New York You used to be able to spot a pregnant woman a mile away. And it wasn't her protruding belly that gave her away it was the Peter Pan collars, trapeze tops and tent-like dresses she used as her "wardrobe" that instantly told of her condition.
But then stretch fabric was born, and it changed everything. Maternity clothes no longer had to be the biggest, most amorphous shapes that fit over a woman's head.
"The last three years have changed maternity fashion," says Sandy Urna, the design director for retailer iMaternity.
"Stretch made it possible to have pants without a panel, and the pants and skirts grow with you. Anything you wear now, you can have in maternity."
Pregnant women now wear tucked-in tops and bare summer styles, allowing their maternity wardrobe to be an extension of their typically fashion-filled closet, Urna explains.
Retailer A Pea in the Pod, which offers styles from top designers including Nicole Miller, Anna Sui and Vivienne Tam in addition to it's own label, is aiming to make runway fashion a reality for pregnant women, according to company president Rebecca Matthias.
"There is a change in the air," she says.
For evening, the look is "luxe," Matthias describes, with a black sequin top over black leather pants or a hip-hugging fishtail evening skirt with a crisp tie-wrap shirt.
Designer Lauren Sara, whose typical customer wears designers like Jil Sander when she's not pregnant, says she picks up where the runway designer leaves off: about the fourth or fifth month.
The extra pounds and change in shape that come with pregnancy aren't excuses for professional women and women who just want to look good to be stuck in hokey outfits they would never have chosen a few months before.
"I want to stand apart as a designer sportswear collection that happens to be for a pregnant woman," says Sara.
Sara recently announced a partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue, which will make her M by Lauren Sara collection the exclusive maternity line at the high-end retailer.