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Published July 21, 2012, 11:30 PM

Challenge fashion rules when you’re expecting

For many pregnant women, the idea of baring one’s bump in a bikini can trigger symptoms of morning sickness. But if an expectant mom is spending days at the beach or pool with an older child or two, a bikini she already owns can be much kinder to her swelling belly (and shrinking bladder) than a one-piece, says fashion and pregnancy veteran Eva Anderson.

By: Wendy Donahue, Chicago Tribune, INFORUM

For many pregnant women, the idea of baring one’s bump in a bikini can trigger symptoms of morning sickness. But if an expectant mom is spending days at the beach or pool with an older child or two, a bikini she already owns can be much kinder to her swelling belly (and shrinking bladder) than a one-piece, says fashion and pregnancy veteran Eva Anderson.

“Bikinis, especially the kind with adjustable tops and roll-down bottoms, are great for pregnancy,” said Anderson, a mom and co-owner of the Chicago fashion boutique Le Dress. It does not sell maternity clothes, but “pregnancy-friendly” tags hang on certain pieces.

“Avoid one-piece bathing suits – you’ll have a really hard time getting it on and off to go to the bathroom,” said Anderson, who’s expecting her second child. “If you want the belly coverage, buy a tankini in a size bigger with a lot of stretch.”

A bikini ban is not the only maternal instinct being called into question in maternity fashion these days. The title alone of the Bravo docudrama “Pregnant in Heels” challenges another – that flats are a pregnant woman’s best friend. The show’s matriarch, Rosie Pope, designed a capsule collection for A Pea in the Pod stores (www.apeainthepod.com/maternity/designer-brands-rosie-pope.asp), modeling the dresses with sky-high platform stilettos at the height of her pregnancy.

“Wedges are also a great option because they are comfortable and can make you feel great about yourself and safer than a stiletto,” Pope said.

She ticks off three more assumptions to dismiss when pregnant: “Baggy is always best. Stripes make you look fat. And maternity clothes are only for nine months.”

Pope, too, prefers bikinis on pregnant women, but not just for practicality. “They in general look better,” she said. She and other maternity fashion experts encourage pregnant women to consider a few trends that they might shun at first glance.

Nautical stripes: “People think you shouldn’t wear stripes,” said Jennifer Strom Simonte, owner of Belly Dance stores in New York and Chicago (www.bellydancematernity.com). “But it really can be more flattering to show the belly than to try to camouflage it. That’s one of the reasons stripes work.” It’s also why fitted tops can look better than loose ones.

Colored denim: A bright-on-bottom, or a cropped white pair of maternity jeans, can draw attention away from a broad belly, or at least balance it, Strom Simonte said.

Maxi dresses: “This is the perfect warm-weather outfit because you’re completely covered – hiding swollen legs and ankles or spider veins – but it’s breezy and cool,” Anderson said.

Belts: “I am a huge fan of belting tops and dresses on the pregnant silhouette,” said Jamenda McCoy, owner of Belle Up maternity (www.belleup.com). Wearing a skinny belt above the bump can keep a drapey cardigan or top from looking frumpy. “Not only are they a good way to add a pop of color to an outfit,” McCoy said, “but they also create the illusion of a waistline.”

Kitten heels: Aside from stilettos and wedges, consider a kitten heel when you want a little lift, McCoy suggests.

She and other experts discourage flip-flops for extended wear – “for safety reasons and for the sake of your poor little arches,” McCoy said. “But at the point in which they are the only shoes that fit your swollen feet, you’re excused.”

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