Not The Target Market

Mothers Have Enough to Deal With


Mother and Child, Ferdinand Hodler, 1888

The daughter-in-law and I spent a very nice day yesterday shopping for maternity clothes. It was a nice day, largely because it is always a nice day when I get spend some time with her. The fashion industry contributed little or nothing to the niceness.

Even before the experience of my lapsed Vogue subscription, I have been convinced that fashion is a conspiracy – against me, and any of the rest of us, who are Not The Target Market. Over the years, I have realized that I’m a misshapen Lilliputian, in a world where all the beautiful people are Brobdingnagians. It’s clear to me that the fashion industry, no matter how often they repeat ‘there are many kinds of beautiful,’ don’t believe a word of it. Designers have no use for anyone who is less than 5’ 10” or has even the hint of a chest or hips. Someone who is petite, and in possession of curves, which if not downright billowy, are at least thinking about that direction, is not their target market. Nor is anyone over the age of 18.

This is also apparently true if one is pregnant; although now, the designers at least have enough sense not just aim for the simple maypole figure; they are aiming for a maypole-that-has-swallowed-a-watermelon.

This seems very hard on pregnant women. At least the rest of us have our hormones intact and our digestion in order and our sleep cycles as per usual. These poor women are finding they are not in control of anything – emotions, body, diet – and now they faced with not being in control of their wardrobe.

Perhaps this is to harden them to the fact that from now on, Clothes Don’t Matter, that they will never again appear in an outfit that simultaneously fits, is not wrinkled and is clear from all food, grease, marker, and spit-up stains. But have some pity!  There is time enough to learn all this after the baby is born.

In addition to having a normal women’s shape (i.e. she is not a Brobdingnagian maypole), my DIL is very well brought up and as such, she was annoyed that so many tops come with spaghetti straps, or no straps at all. As she put it: “Once you get pregnant, you move into industrial-size bras, so why would anyone think these styles are good ideas?”

Pairing with the skimpy tops, many of which would be hard pressed to cover the baby bump (I shudder to think that midriff style is making inroads here), the dresses are so short that they barely cover the essentials, or incredibly long, and therefore, into the Brobdingnagian territory again.

Then there is the complete lack of common sense. The prevailing style for tops (when they are not short and skimpy,) appears to be sausage-like, giving the impression that the woman is carrying a watermelon in sling. Not only does this show way too much detail, I can’t imagine these things were designed by anyone who has ever been pregnant in the summer. In the summer heat moms-to-be have enough to cope with, without adding a shrink-wrapped layer that perfectly traps body heat. Only a sadist would sell them these tops

In the end, after my poor DIL tried on most of the maternity shop, we did manage to find a few things. Interestingly, we had better luck at a “normal” store, with their “normal” jersey sundresses that fell from an empire waist. Plenty of room and modest styling.

The “normal” store was not without its trauma, but it wasn’t our trauma, so we were more amused, (in a knowing, empathetic way) than shattered. As I was waiting on a bench in the dressing room area, I heard the echoes of someone else who is clearly Not The Target Market. In rapid succession she wailed, to her friend who was sitting next to me:

“These purple legs are like balloons! Who designed this?”

And with a note of increasing despair: “Who would wear this?!”

And then the final: “Oh my God.”

She was clearly having a difficult morning – as I submit almost any normal woman, pregnant or not, does when faced with the latest fashions, herself in a dressing room and a mirror.

There being nothing we could do to help the poor suffering creature, the DIL and I nodded at each other and went to lunch.


  1. Barbara Cole

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

  2. Barbara Cole

    I was once in a normal store overhearing the conversation in the dressing room next to mine. Evidently a young woman was in the dressing room with her mother trying on a variety of outfits. She kept insisting they were supposed to be her size but because of all of the shrink wrap material nothing fit. Finally the mother simply said, “Darlin’ sometimes we just have to face facts.”


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