It can feel like her every move breaks the internet, so it’s unsurprising that when Kim Kardashian announced on Saturday that she was launching a range of shapewear for pregnant women she encountered an avalanche of criticism. We discovered that the latest addition to her best-selling Skims underwear line would be ‘Maternity Solutionwear’, which Kim claimed would “offer the best in comfort and support for your changing body during and after pregnancy."
You'd have thought Kardashian had just suggested mums-to-be should all be wearing corsets, such was the backlash. "Just let people enjoy their pregnancy without thinking they need to maintain the perfect figure," read one tweet, while someone else commented under Kim’s Instagram post: "Excuse my ignorance but who’s tryna shape their pregnant bodies? Y’all don’t like being comfy and free and loose when pregnant? It’s pretty much the only time you can be as shapeless and free and comfy as you want!” Another added, "I'm sure that's the one thing pregnant women need above all! Being pressed into a slimmer figure."
The Good Place star Jameela Jamil waded in, writing on Instagram: “I will say: I wish we could just normalize just focusing on the inside of a pregnant body, not the outside. You don't need your shape corrected or hidden. You don't need an even more awkward obstacle between you and a piss. You just need to try and ride with this miracle and do your best to be as happy/comfortable as is possible within your circumstances. Pregnancy is hard enough, with enough worries already.”
Before I got pregnant I would’ve agreed that maternity shapewear sounded like a step too far, even from the woman who was much-mocked for her own choice of maternity outfit at the 2013 Met Gala (that floral dress which looked like a sofa). Why would a pregnant woman want to squeeze herself into something uncomfortable and Spanx-like to achieve Kim K-levels of unobtainable perfection? Surely they’d rather let it all hang out?
But now that I’m eight months’ pregnant, I can’t wait to get my hands on some Skims (which launch on Wednesday). Throughout my pregnancy, I discovered that snug-fitting items such as leggings which hug my bump have actually made me feel more supported and comfortable than baggy clothes. Rather than gravitating towards, ooh I don’t know, a hessian sack (as some people seem to think you should opt for when you’re expecting), I’ve actually preferred to wear tighter, more body-con dresses.
The maternity wear label Isabella Oliver does a bump-flaunting LBD and some black skinny jeans which I’ve basically lived in. They emphasise my bump, retain my old sense of style and don’t make me feel like I’m wearing a marquee.
Kim seems to agree, writing a lengthy response to the backlash on Twitter: “To anyone who has an issue with maternity solutionwear, and if you haven’t been pregnant before you may not know the struggle of what it’s like carrying all of this weight the way I did along with millions of strong women, @skims maternity line is not to slim but to support”. She goes on to claim that the compression on the leggings helps with swelling and that she has been contacted by “tens of thousands” of women requesting a maternity line.
I think the outcry speaks to a wider assumption that just because you happen to be growing a human, you no longer want to feel sexy or desirable which is just not the case. During the recent heatwave, I went for a swim and wore a bikini to sunbathe by the pool, bump proudly on view. “You’re brave!” one woman told me, as if I should be hiding in the dark cloaked in a shroud for nine long months.
Besides, most maternity ranges already have shapewear offerings, including Spanx and their ‘Mama Power Shorts’. And many mainstream fashion brands are wising up to ‘the preggo pound’. Next week Nike unveil their debut maternity activewear range ‘M’.
From what I’ve seen on Kardashian’s Instagram, her Maternity Solutionwear looks like it’s comfortable and not restrictive. The bras, knickers and bodysuits come in a wide range of sizes (XXS to XXXXXL) and in nine different shades, far more than we’re used to seeing in underwear lines, many of which still only offer up only a peachy-pink as a ‘nude’.
On her Instagram Stories Kim says: “If only there were cute bras that were holding you up and snatching you and making you feel better about yourself while you can breastfeed, that would have been everything to me”.
Granted, snatching doesn’t sound like a word you want to be associated with your breasts (no doubt your baby will soon be doing enough of that), but if Skims maternity line can help women feel good about their bodies at a time when it can feel like yours is no longer your own, then that can only be a positive. Like everything else Kim Kardashian launches, this will be a sell-out.