Maternity Garment Wishes

Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Body, Family | 51 comments

When I was a fetus, I had my first and only opportunity to contribute to the design of the Mormon undergarment.  My parents’ neighbor had been commissioned to design maternity garments for the Church. Her goal was to make a garment that would accommodate a pregnant woman’s expanding belly without discomfort.  She sought out my mother’s help because she needed a model who was both temple-endowed and enormously pregnant.  As she observed to my mom, “Not many women get as big as you.”

My mother tried on the prototype and the designer asked her, “Are you comfortable?”  My mother assured her that she was.  Swimming around inside my mother’s womb underneath that garment, I honestly can’t remember now whether or not I was comfortable as well.

However, today I am wearing maternity garments again and I can emphatically reply, “No, I am not comfortable.”

My mom was only six months pregnant at the time the garment designer observed that she was so big.  She was destined to become much bigger still before I was born.  I am my mother’s daughter.  I am as short as my mother before me. Since I have hardly any torso to speak of, my baby floats around in an enormous, circular swimming pool in front of me.  I am so front-heavy that I have trouble maintaining my balance and I can’t fit my baby-filled belly under a desk.

Nor can I properly fit my belly into the Mormon maternity garment.

The maternity garment has a stretchy, poly/cotton blend panel that is supposed to expand around a pregnant woman’s belly, much like the panel on this pair of maternity jeans:

Maternity Jeans with Belly Panel

Maternity Jeans with Belly Panel

The panel works reasonably well.  It stretches enough to get around even my belly.  Unfortunately, church undergarment designers, who apparently haven’t heard of stretch lace, have topped the panel with a thick waistband that painfully squeezes and pinches my already tender, stretched out belly muscles and skin.  My baby resents the intrusion of this awful waistband into his space and kicks at it relentlessly, adding to the pain.

What if a genie granted me some wishes to make Mormon maternity underwear slightly less horrible?  I can always dream.

Well, actually, I can’t dream.  I am much too big and uncomfortable now to get any sleep at night, even when I am not running to the potty for the fifth or sixth time.  But if I could dream, this is what I would tell that underwear genie:

Wish One

No more waistband torture devices!  (That goes for the non-maternity garment as well, Genie.)  Stretch lace is a beautiful (and practical) thing.  Or better yet, you could eliminate the waistband altogether and make the whole panel out of spandex.  This solution would support the belly and help me carry this enormous burden around, like this maternity undergarment sold in stores:

Maternity Support Underwear

Maternity Support Underwear

Wish Two

Well Genie, if you really are so very attached to that waistband and simply can’t see fit to remove it, couldn’t you make it expandable by adding button holes and a button, like they do with many commercial maternity clothes?

Expandable Maternity Wasteband

Expandable Maternity Waistband

Wish Three

What if we just got rid of the panel altogether and kept our panties away from the baby’s territory?  Modern maternity underwear usually sits under the belly, instead of on top of it, like this:

Maternity Under-Belly Underwear

Maternity Under-Belly Underwear

Don’t worry, Genie, we would still be plenty modest because our undershirts are perfectly capable of covering our bellies all by themselves.  We don’t need an extra layer.

Of course, without a genie to help me out with the garment design, I guess I could always call on the “reasons of health and cleanliness” exemption to the garment-wearing requirement.  Pregnancy is a health reason, and personally, I feel like pregnant women should be allowed to run around naked (or waddle around naked) if that’s what it takes to get comfortable.

But should it take that?  Couldn’t the powers that be try a little harder to design garments that make garment-wearing less difficult?  If any church garment designers are reading this, I would be happy to volunteer to help out as a model.  I am temple-endowed and enormously pregnant and I even have prenatal maternity garment modeling experience.

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51 Comments

  1. I’ve never used maternity or nursing garments. I just wear regular bottoms under the belly when I’m pregnant. For nursing, I buy the drisilque carinessa top and just pull it down. Much less fuss than all those mysterious overlapping layers.

    Of course I dream of the day when don’t have to wear 2 layers of clothing…if you think about it, Adam and Eve’s garment *was* their clothing. It wasn’t underwear! I know it’s probably wishful thinking but I would love to not have to wear a whole extra layer of underwear. Why don’t we just have iron-on symbols we can put inside all our clothes/underwear/bras? Voila! Instant garments!

    • I have a friend who thinks we should just get the symbols tattooed on us. It would make so many things easier.

      • ha!

  2. Yes, yes! The waistband on maternity and non-maternity garments are horrible. I can tolerate them on non-maternity garments, but I remember pulling the panel over the belly and then, pushing it under all day long, trying to get comfortable.

    And, this is embarrassing, but I can’t remember….are there maternity tops? I only remember buying bigger tops to accommodate my girth, which meant the top only fit around my waist with a drooping neckline that bunched under my clothes.

    • There are maternity tops. In fact, that’s all I used as far as maternity garments in my first pregnancy- I friend lent me hers and I just kept with my regular bottoms under my belly. With my second pregnancy I just bought bigger tops- the ones without the breast pockets so they could fit me throughout the whole time. I’m thinking about doing the naked option next time around, though. :)

  3. Love this! For a church that produces so many babies, you’d think we’d have better mastered the maternity and nursing garments (it’s pretty indicative that MALES are the ones making the decisions- they don’t mean to torture us, it’s just from lack of thought).
    I have always gone G-free once I get enormous in pregnancy. It’s hard enough to be comfortable in Houston in the summer, 8 months pregnant, without torturous underwear (but then, by that point, I’m feeling pretty clothing-optional in general). As for nursing, I despise the nursing tops, so I just get low-necked ones, wear them OVER my Gs (yes, I’m sinner), and pull them down for access to my nursing, um, equipment. Under the bra, they’d get soaked which hardly seems like a respectful way to treat them. .

    • The Church has gotten away from telling recommend holders that they must wear the garment next to their skin, probably for the sake of women who need to wear underwear on their period. So I don’t think wearing the bra under garments is an issue. I’ve taken to wearing it that way, and it’s far more comfortable; without the need to constantly tug my bra back into place like when I wore garments underneath it.

  4. There are very few things in this world that induce as much rage in me as the maternity and nursing garments. Is there seriously no young, hip and endowed clothing designer in the church? Really? For me, I cannot believe in a God that demands obedience to a clothing rule over the comfort of their pregnant and nursing daughters. Pregnancy is already so uncomfortable for me, what with the back pain, heartburn and gestational diabetes, that I take comfort wherever I can get it so I don’t wear garments during this time–I’ll just take my chances with God, thank you very much.

  5. Wish #3 is mine as well, being 6 months along with number 3. I too find that wearing regular bottoms works the best. The nursing tops are the worst however. I will have to try out buying larger normal tops and pulling down for nursing. For those of us with small chests, those nursing tops are almost impossible to deal with and unless you’re wearing a turtleneck, impossible to keep from seeing.

  6. I realize men and women a built differently, and support can be an issue when pregnant, but have you thought of trying a pair of your husband’s bottoms? Might be worth a shot.

    • that’s what I did towards the end! much more comfortable :)

    • I wear my husbands garments occasionally, and I’m not pregnant. We’re pretty much the same size and men’s garments are just more comfortable for me.

  7. I have cried a few tears of frustration over how totally unworkable maternity garments are in the last couple of months. “Why on earth do I even bother?!” I kept thinking. For a Church that seems to have so much interest in my uterus and how I use it, they could make what I have to wear next to my skin every_single_day bearable, let alone comfortable. I might be overreacting, but there is a large part of me that seriously feels a little betrayed and tricked. I’ve spent years feeling like I don’t fit the mold because of my childless status and thinking that once I became a mother I’d be someone the church valued and I’d get to reap all the wonderful rewards of womanhood in the LDS church I keep hearing about. Turns out that as a woman I’m expected to just push aside my very unique female concerns just as much pregnant (if not more) to accommodate male-centric practices. I realize how much of an overreaction this sounds like, but at the moment I am hot, itchy, and I’ve got all sorts of weird bunching and pulling going on. I don’t think there is some male conspiracy in the church to keep pregnant women uncomfortable, and I’m sure that its largely women who help design the female garments … but is it unfair to assume they are probably all well past retirement age and that there are very few body types/ethnicities/and ages represented on whatever design panel exists? That would be really interesting to find out.

    So what would make them more bearable? I’m all for your third option of getting rid of the panel all together. The rise of the waistline on all garments (not just maternity) is, as one distribution center employee told me, “Based on the average woman.” I’m very short waisted so I end up with elastic running up well past my rib cage and nearly hitting my bra. But if I buy petites they don’t come anywhere near my knees. So the panels are an absolute nightmare. More fabric options would be nice, too. For now, I’ve made it work by buying a bigger size in the waist in non-maternity garments but buying them in petite. That way they still reach my knees, but sit below my belly instead of cutting off my ever-expanding girth right at the belly button.

  8. Has anyone altered their garments to make them fit properly? I know there are some general prohibitions against altering them, but it seems like those prohibitions are aimed at keeping people from making the garments less ‘modest’. It’s hard to imagine how it could be problematic to reduce the height of the waist so that it actually hits at the waistband of your pants instead of halfway up your rib cage.

    I haven’t altered my garment bottoms myself, but if I had a serger, I sure would.

    • On my cotton poly bottoms I have ripped off the dumb lace that they put on the leg holes. It cuts into my thighs and cuts off my circulation since my thighs are not sticks :) Now that I have a serger, I have also thought about lowering the waist band about 3 inches so it fits where my pants and skirts fit, instead of an inch above my belly button.

      I don’t think that these alterations are inappropriate because I am not touching any symbols and I am not making the changes in order to change my wardrobe (i.e. shorter shorts, tighter shirts, etc). I am making them because if I don’t, I may go crazy what with all the double-sometimes triple- layers and adjusting and tugging and pulling that I constantly do to make my garments more comfortable.

      Don’t even get me started on wearing garments while pregnant. It makes me cry just thinking about it again.

      A helpful hint for nursing- buy the new stretchy tops they just came out with. The nursing garments are HORRIBLE and the stretchy ones you can just pull down with your nursing bra.

    • what is a serger?

  9. I vote for the under-belly version.

    In practice, I claimed the health exemption to garments for the final third of pregnancy.

  10. I have lowered the waistlines, because even the petites hit 1″ ABOVE my bellybutton and that is so annoying! I am 5’7″, so not short, and the petites are still way too long-waisted. But even that hasn’t solved the tucking/shifting/constant readjusting you have to do to keep the darn top in place. It’s always escaping and sticking out underneath my shirts.

    Can we claim a mental health exemption because garments make us go nuts? :)

    More seriously, though, I feel like there’s way too much emphasis placed on wearing this arbitrary style of underwear. We’re so focused on the symbol (the garments being symbolic of the coat of skins made for Adam and Eve, to help remind us all of our journey through earth life) and the cultural meanings that the symbol imposes (discourse of modesty) that I think we’ve kind of lost, as a church culture, the larger point behind garments. They’re just a reminder of something that wasn’t symbolic at all, but rather functional and as such, a gift. Right now, they’re a mild annoyance (on good days) to a major headache (on bad days). And they’re not even serving a functional purpose anymore (protecting our bodies from cold/rain/sun)!

  11. I have watched my daughters struggle with the two-piece maternity garments, and I have to say that I think the old one-piece were better in the maternity style. I can’t imagine wearing the current style while pregnant or nursing.

  12. There are so many things right with this post, I don’t know where to start.

    wear them OVER my Gs (yes, I’m sinner)

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing Gs over bras. There used to be, back in the “next to the skin” days, but that has not been the case since at least the early 1980s. I swear I have to write that up sometime…

    I struggled mightily with maternity garments and, seriously, the nursing tops are a joke. I finally ended up using the chemise and pulling it down or up.

    Now that I’m past child-bearing days, I still struggle with them, no matter what style I choose. The waistband goes up to my bra line (and I’m NOT short-waisted). The thigh lace is too tight. The cap sleeve is always in a wad. The bra “cup” — hysterical. The fabric bunches up under clothes or hangs out at the waist and the symbols show through clothing. (If silk screen is good enough for the military, why not us?)

    I finally figured out that if I yank the top down so the bottom of the cup actually fits where it should, the scoop is so low that I can “legally” wear super-sexy cleavage-revealing tops. Not that I would, you know…

    Does anyone realize that sometimes women NEED a snug fitting panty? And, sorry, but the idea that you can wear panties WITH the garment makes me want to scream. Just pile those layers on!

    OK, now that I’ve completely lost it, one last thing:

    Every five-year-old on the planet laughs hysterically when the word “underwear” is uttered. Using underwear as a religious symbol is just begging to be mocked by adolescent-minded people everywhere. Isn’t there SOMETHING besides underwear we could employ?

    • I’m still putting in my vote for a holy charm bracelet……

    • AMEN!

  13. I haven’t had the chance to read all of the comments yet (I will), but I wanted to add this: if it matters to you, you can get permission to alter your garments to fit you.

    Last summer, my husband called the Distribution Center to complain about the sleeves–no matter what size top he ordered, the sleeves were ALWAYS too long. The woman he spoke with at the Distribution Center informed him that they use the EXACT same sleeve for *all* of their sizes – XXS, XL, whatever.

    The important part: she *also* said that your bishop can give you permission to adjust your garments, so that you will still be wearing them in accordance with how you’re supposed to. We had an interview with our bishop, he gave the OK, and I’ve started cutting off the ends of the sleeves on all his tops and re-hemming them all.

    Obviously, this brings up a whole other discussion about patriarchy and all, but at the very least there is an option for those who want it.

    • I know you acknowledge the issues re: patriarchy, Zannah, and I’m not offering this as a commentary on your situation at all, but I just can’t not comment on how ridiculous this policy is. It just seems so nuts that there’s actually a policy in place for how a member goes about getting permission to alter their underwear. Talk about the church trying to command its members in all things. I realize it’s a little bit of a chicken-egg question when it comes to whether it’s the church or the members who lead to this kind of picayune dictating of behavior and practice, but I can’t help but think that the membership would be more willing to just make their own decisions about small things if the leadership didn’t drill home so often and so hard the necessity of unquestioning and absolute obedience to the smallest little detail of what we’re told to do (Bednar’s earring story anyone?).

      In my mind, the appropriate answer when a member asks him/herself the question “can I alter my garments so they fit properly/comfortably and without making it almost impossible to wear normal clothing?” should be “I can do whatever I want, so long as I’m staying in the spirit of the covenant I made to wear my garments properly.” Because, you know, that whole “teach correct principles and let them govern themselves” thing which is (allegedly) at the heart of the gospel.

      • Amelia – I agree with you completely! It is utterly ridiculous that we can be trusted to answer, say, the temple recommend interview questions without any independent verification but we can’t be trusted to make our own decisions about our underwear.

        Wasn’t it someone in the Bloggernacle who mentioned a something-great-grandmother who was a well-respected member in Salt Lake prior to the turn of the century who had the little symbols that she would pin into her clothing, and her formal dresses often were sleeveless? It seems as though every time I learn something about church history, I grieve for something we’ve lost (here: self-governance).

        As for my personal situation, my husband is a pretty rigid rule-follower; like most people in a relationship I pick my battles, and right now it’s getting him to see the value/need for ALL members to have the priesthood. :)

  14. Oh, and I also got authorization to shorten the rise on my bottoms (like above commenters, about three inches), but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. (It’s amazing the things grad school keeps you too busy to do, isn’t it?)

    • I’m really interested in this idea because I would LOVE to shorten the rise on my bottoms … how exactly did you start that conversation with your bishop? I imagine my bishop turning really, really red if I tried to talk to him about my underwear. =) And I agree with both you and Amelia — the fact I have to go to someone else, let alone a man, to get permission to alter my undergarments is a bit absurd to me.

      • It was less awkward than you would think. At the beginning, the bishop asked why we were there, and my hubs said that a woman from the Distribution Center said we could get permission to adjust our garments from him. The bishop nodded, my husband explained his sleeve issue, the bishop (a fairly large, broad guy) said something like “so that’s why the sleeves are always too small – I feel like the Hulk every time I get dressed” and he mimicked the arm/shoulder flexing thing. We all laughed about how having to ask was pretty ridiculous, we added in my need for adjustment to my bottoms, and he told us we were authorized to adjust however we needed — I assume something he said because a) he’s pretty relaxed about most things and b) he knows our individual situation pretty well.

        If I had gone by myself (without the male buffer) it would likely have been slightly more awkward, but frankly, that’s how the church apparently wants it, so I would just refuse to feel weird and kind of hope that HE hated the question. (That probably makes me a short-sighted, mean little person, huh?_

        OH! I once had a roommate who got her garments custom-made. It costs extra if you don’t have a medical condition, but I’ve thought about getting a note from my doctor saying the proportions of my torso are abnormal. Or not getting the note and just paying extra.

        I still think it’s dumb that I have to go SO FAR out of my way to have comfortable knickers.

  15. I gave up on maternity garments for my third pregnancy. They make me want to kill myself. Really. And you know what? I am so much more agreeable to be around. Significantly less pissy. Garments just aren’t made for pregnant people. The band, no matter where I put it, totally freaks my uterus out. Painful Braxton-Hicks galore. If I try to just roll it all underneath my belly (as I have before, in much more miserable pregnancies) it irritates the hell out of my bladder…which in turn also irritates my uterus. So, so done with that.

    Also, since it’s nearly impossible to get a modest neckline maternity shirt, I have to add the stupid undershirts to the mix and it becomes a nightmare to smoothly re-layer all the alternating layers every time I have to go to the bathroom. It takes a ridiculous amount of time — I pee a lot!! I don’t have time for that nonsense when I’ve got two other kids to worry about.

    I am so on board with wish three.

  16. I can’t stand pressure on my stomach when I’m pregnant, so I always just wore my regular bottoms, but pushed them under my belly. (I also wore the regular tops, and let them ride up- the maternity tops were like tents on me)

  17. I tried one nursing top and hated it. I just lifted everything up anyway, so regular tops worked fine.

  18. You know, I never thought of that detail. My poor mother; she had seven kids. I still can’t figure out how she raised all of us and still stayed sane. (I think her ice cream habit was what helped keep her sanity…)

  19. The rise of the waistline on all garments (not just maternity) is, as one distribution center employee told me, “Based on the average woman.”

    As a totally average woman, I call BS.

    • Right?!! I want to know who this “average woman” is and tell her to stop modeling for whatever committee designs these things.

    • As a totally long-waisted woman, I second the BS. They’re *still* past my waist.

      • I am short-waisted and can– in all seriousness, pull them up past my breasts. And that is with the petites.

    • I am tall and skinny and I still have problems with my garments hitting my belly button. I want to meet this “average” woman with a two foot long crotch.

      • “I want to meet this “average” woman with a two foot long crotch.”

        Bahahaha!

  20. I haven’t gone to the temple for a decade but continued wearing garments until two years ago, just a few weeks before I had my first child, I gave up wearing garment bottoms. Up to that point, I had just worn them underneath my belly but it just wasn’t working any more. I didn’t wear top or bottom garments after the delivery–I was recovering from a c-section, bleeding, learning how to nurse, and it was really hot. At the time, I told myself the break from garments was temporary. But I never wore them again, except for a couple of times to see how it felt. My husband isn’t LDS, so it’s not important to him (he actually prefers regular undergarments, but never made an issue of it when I was wearing temple garments).

    With some distance, I feel more and more that God doesn’t really care about my underwear. However, the first time I nursed my second son in a new ward, I felt very self-conscious because I thought someone might notice that I wasn’t wearing garments. Then I thought that it was ridiculous that I would hesitate about feeding my child because I might be judged for my underwear.

    I’m not saying that garments can’t be meaningful, because they were for me and obviously are for many people. I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of them. And I do mourn the loss of the part of my faith that found temple worship and wearing garments meaningful.

  21. I wore G’s thru eight pregnancies and remember the awful bunchy one piece G’s. My youngest is now 15 so it’s been a while since I’ve maternity G’s. No matter what I did they bunched and chaffed and rubbed and generally made life miserable but I wore them anyway ( I wasn’t near as enlightened as I am now).
    My current issue with G’s is that since my appendectomy three monhs ago I can’t stand anything around my middle! My scars have healed but G’s still rub a little. I’ve taken to wearing stretch capris, which make me look like an old lady (I’m 58) with no undies, so nothing is tight around my tummy.
    I also quit wearing the upper G because my bra straps ALWAYS slipped down with them. If I tightened my bra strap so it stayed, it digs into my shoulder. My solution, now that it’s summer, is to go bra-less when I’m home. So at present I wear no G’s.
    I have to admit I feel so free and comfy without them. After wearing them for almost forty years, this feels so good. A side effect is that I like my chubby old lady body, for the first time in forever. Wearing G’s made me feel like I was ashamed or needed to always cover it up. Interesting…..
    My DH is a nomo and he doesn’t care either way. We’ve been married for nine years. X was super TBM so I NEVER was without my G’s. Truthfully, I like not wearing them. If I go to church I’ll wear them, I guess so no one can judge me? Silly reason I know!
    I do like the suggestions about cutting them down below the belly, that might help my sensitive tummy.
    THANKS for all of your intelligent and practical and thoughtful suggestions. The one I like the most is about tattoos. Seriously, the scriptures talk about having Christ’s image graven into our foreheads (I think) and into our hearts. Maybe the kind that slowly wash off and then we could just reapply, with vegetable non-toxic ink.

  22. I’m six moths pregnant at the moment and finding garments in general have been a nightmare, the waistband in particular. Now I just don’t wear them if I don’t feel like it, or if I don’t feel well enough.

    And I really don’t feel that God cares at all.

    • This. If God can give specific enough revelation to Nephi to build a freaking boat, then he *could* give revelation to make perfect maternity/nursing garments.

      I don’t think it’s as important as the culture wants us to believe.

      • But a boat is a boat is a boat. Your body shape is not my body shape and my body shape is not my sister’s body shape. I don’t think we can really expect God to reveal The Perfect Garments for every single person who has ever worn or ever will wear them.

        Making it so that people can make their own again won’t really fix things, though. So few people have the skills these days. I wonder if the church could do something cottage-industry. Have a calling in the church for some (endowed, of course) person to make them to measure for the people in the ward? You’d probably need more than one (a man and a woman at least). And have the church pay them for their time and skills? That way it’s job-help (not a bad thing these days) also?

  23. I’m feeling guilty – because I think garments are uncomfortable on my regular, never-been-pregnant body – especially in a Virginia summer. Hat’s off to all of your who try to find ways to stick it out in more uncomfortable situations.

  24. I hear you – they can be very uncomfortable and it is frustrating to find a good fit. I don’t think this is discussed anywhere, but could the sacrifice of a little comfort be part of the reason we are supposed to wear them? Does that make sense? What do you think?

    • No, I have to respectfully disagree. Nowhere is our discomfort due to garments mentioned in the temple ceremony.

      My pregnant body is uncomfortable and sacrificing enough. I don’t believe God judges me for wanting to be as comfortable as possible at this time.

  25. It drives me crazy that the solution to most maternity underwear issues is to wear it under the belly. Okay but that doesn’t work for everyone. I have absolutely no butt! Totally pancake flat! If I wear anything under my belly it ends up around my ankles! I ended up wearing granny panties that I could pull over my tummy to hold my garments up. It’s embarrassing!

  26. in my first pregnancy and i was just about to look into maternity garments. thanks for steering me clear of them!! very timely post!

  27. Ya, I remember asking the female worker if they had garment tops for breastfeeding that weren’t so…big. She was like, oh no, only one size! You can just wear the t-shirt garments and yank the neckline down. Oh yes, that sounds very comfortable! Not.

    It annoys me SOOOO much that whoever the heck designed these just assumed that all breastfeeding women have size triple D boobs. Hello?!?! They come in all shapes and sizes and I breastfeed my babies with my A size cups just fine, thankyouverymuch.

  28. Panels definitely aren’t for everyone, ladies tend to develop a preference for under the belly (no panel) or over the belly and stick with it. Great thing about maternity these days, a lot of it transistional meaning it can be worn during and after (a lot of it so cute you’ll totally want to wear it after) and most incorporate nursing options as well!

    Haute Mommies and Bella Babies in Houston carries some of the cutest maternity and baby clothing, accessories and gear. As a reader of this blog, you’re entitled to 10% off your entire purchase just mention this site in store or visit us on-line and use promo code 01hmandbb10 :)!

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