An open letter to British retailers regarding maternity clothes

To all British retailers,

Just over 4 months ago I found out I was pregnant. Since that moment my life has been a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from so-excited-I-could-burst to oh-my-god-what-are-we-doing?-this-is-absolutely-terrifying.  Indeed, as a FTM or first time mum there are lots of things to get my head round. Knowing what FTM means for example, or becoming highly acquainted with the toilet bowl.

There seems to be an endless list of adjustments to be made, whether it be my sleeping position or how to sneeze without causing myself pain.  All of these things I hadn’t expected.  I actually said to a friend that I’m convinced the reason why it’s been deemed bad luck to share your pregnancy news before you’ve completed the first trimester is because the first trimester is so bloody horrible that if non-parents were to know they’d never consider starting a family.  All in all it’s been emotional.

One of the biggest factors to contend with is the effect of pregnancy on your body.  People talk about the pregnancy glow but I must admit I can’t say I feel bouncing when every part of my body hurts, I’m out of breath, covered in spots like a pubescent teenager and watching my body expand by the day.  Like any woman I take pride in my appearance, like to keep up to date with fashion and know that when I’m not feeling my best I want to be dressed in my favourite clothes.  This has been a problem.

On a recent visit to the UK I was looking forward to hitting the streets of London and Manchester and getting my hands on some maternity clothes.  I’ve reached the point of no return with my ‘normal’ clothes and I was looking forward to shopping in the both fashionable and affordable high street stores.  Sadly I shouldn’t have bothered.  After dragging my podgy ankles up and down Oxford Street I realised that it was time to make another realisation: I was now an outcast of society.

All the stores I entered (bar three) told me that they no longer stocked maternity clothes in-store, instead opting to sell them online.  Now I’m a big online shopper, I love it, especially living abroad but I only love it because after 30 odd years I know my size.  Being pregnant I don’t.  Never has there been a more important time to try clothes on because I’m still coming to terms with my ever-changing shape.  Trying to explain this to various shop assistants and managers I got some sympathetic glances and suggestions to try plus size clothing but i left feeling hugely disappointed.

It’s not as if I’m the only pregnant woman in the world so what has changed the attitudes of the retailers? Why is being pregnant now out of fashion? Most fashion stores now stock a variety of ranges for different body types, tall, petite, plus-size. So why has pregnancy clothing suddenly been deemed uncommercial?

In the few stores I visited which did stock  maternity clothes there was a very limited range (usually just a rail or two) and bizarrely these sections were located in the most inaccessible parts of the store, requiring me to climb several flights of stairs, manoeuvre through enthusiastic bargain-hunters and rifle through childrenswear before finding my one pair of  over-the-bump jeans.

The store whose praises i would like to sing however is H&M.  In virtually all the stores I entered I found a maternity range, clearly signposted and easy to find and with a decent range of fashionable clothes at reasonable prices.  Were it not for them I would probably have burst into tears a few times during my shopping trip (I’ll blame the hormones).

So to all the other retailers who have, for some unbeknown reason, decided to purge their stores of maternity clothes and move them all online; I urge you to reconsider.  Having children is a wonderful thing and mothers are truly awesome at dealing with pregnancy and childbirth (trust me on this one) so please, please don’t alienate young mothers and make their self esteem take yet another beating.  At a time when everything is changing lets allow mothers to at least indulge in a good bit of retail therapy.

Yours sincerely (and pregnant)

Olivia

Please sign my petition and help bring maternity clothes back to the high street: Maternity clothes petition

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