The New York Fashion Week is not particularly known for its diversity; the same goes for its counterparts in fashion capitals London, Paris and Milan. It was not until a few years ago that the topic even became part of the dialogue, and the audience as well as the models were restricted to a select few. We have seen attempts to become more racially and gender inclusive in New York recently, although we still have a few years to see if these actually hold up; promoting body positivity is climbing right beside the two in terms of priority. These may be small steps in general, and there are still plenty of issues to address, but perhaps they are still worth noticing and celebrating in the grand scheme of things.
During the New York Fashion Week, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty FW 2018 presentation created much deserved buzz for its celebration of the human body. While “conventional” models such as Gigi and Bella Hadid graced the runway, the show was present with lingerie-clad women of all sizes, shapes and colors. Rihanna even dared to become more inclusive by not only showing women having fun and feeling sexy in different body types, but also by including two women who are far along in their pregnancy, one of whom reportedly went into labor right after the presentation.
Twenty-two year old Slick Woods was nine months pregnant when she joined the phenomenal show to end all shows during the New York Fashion Week. And she fiercely walked the runway with black nipple pasties, a one-piece that did not dare cover her belly, sheer socks, heels, and silver hoops and a black headband to finish the look. Woods was rushed to the hospital right after to deliver a healthy baby boy, which she shared to the world through her Instagram. Meanwhile, Janina Thompson, another heavily pregnant model, was dancing her way to the catwalk, all the while wearing a low-cut, floral bodysuit. The looks were rather rebellious because as much as people say pregnancy is beautiful, not everyone is comfortable acknowledging a woman’s sexuality in this natural stage in womanhood.
Not entirely new, but something we need more of
Of course, Rihanna’s show was not the first to feature pregnant women on the catwalk, although it is perhaps the most epic to date. This season saw a handful of models proudly modeling with their baby bumps. Victoria’s Secret Angel Lily Aldridge was already five months pregnant when she walked for Brandon Maxwell, but this was not her first. In 2011, she appeared on the Victoria’s Secret runway while two months along with her first child. Fellow Angels Alessandra Ambrosio and Irina Shayk have also strutted while with child in the previous years. Leila Goldkuhl, former contestant for America’s Next Top Model, was showing during this season’s Calvin Klein presentation, which she said was the first to feature her as a mother.
Jourdan Dunn was just a month away from her due date when she wore a Gaultier bustier for the designer’s SS10 show. Meanwhile, Ashleigh Good concluded Chanel’s fall show in 2014 while wearing a glorious white gown, and oh—while she’s seven months in on her pregnancy.
New mothers have also found their way to the stage to share a piece of motherhood with the audience. In July, Sports Illustrated model search finalist Mara Martin made headlines for walking down the runway while carrying and feeding her five-month-old baby daughter. Meanwhile, during the 2018 London Fashion Week, Valeria Garcia made history by becoming the first woman to wear breast pumps on the runway. Hers can be easily seen as they are only partially hidden by a lace bra. All these can be considered steps towards normalizing breastfeeding, as well as the other facets of both motherhood and womanhood, in an industry that’s held to provide images of what is beautiful.
For many decades, pregnant women were told to cover up, and mothers doing a natural and necessary act in public such as breastfeeding have attracted negative attention. The Savage X Fenty show generating considerable buzz from the media and its consumers, as well as during the few select times that mothers have walked fiercely on the runway, should be enough proof that the idea of beauty is no longer as restricted to a few characteristics as it once was. Saying that pregnancy and motherhood are beautiful is one thing; showing that it actually is, through campaigns and fashion shows, is another. The proud hot mamas claiming the runway only demonstrate that women can be beautiful during the many stages in their lives.
Image credits: Getty Images / Brian Arch / Kevin Mazur / Albert Urso / Eamonn M. McCormack, imaxtree, Sports Illustrated