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Being Pregnant Is Officially In Vogue

Pregnant Claudia Schiffer on German Vogue coverIf the 12,426 bump watch pieces and the injection of pregnant women’s urine haven’t convinced you that being pregnant is a sought-after state, pregnancy has now received the thumbs up from that most fickle of style arbiters: the fashion world.

New York Magazine reports on the growing trend of incorporating pregnancy into high fashion. Over the past few seasons, pregnant models Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr, and Jourdan Dunn walked the runway while visibly pregnant — the latter in a custom couture belly pad made by Jean-Paul Gaultier to accentuate her bump.  And Claudia Schiffer was featured on the cover of German Vogue — nude — in Karl Lagerfeld’s reinterpretation of Annie Lebovitz’s Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover.

Industry insiders have various interpretations of the pregnant model trend. Some say it’s just a way to keep using hot models when they’re hot. But maybe, some suggest, it’s saying something deeper about what the fashion world finds beautiful.

“While thin models will always be the norm in fashion, it’s notable that an industry so obsessed with skinny has not only become more accepting of the bump but also actually celebrates motherhood (of supermodels, at least) by casting pregnant women for some of fashion’s biggest stages,” New York Magazine‘s Amy Odell says.

The model Alessandra Ambrosio, who turned down a number of cover offers to relax in her native Brazil during her 2008 pregnancy, says pregnant models are a reaction to the skinny norm.  “I think the world was like, ‘We want to see healthier women in the magazines, on the runway.'”

So the “normal” state of models is rail thin — whether due to behavior modification (i.e. starvation) or just “good genes,” and pregnant women are the industry’s concession to health? The embracing of pregnant models seems like a way of discreetly accepting (or more generously, celebrating) womanliness without threatening the baseline: angular, clean-lined clothes-hangers. Models are only allowed to look like women and not like girls (or boys) if they’re actively engaged in the female reproductive process at that very moment, cartoon exaggerations of the kinds of lumpy, bumpy “womanly” bodies the rest of us walk around with all the time.

Once their babies are out,  models’ bodies seem to return to fine form in short order (probably due to the same genes — or extreme ability to sustain extremes of deprivation — that allowed those coveted measurements in the first place). Odell suggests that motherhood may actually be a lasting asset for models, giving women something to identify with, even as they are alienated from their freakishly good looks. But realistically: since when have fashion models been chosen for their relatability?

But hey, maybe this trend will have a positive trickle-down effect. Maybe this is a sign of a greater acceptance of women’s bodies as functional instead of just decorative. Maybe the fact that the fashion world sees pregnant women as beauty ideals can help boost the self esteem of pregnant women in general.  As Stephen Lee, an agent at Next Models, says, “What better way to herald being a beautiful woman than being pregnant?”

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