Posted by jackie treehorn | April 24, 2007 11:08 AM

Okay... so what's the problem here exactly? That pregnancy is "cool"?

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 11:09 AM

@7, The problem with the fetishization of pregnant women, is that it is part of a societal push to move women back to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

Posted by arduous | April 24, 2007 11:16 AM

No, the problem is that our society is obsessed with pregnancy. "Baby bumps." Fetuses. Breeding.

See last week's Supreme Court ruling for the "not a coincidence" part.

Posted by Rose Red | April 24, 2007 11:17 AM

So... I'm sorry. I guess there's something I'm missing. Is pregnancy-- which is generally though not exclusively a byproduct of sex --not supposed to be sexy?

And @8, I assume you're joking.

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 11:20 AM

Actually, I'm not.

Not to go all ECB on your ass, but to go all ECB on your ass, there is documented evidence on the regression of women's equality issues in the past 10 years.

see: increasing restrictions on abortion, limiting access to birth control, chastity pledges, elite women opting out of the workforce, increase in the wage gap, etc, etc

Some of this is due to politics, and some of this is due to society. And when you're talking about societal factors, they are often subtle. And yet, they have an incredible effect.

The message being sent to women is: You want a baby. You want a baby now. You are not a true woman without a baby. Pregnant women are sexy!

It's obviously more complicated than that, because on the other hand, we would rather have society embracing pregnancy rather than treating it like a necessary evil. But it would be nice if our national obsession with pregnancy led to things like free pre-natal care for poorer women or fully funded maternity leave or subsidized day care.

Posted by arduous | April 24, 2007 11:31 AM

What? Patrick Dempsey is straight?

Oh, sorry, you were referring to all those ugly baggy ass dresses. Carry on.

Posted by SDA in SEA | April 24, 2007 11:37 AM

Just to state the obvious... Know what's better than being a hot pregnant chick?


Posted by lauren | April 24, 2007 11:44 AM

"What's the fetus REALLY like?" is my new favourite catchphrase of the week.

Posted by Gloria | April 24, 2007 11:45 AM

@10: #8 isn't kidding. There are plenty of people out there that think that's a woman's "natural place."

I was over at a boyfriend's house once, barefoot, in the kitchen making him a sandwich, and his dad came in and said, "Hey, now you just gotta knock her up, then you'll have it made." People think this is funny, but it isn't. I've been told by other boyfriends' families, at family functions with kids around, that I "look good with a baby on my hip." This isn't gentle, biological clock-related prodding; I've been subjected to such comments since my late teens. The idea that a man is "more manly" if he can inseminate a woman is everywhere, and women are often looked upon as sperm receptacles.

Obviously women have much to do with the media blitzes surrounding celebrity pregnancies, and I'm not saying that men necessarily desire non-pregnant women to wear maternity-esque clothing to appear pregnant, but to deny that archetype, or that it has a place in society beyond the redneck jokes it's often associated with, is naive.

Posted by Aislinn | April 24, 2007 11:46 AM

I expect the natalism is, er, born of the same social factors that are creating widespread anti-immigrant sentiment.

Posted by Kiru Banzai | April 24, 2007 11:49 AM

Thank G-d for this post! It has come at the right time. It seems like EVERYONE is pregnant and pregnant is the new black.

Posted by Papayas | April 24, 2007 11:55 AM

Okay, my bullshit detector is going off.

Arduous, you do realize that, in order to reproduce, women need to get pregnant. Not everyone wants to reproduce, and that's fine. But the simple act of reproducing pretty much always involves a pregnancy.

Since pregnancy is something a lot of women choose (like, say, long hair) it makes sense (to the extent that advertizing makes sense) to fetishize it. The barefoot and chained to a stove part is basically just your prejudice.

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 12:00 PM

@18. I have the same questions. Who's barefoot and pregnant anymore? Doesn't every pregger work till she can't, hopping, hopefully, onto a handful of maternity leave weeks?

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 24, 2007 12:12 PM

I hate to be all costume historian here, but these tops are just modifications of silhouettes seen in the 60's, which were modifications of the Empire silhouettes of the 1790's–early 1800's, which were themselves modifications of Greek costume. While the marketing of these tops in the mainstream may or may not amount to institutional fetishization of pregnancy and traditional "breedability" indicators, what is certain is that these kinds of tops are not corsets (or in any way binding), they de-emphasize an area of the body which many women find (for whatever reason!) uncomfortable or problematic, and they cover the body in a way that leaves it less explicitly and implicitly sexualized (like bare-midriff shirts or padded tanks with lunging necklines).

There are some interesting issues here, like why "looking pregnant" can be so desirable for some, so terrifying and indicative of social inequalities and commercialism for others, and completely irrelevant for still others. I look at those garments and just think "Empire waist."

Posted by Nick | April 24, 2007 12:21 PM

Nick, this may not be the most appropriate thread, but may I bear your child?

Posted by Gloria | April 24, 2007 12:32 PM

The problem is when women who have lives that don't revolve around reproducing start feeling pressured to make their lives revolve around reproducing. That's what Aislinn is talking about, and it really is demeaning, since the implication is that they don't deserve a life of their own. And it doesn't matter that you and people you know don't pressure women this way; there are unfortunately many people out there who do, whether you see them in your life or not. It's not a pleasant thing to think about, but it's out there, and growing as part of a crazy religious/conservative revival that the country has been going through for awhile now, and this fashion trend is in fact a result of the larger trend.

Recommended reading of the day: The Handmaid's Tale.

Posted by Noink | April 24, 2007 12:32 PM

to say you're over-reacting is a bit of an understatment, but i do agree with one thing: this empire waste/babydoll dress fad that's going on right now must. be. STOPPED!!!

and while i'm on the subject, are we done with that frilly-lingerie-top-paired-with-jeans-and-heels look yet? there's another one that never should have seen the light of day.

ladies, the power is in your hands. don't succumb to bad fashion!

Posted by brandon | April 24, 2007 12:40 PM
Recommended reading of the day: The Handmaid's Tale.

Oh for crap's sake. Going from "fetishinzing pregnant women" to The Handmaid's Tale has to break some iteration of Godwin's Law.

As far as this business about how telling someone they look good with a baby on their hip is tantamount to telling them that they don't deserve a life of their own-- poppycock.

I was raised by my dad. My mom was barely in the picture. When I was at school, teachers and other kids would constantly refer to either my "parents" or my "mom" when talking about my home life. Now, were insulting me, my dad, and our happy home? Or were they just making an assumption about my life based on broad demographic trends? They were making a freaking assumption. Simple as that.

Having kids is pretty much the norm. You know how I can tell? Because there are people everywhere. So assuming that one intends to have kids is about as insulting as assuming that one intends to watch the Simpsons. You know how many fucking times someone's made a Mr. Burns reference to me in casual conversation and just assumed I knew what the hell they were talking about? Zillions. I don't watch the Simpsons so my cultural framework is a little different than the norm, but assuming I'm more "normed" than I am isn't exactly meant as an insult.

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 12:48 PM

ps-- nor does said assumption infringe on my liberties or demean me.

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 12:50 PM

Judah, I'm not exactly sure whether I'm understanding you correctly.

Is your point that because most women eventually get pregnant, it's good to fetishize being pregnant to the extent that non-pregnant women are now dressing up to look pregnant?

What if all the straight people started wearing shirts that said "Breeder?" Or if people started wearing shirts that said "White." Most people are straight. Most people are white. By wearing a "Breeder" shirt, I'm not obligating you to wear one. You can argue that the manufacturer of said shirt is not insulting you, but simply making assumption based on broad demographic trends that you are straight. And yet, would it be good? Is this something we at a society would WANT?

Posted by arduous | April 24, 2007 1:03 PM

Noink, when I look at these photos I just see a swing of the pendulum from the scary-skinny look of the prior ethos.

Arduous @9: "The message being sent to women is: You want a baby. You want a baby now. You are not a true woman without a baby. Pregnant women are sexy!"

Couldn't another possibility simply be: I'm an older, more mature woman, pregnancy is a popular topic as the clock has begun to tick among my female demographic, and All I Got Was This Damned Shirt!

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 24, 2007 1:05 PM
Is your point that because most women eventually get pregnant, it's good to fetishize being pregnant

You're changing the argument. I didn't say it was "good", I said it was A) not "insulting" or "demeaning" or any of that other crap and B) typical of advertising to play to the majority. Playing to a particular demographic just means that a given advertiser or magazine has a "target audience". That's typical of media marketing and, from a business perspective, makes good sense. I'm not even going to get into whether it's "good" or "bad". Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

And yet, would it be good? Is this something we at a society would WANT?

Again, you're shifting the argument. Your initial pitch wasn't, "Do we want this?" It was that the fetishization of pregnancy was part of a push to deprive women of their rights (barefoot . You're conflating an aesthetic opinion with a moral argument to give your personal tastes the weight of moral authority. Which is bullshit.

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 1:16 PM

Good lord, it's just a cut of a dress people--and I think it's pretty generous considering; we've all been inside eating for five months, for chrissakes. The pencil skirts can be back in June.

I only wish they had something like this for men after a long winter. I hate this fucking caftan.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | April 24, 2007 1:19 PM

Nick @20, you took the costume-history words right out of my mouth. Or keyboard. Or something. Anyway, you hit it.

Posted by Mark Mitchell | April 24, 2007 1:28 PM

I'm not trying to change the argument, I'm trying to understand your point. You were initially asking why women had a problem with this media "campaign" or whatever else you want to call it. I explained why I disliked it.

"I'm not even going to get into whether it's "good" or "bad". Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

But ... if you're not going to get into whether it's "good" or "bad" ... then why did you ask why anyone had a problem with this? If nothing is "good" or "bad" then this deteriorates into a weird existential discussion on the notion of "good" and "bad."

Seriously, I'm not trying to be willfully obtuse, I just am not understanding what you are trying to get across to me. I'm not saying these pictures are unconstitutional (because, of course, they aren't)or that they infringe on my liberties (because they don't.)It's not even an aesthetic opinion- I wasn't expressing my feeling about the clothes, just about the fetishization of pregnancy. I don't particularly find the clothes themselves "insulting" or "demeaning." I find them ugly and unflattering, but that's about it. What I find insulting is the idea that a woman is defined by her ability to become a pregnant woman. Which is evidenced everywhere in society from the recent SCOTUS decision to employers who are reluctant to promote women because "they're just going to leave when they get pregnant."

If what you're trying to say is that there are not societal forces involved with the regression of women's rights, or that you don't believe that there's a regression of women's rights, well then, there's not much point in having a discussion, is there?

Posted by arduous | April 24, 2007 1:39 PM

The irritating/mildly sinister nature of this trend comes from history - I think we can agree there was a time when half the population was not allowed to have any dreams or ambitions other creating and nurturing a perfect family. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are wishing we'd go back in that direction, and sadly a lot of them even seem to be women. And (progressive) women today are still acutely aware of having escaped from that situation, and the fetishization of pregnancy represents a threat of going back to the restrictions of the past. To be clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with pregnancy itself - but the widespread nature of this trend shows that as the trend has been growing, so has the demeaning expectation that women shouldn't want anything else (again, see Aislinn's comment).

Also, if you're not terrified by the Supreme Court ruling on partial-birth abortion (which, since noone seems to be talking about this, also accepted a provision of the law that said doctors could be held liable for psychological damage to the husband and parents of a woman who gets an abortion - hearkening back to a day when, yes, a woman was the property of her husband and/or parents), I'm probably not going to get through to you, and we should give up on this dialogue.

Also, The Handmaid's Tale was entirely about the fetishization of pregnancy. An extreme, caricatured form of it, yes, but the same fundamental thing. Incidentally, I didn't actually enjoy it as a piece of writing, but I'm realizing more and more what a useful caricature it is.

Posted by Noink | April 24, 2007 1:40 PM

Guys, it's fashion. Since when does fashion make sense? It's going to be replaced by another style next year.

Posted by east coaster | April 24, 2007 1:48 PM

I'm going to assume, Judah, that, despite your masculine name, you're actually a woman and, therefore, know what women should or should not be offended by.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 24, 2007 2:18 PM

I posted about this on my blog too! I live in NYC and I have been forced to become a vintage shopper since all the stores are only selling these massive clothes.

Posted by camille | April 24, 2007 2:56 PM

Christ on a lollipop what's the big deal? Who cares if the media is crazy about pregnant celebs? Who cares if the shirts from the 60s are coming back?

What you should be MORE concerned about are the hideous high-wasted pants that J-Lo and other bitches are trying to bring back into style. Funk that! You will NEVER see me in thost stupid jeans!

I'd much rather look like I'm hiding my beer gut than have my waistband up to my tits!

pic proof:

Posted by Faux Show | April 24, 2007 3:08 PM

This is totally awesome news, because I'm pregnant, and I need something to wear to my sister's wedding. I hope some of those cute dresses come in colors other than white and taupe!

Posted by Shannon | April 24, 2007 3:09 PM

Right on, Judah.

All of fashion is about fetishizing some part or other of the female anatomy. Wait a year until tight clothes come back and then watch people complain about the fetishizing of high breasts/firm asses/tiny waists. Then pregnant women will be out of the fashion loop once more.

There are all kinds of societal pressures out there, on both men and women. I don't think a few ugly shirts are anything to get up in arms about.

Posted by Cate | April 24, 2007 3:19 PM

@33: If you think there aren't broader machinations behind fashion, you are sorely mistaken. Fashion, especially women's fashion, has tentacles woven into almost all other aspects of life, feeding off of them and feeding into them. This is historically true. Fashion is indicative of the economy, of the political climate, of what movies are popular, and, ocassionally, what is actually comfortable or functional to simply clothe oneself in. It is not some autonomous mystery machine cranking out randomly-chosen trends every season. I'm not saying every trend has a demonstrable greater social significance behind it, but most do.

Also, just because this current trend hearkens back to costuming of yore, that does not mean that it also isn't related to a current preoccupation with mommyhood. Pregnancy obviously isn't new, and that it may have influenced clothing in the past as well should be no big surprise.

As far as what Noink is saying, despite rampant overpopulation, most women today are under an enormous amount of pressure to add to their genetic imprint (and to that of their partner, which I mentioned before). If they're perceived as smart and talented then it is assumed that they would have smart and talented children and therefore owe it to future generations to throw their genes in the mix, and if they're less accomplished then it is assumed that all they are good at is making babies, so they should get on that. It's not fair, but it is the truth, and if you're a woman who feels that no person or social construct has ever encouraged you to procreate, I would love to hear your life story. If you're a man who thinks we're overreacting, you don't really know what it's like to a)have a womb, and b) have its contents (or potential contents) constantly scrutinized.

Posted by Aislinn | April 24, 2007 3:21 PM
I'm going to assume, Judah, that, despite your masculine name, you're actually a woman and, therefore, know what women should or should not be offended by.

Ha! So, if I was a woman I'd know what women "should or should not be" offended by? That's awesome. It's like superpowers!

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 3:27 PM

Aislinn, does having 5 sisters give me any sympathetic-womb cred? 2 have had kids, 3 haven't and won't. My mom wore cat glasses in the 60's. Discuss.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 24, 2007 4:05 PM

When is a woman with unimpeachable feminist values going to start a line of clothing that other women with unimpeachable feminist values will want to wear?

With regard to costuming @39, while I agree that the mainstream fascination with Empire waists and a-line tops may be—however explicitly—linked to pregnancy or child bearing, it should be noted that most fashion trends have their genesis in the art world with fashionably eccentric persons (at all income levels, but almost certainly not pregnant or parenting) constantly trying to escape notions of homogeny and mainstream beauty (as found in restrictive and body-exaggerating garb of what we can call the Maxim girl). Some of these eccentric folk find themselves in thrift stores, for example, recycling items like cast-off babydoll dresses (which, at that moment, are not particularly in vogue). As a particular look picks up momentum, it's noticed by designers—almost always within the same year. The looks are interpreted, re-interpreted, and outright copied to runway looks. After that, I'm sure you can trace the trickle-down—from runway to celebrity to media to consumer demand for celebrated looks in the media to varying degrees of luxury in retail outlets.

The point is that, at any given moment, there is a woman somewhere who is trying on a new look or new silhouette in order to subvert expectations about the body and its role. When her number gets called and her look gets copied, there will be yet a new manifestation of the frustration that is being a woman in this society (Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't!), and it will come at her from all directions—man/woman, feminist/misogynist. It fucking sucks.

Posted by Nick | April 24, 2007 4:09 PM

Y'know personally I think pregnant women are fucking hot, but after years of surfing and consensus with my male friends, I've determined my fantasies aren't exactly popular among guys. Sucks to be them. However, the inexplicit rise in pregnancy fetishism in the media is weird as hell. Maybe with the first couples from my generation reproducing the fashion industry is trying to make pregnancy sexy by force of will. If so, they've got to drop those fucking tent-dresses. Those ponchos do nothing for me, especially if the women wearing them aren't even pregnant to begin with. I'd like to see pregnant women wearing tight-fitting t-shirts again. And let the rest of you suffer.

Posted by Shotaman! | April 24, 2007 4:10 PM

Judah: Yes. It's like superpowers. You can have them too, if you're willing to take a 25% pay cut.

On a non-troll-feeding note, does really no one else see the fascist overtones of idolizing [white] pregnancy and motherhood, and at the same time demonizing immigrants and Muslims?

Posted by Kiru Banzai | April 24, 2007 4:20 PM

Erm. I like empire waists. I have no inclination to bear children. I'm an English major, but even for me this reaction feels a wee bit over the top. I don't feel said shirts are in any way doing anything except letting me add one more look to my, I plan to enjoy said empire waists, even if Seattle's fashion police (hah) come drag me away.

Posted by meh | April 24, 2007 4:24 PM
Judah: Yes. It's like superpowers. You can have them too, if you're willing to take a 25% pay cut.

A 25% pay cut and a lobotomy, evidently.

idolizing [white] pregnancy and motherhood, and at the same time demonizing immigrants and Muslims

I'm sorry, I only glanced at those magazine covers but did any of them actually demonize immigrants and Muslims? Or are you just pulling shit out of your ass?

Posted by Judah | April 24, 2007 4:26 PM

Somewhat interesting, but what does this have to do with Seattle?

Posted by Brad | April 24, 2007 4:47 PM

Well, Seattle is one of the most childless cities in the country. I wonder if any of those godawful, trendy "babydoll" shirts and dresses will change any Seattlite's mind about being preggers..

I hate this fashion trend because it looks idiotic. A woman both looks pregnant OR looks about 10-years-old. Plus, it's just unflattering. Bleah. I'd wear a plain tank top over one of those balloon-y tops any day of the week.

Posted by please | April 24, 2007 5:50 PM

I'm in love with Nick.

Posted by craig | April 24, 2007 7:35 PM

I want to have YOUR baby. Nick is welcome, too.

Posted by Nekkid in the Kitchen | April 24, 2007 7:58 PM

Nick Uber Alles.

Posted by Mark Mitchell | April 25, 2007 8:42 AM

You're all missing the point here. These clothes are not stupid because they fetishize pregnancy, they're stupid because it's dumb and misleading to look like you're pregnant when you're not.

Also, they encourage fat women to stop caring about their waistlines, which, with the rates of obesity being what they are, is not something anyone should be encouraging.

Posted by Moira | April 25, 2007 11:47 AM

@48: Have you ever been to the UVillage? Tons of people reproducing there. Actually anywhere there's a tacky, overpriced commercial area in seattle there's an overabundance of pregnant women shopping for maternity clothes. But that's because they're all lame-os.

Although I imagine if you took the overall population of King County and the number of births per year you'd probably be correct.

Posted by Shotaman! | April 25, 2007 12:15 PM

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