Today, we have a wide choice of maternity clothing available, designed and made specifically for this purpose. But what about women in the 1700s? What choice did they have during pregnancy? We all know that females wore corsets in daily life at the time. The question is, can a corset hurt the baby, or is it a useful asset for a future mother? In this article, we’ll try to find out the answers to all those questions.
There is a huge variety of corset designs and styles to suit different purposes, invented in different periods of time, and created according to different fashion trends. An 18th-century corset differs a lot from, say, 19th-century stays. It’s much comfier and less tight. So, could it be used by pregnant women?
The answer is yes. Not only that, a correctly designed 1700s corset was a great help to a pregnant woman. It was laced so that the belly wasn’t squeezed at all, and the back and bust support was much steadier and comfier than even our modern maternity bras.
The 18th-century stays had a light boning, could be laced at the front, and the rigid part reached only about the waist. Such a corset didn’t cover the lower stomach, so no pressure on the fetus. Corsets for pregnant ladies had additional lacing at both sides so that a woman could adjust it according to the size of her belly. And when she gave birth and no longer needed extra space, she just closed the side lacing and the stays fit her body tightly.
So, due to all the info above, we can assume that pregnant 18th-century ladies not only didn’t suffer from wearing maternity stays, they loved them. And that’s a good thing, considering how many children they had.
Another question is, what other maternity clothes did they have in the second half of the 1700s? At the time, fabric was extremely expensive and ordinary women couldn’t make special garments for pregnancy. Only very wealthy and the royal women could afford that. But middle-class females also had some tricks. A lot of outer garments had ties, lacing, or pins, so they could be easily adjusted to any changes in figure. Such underwear pieces as petticoats also had ties and could be adjusted. Thanks to all those tricks, a woman could have just a few dresses and could use them for years.
There were also some foundation garments and other pieces that helped a woman during her pregnancy. For example, a stomacher could cover the gap behind the lacing or a special vest could do the same so that the chemise wasn’t visible because people tried to never show their underwear items in public.