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Quilted cotton maternity jacket, Williamsburg, c. 1780-95
Carlson’s corset, Met, ca. 1880
Ooh, look! Another maternity corset!
The daughters of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein, 1526
Maternity clothing at Colonial Williamsburg
Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Marcus Gheeraerts II, c.1595
Embroidered Jacobean jacket, probably for maternity; V&A; 1600-1625
Embroidered jackets were popular items of dress for women in the early 17th century. This very simple unlined example represents an informal style. Unlike more fitted versions, this loose, unshaped jacket may have been worn during pregnancy
A physician with a pregnant woman, Le Régime du corps, c. 1285
Royal Worchester Company corset, Met, ca. 1902
This corset was most likely maternity wear, due to its extra adjustability. The corset itself is constructed of four pieces, with extra sets of eyelets and lacing at back, and there are large elastic panels inserted at front. This would allow the wearer to use the corset for a majority of the maternity term, as the corset could easily loosen as the stomach expanded.
Printed cotton dress, V&A, ca. 1814
The back of the bodice has been shortened to correspond with the fashion for high waistlines. It may also indicate that this dress was worn during pregnancy, as garments were often adapted for this period in a woman’s life. Contrary to popular myth, many women remained socially active right up to the time of their delivery. High-waisted dresses like this one provided comfortable and convenient maternity wear, which also concealed early physical changes. The drawstrings at the top and bottom of the front flaps may also have been inserted for pregnancy, to accomodate a growing bust size.