Having previously navigated the shady bits of the industry to carve herself a successful career as a model, Louise aka @mamasstillgotit_  was shocked to learn that becoming pregnant would curtail her chance of finding new jobs, and not for the reasons you might think. You see, those pregnant mamas we see in the press; they are just models with foam bumps strapped to them which is damaging for many reasons, as Louise explains. 

  • Being a model for many years has inevitably gone hand in hand with battling and overcoming continuous hurdles that are related within the fashion industry.

  •  It all started when I was 14 years old and got signed to one of the biggest and most famous modelling agencies in the world.  I was home to the same agency as Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Carla Bruni to name a few. A signed contract felt like I was lucky enough as Cinderella going to the ball, but as I got to understand my role as a model in the 90s, a series of rejection, confusion, knock backs and disapproving agents spiralled me into a hole of despondency and gloom.

  • Starting out modelling in the 90’s was a very different place to what it is today.  ‘Heroin chic’ was in and if you weren’t a perfect 34” hip you would be asked to leave the agency and lose weight – and not come back until you had the correct measurements… or else!  

  • This happened to me when I was the tender age of 15. I was anything but ‘heroin chic’. I was blonde, blue eyed, had breasts and hips growing and oozed a healthy looking teenager.

  • The enormous pressure of trying to fit in and feel accepted by my agency and clients was palpable and after months of what I can only describe as self-torment, inescapably it effected my mental and physical health.  I silently fell into a the very common trap of developing an eating disorder.

  • I was one of the lucky ones and thankfully managed to pull myself out of the bulimic trenches with the support of my family after I reluctantly confessed.

  • At around the same time, I started to learn about modelling agencies that represented models who had curves.  Hurrah! I was immediately signed up by a ‘plus size’ agency even though I was now a heathy size 12.

  • The term ‘plus size’ starts at a UK 12 and up to size 30+. I was finally working with clients that I loved and respected and I could just me be. It was an Andy Dufresne moment when he left Shawshank.  Arms open praising to the sky that I could finally work at the size I should be and feel normal. I hope you’ve seen this movie, otherwise this will mean nothing to you!

  • What’s wonderful about the fashion industry is how it has remarkably evolved.  When I first started out in 2001, ‘plus size’ was almost frowned upon, a second class type of modelling and most high street brands didn’t want to produce clothing over a size 16.  The designs were frumpy and word ‘plus size’ sounded derogatory.

  • Cut to 24 years later, at the age of 38 and a successful ‘curve’ model, it’s now ‘normal’ to see curvier models on front covers of magazines or feature in a major campaign.  Luckily with the power of social media, women want to see someone more relatable when it comes to fashion.

  • However…

  • As much as the fashion industry has opened it’s usually rigorous doors to using curvier girls in their campaigns, there is one part of the business that is absurd. Maternity modelling.  

  • When I recently announced my pregnancy, lots of friends and family of course naturally stated ‘Great you can do lots of pregnant modelling!’. But I knew the real truth with this.

  • Did you know that the biggest maternity brands don’t use actual pregnant models for fashion?  Instead, they use size 8 models and attach a small fake bump. I mentioned this on my Instagram a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe the uproar it caused with so many women.  I received many messages from women with utter disgruntlement.  

  • Some women were shocked and disgusted whereas others mentioned how maternity shopping had affected their mental health.

  •  Other’s had a sign of relief as now they knew why they didn’t look like the pregnant models online.

  • Why is only one type of standardised model being used to sell maternity?

  •  And why aren’t brands using actual real pregnant women?

  •  I have bought maternity clothes online myself recently and of course what it looks like on the girl on my screen looks nothing like it should on me.

  •  My bump is bigger, I have breasts and a butt. I am a walking talking pregnant person, yet I’m buying clothes off a pretend pregnant person and hoping I’ll look the same as they do. It’s bonkers.

  • The truth is, these ‘pregnant’ models don’t represent the diversity that comes with being pregnant.  These models selling maternity clothes are extremely young, and a size 8 with no breasts.

  •  And of top of this, perfectly capable models like myself who can model maternity aren’t getting a look in.  I officially went on maternity leave at 17 weeks pregnant…!

  • I have spoken to photographers, stylist and models about this recently too to see it from their point of view. They have the same verdict as me.  Quite frankly ridiculous. I scroll online looking for a nice maternity outfit to wear and come across model friends of mine who are pretending to be pregnant.  Knowing they’re not actually pregnant is a massive turn off for me. It’s like trying to shop for something fake.

  • There is debate that real pregnant models are hard to come by (they’re not) or that brands are worried that being pregnant on set means getting tired quicker, or perhaps looks swollen in places (normal) or maybe they would need a certain type of insurance in case something happened to the mother/baby whilst shooting.  I understand these predicaments, however – this is my job. This is how I manage to pay the mortgage and nursery fee’s. I already have a letter in place from my midwife stating my pregnancy is going well just in case a job may come in. I have literally lost my job because I am pregnant, but regardless of this – I am also a consumer and I would prefer to buy maternity clothes off a real pregnant person.  It’s not rocket science.

  • So there you have it – as much as I have seen the fashion industry change for the better over the years, I am now dealing with another fashion spanner in the works.  

  • The main reason I wanted to write this piece is because I want pregnant women who are shopping online to know that their bump and body is perfect.

  •  If you feel like you don’t look like the models you are being subject to whilst shopping online – that’s because the ‘perfect pregnancy bump’ you see is in fact foam.  

  • Thanks for reading and wish me luck with finding a new job in my third trimester! 

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  • Reply Elle Chipper June 3, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    So true!! I’m 31 weeks and really struggling now to find half decent outfits. The shops barely stock maternity wear so it’s a case of doing a massive online shop and then sending most of it back.

  • Reply Kelly June 4, 2019 at 7:16 am

    I’m finding it hard to relate to the ‘nursing’ outfits which are all on tall, slim models with zero sign of a bump! Nursing starts on day 1 PP when bump is still very much in place. And as for having to order the whole maternity collection online, in various sizes and return 3/4 of it, does my head in!! I just wanna mooch the shops and feel inspired.

  • Reply Sarah Clarke June 9, 2019 at 7:22 am

    It is a nightmare! I have bought everything online because the shops have nothing. Most of it is frumpy or boring. Barely any of it fits right. The one place I do buy from which has a nice selection, half of it I look at and think where are her boobs? If I buy that I’ll be spilling out all over and so many designs that will not work with a giant maternity bra it’s unreal!!

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