Now that the trimesters of the city’s socialites, celebrities, and supermodels have become high-profile events worthy of endless chronicling by Vogue and the “Sunday Styles” section, it’s no longer acceptable to hide out beneath a muumuu or tote around doughnut-shaped baby bottles in a bulbous mesh catchall. What is required for a premillennium pregnancy is a wardrobe from Liz Lange (nine months’ worth of Capris, silk sweater sets, and stretch-cotton-sateen miniskirts comes to roughly $1,500), a Kate Spade gingham diaper bag ($245), a DKNY cashmere pram blanket ($250), and a navy-and-white Lucien Pellat-Finet sailor sweater for your little darling ($255). All of which is causing performance anxiety for the city’s hoi polloi, who worry now more than ever that those in the upper echelons of society may be the only ones who can afford to stop taking their birth-control pills.
Amanda Beesley, 31, a writer at work on a book about marriage for Doubleday, finds herself irresistibly drawn to over-the-top maternity merch. “Every time I go to Barneys, it makes me want to have a baby,” says Beesley. “But I read something about women getting special elastic put into their Prada pants. That to me is so intimidating. It’s no longer cool to be pregnant with black stretch leggings and your husband’s shirt. You have to do better than that.” “Being pregnant is not an excuse to go around looking like a slob,” echoes Julie Sun, 24, who works in advertising.
Designers, of course, claim they’re simply filling a need, but the mere thought of amassing the requisite accessories is enough to make young potential moms readjust their biological clocks. “Now I have to push back the age when I thought I’d be having kids even further,” sighs Jennifer Wilder, 26, an assistant account executive at an advertising agency. Janet Steen, 34, an editor who lives in Park Slope with her husband, admits that shopping for air space, not maternity ensembles, is her biggest childbearing consideration. “The clothes, I know I’m not going to be able to afford. I assume I’ll look like the side of a barn no matter what. But when I think ‘kid,’ I think, ‘Where am I going to put it?’ ” A few side-snap silk kimonos suddenly don’t seem so pricey when Antonio Cosentino, a broker at the Corcoran Group, insists that upgrading a Manhattan apartment for a baby will set you back at least half a million. “A couple I’m working with wants to stay in the same building,” he says. “It will cost them another $700,000.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Pauline McHugh sees deeper meaning behind these conspicuous-consumption binges. “Making a kid into a fashion accessory is a way of masking the anxiety of being a mother,” she explains. “People are buying these white fancy baby clothes. Do they know what kids do?” But function, of course, is hardly the point. Aiming for the raised bar of urban expectant-motherhood is.
For some, like Wilder, matching the high-society doyennes romper for romper means enlisting friends to do the dirty work. “If and when I decide to have a baby,” she asserts, “I couldn’t justify buying all that stuff. But let’s put it this way: I sure wouldn’t return it.” “I’d love to have a Prada pregnancy,” says a wistful Beesley. “But it looks like it will be more of a Target pregnancy. I just hope nobody notices.”