1. This quilted cotton maternity jacket is part of three matching pieces in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. It dates from between 1780 and 1795, and is the only maternity related fashion currently held in the collection.

    This quilted cotton maternity jacket is part of three matching pieces in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. It dates from between 1780 and 1795, and is the only maternity related fashion currently held in the collection.

  2. Russian noblewoman Alexandra Branicka was painted by Leontiy Miropolskiy during her pregnancy in the 1780s wearing a simple, flowing house robe.

    Russian noblewoman Alexandra Branicka was painted by Leontiy Miropolskiy during her pregnancy in the 1780s wearing a simple, flowing house robe.

  3. This loose-fitting, quilted morning gown from 1778 would have been ideal maternity wear for a stylish 18th century woman late in pregnancy.
I love the sunny yellow color!

    This loose-fitting, quilted morning gown from 1778 would have been ideal maternity wear for a stylish 18th century woman late in pregnancy.

    I love the sunny yellow color!

  4. Waistcoats and riding jackets were popular maternity wear for women in the 18th century. Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia, shown in this 1776 portrait by Alexander Roslin, wears a fashionably altered waistcoat and open gown to accommodate her pregnancy.
The following excerpt, from a 1735 letter Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote to her granddaughter, describes the struggle of an 18th century woman to find suitable clothing for late pregnancy…
I remember when I was within three months of my reckoning I could never endure any bodice [corset] at all; but wore a warm waistcoat wrapped around me like a man’s and tied my petticoats on top of it. And from that time never went abroad but with a long black scarf to hide me I was so prodigeous big.

    Waistcoats and riding jackets were popular maternity wear for women in the 18th century. Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia, shown in this 1776 portrait by Alexander Roslin, wears a fashionably altered waistcoat and open gown to accommodate her pregnancy.

    The following excerpt, from a 1735 letter Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote to her granddaughter, describes the struggle of an 18th century woman to find suitable clothing for late pregnancy…

    I remember when I was within three months of my reckoning I could never endure any bodice [corset] at all; but wore a warm waistcoat wrapped around me like a man’s and tied my petticoats on top of it. And from that time never went abroad but with a long black scarf to hide me I was so prodigeous big.

  5. Women of the 18th century continued to wear stays (corsets) throughout the majority of pregnancy.

    This may seem impractical and rather extreme our modern sensibilities, but stays were considered a basic and essential undergarment and part of everyday life. The suggestion of eliminating the use of stays during pregnancy would likely make no more sense to an 18th century woman than the suggestion of eliminating bras during pregnancy would to a 21st century woman.

    Tailleur d’habits et tailleur de corps, a fascinating 1771 on tailoring (which can be viewed in its entirety here if you’re interested) has a design for a pair of stays patterned especially for pregnancy. These stays (shown above left) lace up the sides in addition to the traditional lacing up the back, allowing them to expand with a pregnant woman’s growing stomach.

    The photo on the right shows what these stays would look like constructed.

  6. Despite their apparently rigid construction, 18th century bodices were actually fairly malleable when it came to accommodating pregnancy. The use of stomachers left the front of the bodice open allowing pregnant women to either use larger stomachers or forgo them entirely and fasten to bodice with ties.
You can see with this quilted robe à la française from circa 1750, how widely the bodice could be expanded with the use of ties.

    Despite their apparently rigid construction, 18th century bodices were actually fairly malleable when it came to accommodating pregnancy. The use of stomachers left the front of the bodice open allowing pregnant women to either use larger stomachers or forgo them entirely and fasten to bodice with ties.

    You can see with this quilted robe à la française from circa 1750, how widely the bodice could be expanded with the use of ties.

  7. The early 18th century arrival of the loose-fitting robe volante into mainstream formal fashion (it had previously been worn only as very informal wear or negligee) must have been a boon to women seeking fashionable maternity wear.
This gorgeous extant example is from the Kyoto Costume Institute and dates to circa 1720.

    The early 18th century arrival of the loose-fitting robe volante into mainstream formal fashion (it had previously been worn only as very informal wear or negligee) must have been a boon to women seeking fashionable maternity wear.

    This gorgeous extant example is from the Kyoto Costume Institute and dates to circa 1720.

  8. Opulent Jeanne Lanvin fancy dress costumes for an 18th century Venetian themed ball. From  La Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921.

    Opulent Jeanne Lanvin fancy dress costumes for an 18th century Venetian themed ball. From La Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921.

  9. An 18th century themed masquerade costume based on the opera Manon, from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1914.

    An 18th century themed masquerade costume based on the opera Manon, from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1914.

  10. Venetian themed masquerades were also very popular in the early 1910s. This 1913 fashion plate from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes shows a couple in Venetian costumes based on the work of 18th century artist Pietro Longhi.

    Venetian themed masquerades were also very popular in the early 1910s. This 1913 fashion plate from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes shows a couple in Venetian costumes based on the work of 18th century artist Pietro Longhi.