How Rihanna’s empowering maternity style influenced my modest fashion wardrobe

The singer's approach of celebrating, rather than concealing, her bump is rubbing off on me

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Rihanna has reportedly given birth. While her pregnancy might be over, the way she dressed her bump is bound to remain an inspiration for women the world over — and can even influence those who follow more modest codes of fashion, including this writer.

I’m currently in the second trimester of my second pregnancy. As my stomach grows larger, I’m looking at the maternity wardrobe from my first pregnancy with fresh, uninspired eyes. It basically comprised a pair of black Lululemon leggings, two sizes up, oversized boyfriend shirts and T-shirts bought from the men’s section of stores, along with a handful of voluminous maxi dresses.

Euphemistically, my former maternity wardrobe could be described “effortless tomboy” or “cottagecore chic”. In reality, I now think it was boring, baggy, unfestive and unflattering.

It sure was in stark contrast to Rihanna’s wardrobe. The musician and entrepreneur swathed her baby bump in strands of sequins, negligees, latex cropped tops and, sometimes, little more than belly chains or layers of chunky necklaces. While Rihanna’s maternity style was skin-baring, sexy and far from what I’d ever wear due to my own modesty guidelines, her approach of celebrating her bump, rather than hiding it, is nonetheless rubbing off on me.

So when I stepped into Zara this week, I purchased a form-fitting dress that gathers on the side that accentuate my bump while still covering my shoulders and ankles. It hangs in festive hues of tangerine and lime, both shades that radiate positivity and optimism — feelings that I hope to embody.

Pregnancy is, after all, a transformative stage filled with emotional ups and downs, not to mention an expanding body that can cause insecurities, frustrations and fitting challenges. Clothing that makes you feel good while also radiating confidence can be an instant mood-lifter, helping you wear your pregnancy with positivity, pride and gratitude.

Women who would rather not bare their skin can, nonetheless, take cues from Rihanna’s bold approach to maternity fashion, combining current style trends with the level of coverage they feel comfortable with.

Wrap dresses, for instance, may be a traditional maternity and post-pregnancy staple, but why not opt for one in a striking hue of Valentino pink or Bottega green, instead of overdone, matronly prints?

One can also look beyond oversized cotton T-shirts for day-to-day wear. Tops and dresses crafted from plisse textures and ribbed jerseys are all over the high street, and these textiles give shape and form. They’re also a great base for layering — if a ribbed design is too clingy for you, throw an unbuttoned shirt or shacket on top for extra coverage.

On-trend nap dresses, meanwhile, can be worn belted at the waist to give the body some shape, offering a happy marriage between comfort and style.

With so much talk about the “Covid baby boom,” I am hoping retailers will be motivated to amp up their maternity fashion marketing. The retail category is forecasted to reach $24.5 billion by 2025 according to MarketWatch, and thanks to the influence of Instagram culture and celebrities, brands are likely to become more trend-conscious when designing their maternity wear.

Yet, pregnant women should also know their wardrobes need not be limited by the “maternity” tag — and that they can easily still wear garments from a store’s regular range.

My plans this weekend include scouring the malls and my favourite online shopping sites for more fitted maternity tees that show off my bump, rather than oversized menswear that makes me look bulkier and boxier.

A sucker for a prairie dress, I’m seeking out silhouettes with flattering empire-waistlines a la Bridgerton, instead of shapeless sacks. I’m finding ways to be both feminine and modest while embarking on this new chapter of my motherhood journey.

So while our personal styles and aesthetics might be miles apart, I can certainly credit Rihanna for making me see maternity fashion in this new — and frankly empowering — light.

Updated: May 21, 2022, 7:09 AM