Vintage Maternity Clothing Styles 1910-1960May 28, 2014 • By Debbie Sessions
A few weeks ago I uncovered the history of vintage maternity clothing. As fascinating as history is to the many pregnant women who write to me asking for help, what is needed are maternity clothes! It is difficult to give up your personal vintage style just because you are pregnant or to figure out how to dress for a themed wedding or event when you feel like the size of a house! While vintage maternity clothes are hard to come by (and often not labeled as maternity) and there are, to my knowledge, no vintage reproduction clothing companies making vintage maternity clothing. My best advice is to either sew your own clothes or use new maternity clothing and make it look vintage. Here is how I would dress for each era from 190 to 1960:
1910s Inspired Maternity Clothes
The 1910’s style for dress featured a high, empire waist, and long gown for most day and evening occasions. Thankfully a high waistband is exactly what you need to allow room for the baby bump. Most new and old “bridesmaid” dresses feature empire waists and are easy enough to find in thrift stores or maternity bridal wear. Even a loose slip dress can be used with a wide sash band at the high waist. If you have trouble finding a dress long enough you can always layer a shorter dress over a long slip or skirt. If the dress is sleeveless consider adding a pretty bolero jacket, silky robe, or shawl to cover your arms. My guide to making a quick Titanic era dress will work for maternity clothing too.
For nursing moms, a long straight skirt and loose blouse will be easier than a full dress.
Here are some options:
1920s Inspired Maternity Clothes
The 1920s are the easiest of the 20th century decades to dress in vintage maternity style. 1920’s dresses are just slipped dresses, many without waistbands, and others with loose waist belts. It is easy enough to find a simple slip dress or drop waist dress in a size that will fit your middle. If the top is too big you can easily take up the shoulders and narrow the side hem to make it fit. A jersey drop waist dress like this one pictured is also a great choice. Jersey, while not authentic, does give off the knitwear vibe that was so popular in the 20’s. Accessorize your dress with a cloche hat, long necklace, and comfortable shoes. Look here for easy 20’s costume ideas that can be adapted for maternity wear.
For nursing moms, a mid-shin or knee-length pleated or chiffon skirt and loose blouse will work well.
These will work great for the 1920s:
1930s Inspired Maternity Clothes
The 1930’s start to get a little trickier for maternity clothing. The slim, shaped, silhouette of the 30’s can’t be camouflaged under loose fitting slip dress. However, some slip dresses are perfect for a 30’s look. I love floral print chiffon dresses (popular in the 90’s and again in summer time now) with ruffled sleeves and hemlines. They probably won’t have a matching belt with it (which many 30’s dresses had) so you can cut your hem off a little to make a matching belt, or just not worry about it.
The other common 30’s style maternity dress is the wrap around dress. Many modern maternity dresses are still made in the wrap style. This is the best type of dress for nursing moms too. Do look for a dress with an adjustable wrap, not a faux wrap, otherwise, you will outgrow it in no time. There are many patterns for wrap around maternity dresses sold at your local craft and sewing supply stores too.
Here are some of the 1930s:
1940s Style Maternity Dresses
The wrap dress made popular in the 1930’s continued to be a hot item in the 1940’s as well. With shorter hemlines (to the knee) most modern maternity wrap dresses are ideal for the 40’s look. Another style to consider is the shirtwaist dress. With buttons running half way or all the way up the dress it is both idea for maternity and nursing moms. Maternity versions have side ties or a long tie belt to gather in the dress which would fit like a tent if it didn’t have the ties. Among modern maternity clothes shirtwaist dresses don’t seem very popular. You can buy a regular shirtwaist dress and just up your size. The is great for this solution. I also love because they are made with stretchy knit. I was able to wear my normal size my entire pregnancy.
For a 1940’s and 1950’s pinup look there are some great modern dresses available. These “wiggle” dresses fit snugly and hug the body all over. The ruching across the dress makes them expandable as the bump grows. They are certainly as “sexy” as vintage-inspired maternity clothes can be.
One more casual 40’s look is the “Rosie the Riveter” style with overalls, blouse, and hair scarf. While I’ve never seen maternity overalls in the 40’s I do LOVE wearing overalls when i’m prego. Not having a waistband is SO much more comfortable for me. I find used overalls at the thrift store (buying a size or two up) and matching it with a 40’s style top and cute headscarf, ala Rosie style. It’s perfectly vintage for casual or everyday wear. Thankfully overalls are back in fashion. A few years ago they were not and I wore them anyways before I “looked” pregnant into a trendy part of town where a group of young women snickered at my lack of fashion. : ( While non-prego ladies may not understand my love affair with overalls, all my prego friends thought my look was brilliant!
One of these for the 1940s:
1950s Maternity Style Clothes
What I love most about 50’s style maternity clothes are capri pants and tunic tops! While shirtwaist dresses were still worn in the 50’s it’s nice to get out of dresses once in a while and wear some other vintage inspired clothing. Capri pants or even regular long skinny maternity pants work great for 50’s bottoms. Paired with a tunic style maternity top (or short 60’s shift dress) and you have an instant maternity and nursing friendly style. Where to find maternity tunic tops is tricky. Most modern maternity tops are designed to show off the bump not hide it. My secret source?
Asian markets. The current trend for all things vintage and “cute” style is predominant in Asian countries, like Korea, Japan and Taiwan. My only word of caution is that Asian clothing runs very small on Western body types. Always order at least one size up above the size chart. On American sites, many of the 60’s style clothing popular right now will still look 50’s. Tunic dresses, shift dresses and “mini dresses” can also work well as tops over a pair of pants. Don’t forget maternity pencil skirts and full circle skirts are also very 50’s.
Some 1950s options:
1960s Style Maternity Dresses
Speaking of 60’s fashions, pretty much all in fashion clothing is inspired by the 60’s. From boho embroidered peasant tops or classic shift dresses and mod colorblock mini dresses. Pulling of a 60’s look will not be hard. Many modern maternity dress are short, waist less, sleeveless dresses that echo 60’s. Many come in pastel or bold almost neo colors also popular in the 60’s. Add a pair of gogo boots and a 60’s bouffant and you are all set.
These are just a few ideas to help you create a vintage look while prego. To help with your search check out my links page here for all my favorite vintage inspired maternity clothes online. If you need help finding something specif feel free to contact me for help.
Great 1960s maternity dresses: