Our friend and fellow Canadian plus size model Julia “She Plus” Connelly is pregnant! We are so excited for her as she is quickly approaching her due date, and asked if she would share with us some of her struggles throughout her pregnancy as a plus size woman. The following is her story of what the last 9 months have been like for her. We thank Julia for sharing her story with us and our readers. We hope by exposing this truth it will help to make a change and show retailers that there is a huge gap in the marketplace when it comes to fashionable clothing for pregnant plus size women. Please share your stories and comments with us below. We would love to know if you have gone through a similar story or have any suggestions and/or tips to help other plus size mommies-to-be. – xo Karyn & Melissa
I’m WHAT?!? “You’re pregnant!!” My Mother yelled as I stared at the two pink lines on my take home pregnancy test. As she danced across the room mimicking something between the waltz and the “If your happy and you know it” dance, I was overwhelmed with probably about every emotion and thought possible. After wiping the snot from my nose and laughing my tears away, the thought that terrifies every woman to their deepest core presented itself clearer than day in front of me… “I’m about to get big…. REALLY BIG.”
Being a plus size woman my entire life has been a struggle. From being the ugly duckling at school to having insecurities in the dating world; having a negative self image was easy for me. Until around 2007 when I was scouted in the mall to model for Canadian company “Voluptuous” I never knew there was a world of fashion that I too could participate in. Being in the beauty industry my entire life (I am a makeup artist of 12 years) I always anticipated and grasped the latest trends with full force. The fact that there was little to NO options available fashionably for me to showcase my creativity and love of beauty and fashion made this moment so exciting when I discovered that there had been a break in the market. From that point forward, I made a promise to myself to participate in the plus size movement, shaking the grounds of a size 2 fashion world. From stomping the runways of “Project Runway Canada” for Stephen Wong of Greta Constantine, to shooting the cover of Canadian TV series “How to Look Good Naked Canada” and making to the top 10 finalists in Canada for Addition Elle’s “Canada’s Top Plus Size Model” it sure felt good to be a part of every other curvy’s dream that there was going to be a change.
Now, moving into 2012, I am pleased to see that retailers have put forth an effort to participate in this expanding niche that is still in my opinion, lonely. Well, it was about to get lonelier for me. In my closet that is. As I moved through the weeks of my pregnancy, I found myself reading up on any article possible for an “estimate” of how BIG I was really going to get.
“If you’re overweight, it’s recommended that you gain between 15 and 25 pounds by the end of your pregnancy. Women who are obese are advised to gain only 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.” – Babycenter.com
Well, according to the good word of society, I am OBESE and for once looked at those stats and couldn’t have been happier. “11-20 pounds? I can do that!” I thought. Well as the weeks went by, the pounds came on or re-assigned themselves to different areas of my body and I found it increasingly difficult to figure out what to wear. Initially I was completely in denial of wearing maternity clothing. I figured that since I was already big, I could just squeeze into some usual pants or tops of mine until month 9 and then POOF, it would be over. Well was I ever wrong. I even tried to pop into a maxi dress of mine thinking an empire waistline could flatter anyone, and ended up looking like I was in a moo moo. I would like to shout over a mega-phone the importance of actually wearing maternity clothing while pregnant. It flatters the body shape and doesn’t pitch a tent over your stomach that looks like your hosting Woodstock 2013 under your breasts.
“Hi there, do you have these in a size 16/18?” I asked a woman at a Thyme Maternity. I was desperate to find a pair of jeans or tights that didn’t suffocate me and my ever growing belly. “Ohhh… I’m sorry hunny, we don’t carry that size” was the response I got. My heart absolutely sunk. How can you NOT have a size for women that were bigger to start off with?! I searched high and low for clothing that was fashionable and WEARABLE, I repeat WEARABLE in my size and had no luck. Finally at a baby show, a woman tried to sell me a pair of tights in XXL for something like $59.00. I just laughed and said “I’ll go naked!” Either that or go bankrupt trying to find a few pieces that I could wear for the duration of this pregnancy. To be honest my husband and I searched everywhere for clothing that could accommodate my size and my belly alike. Only ONE retailer that I could find specialized in this department that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. And that was good Old Navy. Happy as a pig in doo, I pranced to the maternity section at Square One Mall and joyfully found a pair of skinny jeans in a size 16, maternity!! I grabbed a few other essentials, such as long sleeved white and black t shirts, tights, jeans and off to the change room I went. Not only did Old Navy have clothing that was my size, but they had pieces that were extremely flattering. That was the first and last time I found pants that I, as a size 16-18 woman, were comfortable and felt beautiful in. I bought a few pairs of 4x tights from Addition Elle and asked them if they had nursing bras. They said that was not an item they carried. I just couldn’t help but think to myself.. “Do curvy women not get pregnant? Do we not have a right to look good?” So here I was again, finding myself circa 2004 trying desperately to find a look that I wanted, and having nowhere to turn. My Mother did find me a dress at EVYMAMA in Toronto, but I’m pretty sure it cost her a pretty penny. I gathered bits and pieces from Target on a desperate trip to Buffalo one afternoon, but I still have to rant that Canadian retailers do not engage and represent a market that is very much so in need. There was not one store in a regular mall that could even accommodate my bust or waist size for maternity or nursing gear.
With all this being said, I am in my 9th month, and creatively have managed to make due with the few pieces I bought at Old Navy, Target and select pieces from my old closet. As my due date draws near, I endearingly gaze at my closet of ‘regular, plus size clothing’ and dream about wearing some of the pieces this summer. Although I am aware that certain companies do offer plus size maternity, this experience is written from the eyes of a picky, plus size fashionista that refused to wear a moo moo.
Will Canadian retailers smarten up and accommodate to us in the future? Will Canadian plus size Mom-to-be’s stand up against them? My only hope is that they will, and that every woman at a glowing 9 months, of any size, can show off their belly with pride in their image. xo Julia
Here is a list of retailers we found that carry plus size Maternity options (although we can’t guarantee they will fit or be fashionable):