Baby Bump Chic Sewing Patterns Through the Decades

maternity fashion 1950s & 2014

Is it just me, or does it seem like the coolest fashion accessory to have right now is a baby bump? All the images of celebrities and their pregnant bellies inspired me to head to our archives and take a look at our old maternity patterns. My, how things have changed. Take a look below at a century of maternity patterns, then scroll down to see the current patterns we recommend to achieve baby bump chic:

1919 Butterick maternity sewing patterns, from the McCall Pattern Company archives
Baby bump chic in 1919. Very early Downton Abbey.

“If you have pretty, becoming clothes to keep you looking straight and slender, you will be glad to go around and lead a normal, cheerful life. If your clothes are not attractive and you feel awkward and conscious, you will shrink from seeing people and will fail to get the proper amount of exercise and recreation you need to keep you normal.” —advice on maternity fashion from a 1919 Butterick Patterns catalog

Maternity sewing patterns from a 1927 Butterick catalog. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
The 1920’s dropped-waist, blouson style allowed “mothers of the near future” to be baby bump chic.
1930s maternity wear, as seen in a Butterick patterns catalog. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
Interestingly, there was no maternity section in this 1935 Butterick catalog, nor were any patterns labeled as maternity. Did women have to buy their maternity clothes in a back alley somewhere? These smocks might have been worn by women in their last trimesters.
1940s maternity Butterick sewing patterns. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
Wait, these are maternity patterns? Concealing your baby bump obviously was the way to dress in the 1940s.
1950s Vogue Patterns maternity patterns. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
It’s the 1950s and there’s a baby boom happening! We trotted out lots of maternity patterns in our catalogs to meet the post-war demand for maternity wear.
1960s Vogue Patterns maternity patterns. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
The baby boom continued into the 1960s, and our patterns looked similar to the styles of regular womenswear, just a lot more tent-like.
1970s maternity sewing patterns by Vogue Patterns. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
1970s maternity sewing patterns often featured Empire waists and jumpers. And goofy collars and shag haircuts.
1980s maternity sewing patterns by McCall's. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
Where’s the baby bump?! If you were pregnant in the 1980s you surrounded your belly in tons of fabric, the more the better.
1990s Vogue Patterns maternity pattern. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
Just because we’re pregnant doesn’t mean we can’t run a Fortune 500 company. Working moms-to-be in the 1990s wanted maternity clothes that were professional and devoid of sweet bows and puffery.


McCall's designer Jackie Polikoff on baby bump chic
Jackie Polikoff, McCall’s designer and baby bump goddess.

Fast forward to today, where women are opting to wear clothes that accentuate their baby bumps rather than hide them. They’re pairing stretchy knit tops with maternity jeans and wearing dresses that hug their new curves. Jackie Polikoff, McCall’s designer, is our resident baby bump goddess (she’s due in February). We asked for her suggestions for maternity patterns that work for today’s moms-to-be:

M6886 dress: “With minor adjustments this is my go-to dress. Perfect to show off my belly! Great with different types of knits.”

• M7057 jacket: “Perfect for fall and early winter as a cozy sweater, jacket, coat or vest. I love that you can wear it belted or not, and that I can wear it throughout my entire pregnancy.”

B5796 top: “A maternity must-have. Love these knit tops!”

V8860 coat: “I love this mod swing coat. It’s got a clean, fresh look and the pattern comes with lots of options.”

B5997 tunic: “I can’t resist a tunic pattern. This one is perfect for work and I love that it’s a pull-over.”

Maternity patterns from McCall's, Butterick and Vogue Patterns.

What are your thoughts on today’s maternity styles? Share with us what you consider baby-bump chic, or tell us about your own maternity style. Did you sew any maternity patterns?

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. I remember that 1990s suit. In fact I made it and wore it for my first pregnancy in 94-95 and remember wearing it at work during my second pregnancy — on 9/11. What memories!,

  2. Such an interesting point! Women did tend to hide their bumps didn’t they? I have some maternity patterns that I modified into normal size because I like the design to much to skip past it. Plus most of my dresses are smocks anyway, so i might be able to get away with not having to sew much maybe?? If i were pregnant now i think i would mix between fitted and loose, depending on how i felt

  3. I didn’t end up sewing for myself this recent pregnancy. It’s a little disappointing, but I still have my unused maternity patterns. I tended to avoid the flowy loose things when I was pregnant. Being only 5’2″ with a beach ball belly, I didn’t want to look like I was wearing a tent. Closer fitting (or at least semi fitted) maternity wear seemed to be more flattering on me. I like the variety that’s out there now though.

  4. OMG, I have that 8879 pattern! I made clothes for my second pregnancy in 1984 with that pattern. I sure am glad I’m not in the era of showing my bump. My figure was NOT all baby!

  5. There was a revival of the dropped-waist blouson styles of the 1920s, in the late 1980s. I bought a few of those patterns, but mostly I opted for jersey knit tunics over rtw maternity jeans, and “big shirts” under loose jumpers. My dear Ma was pregnant in the late 50s and early 60s. She had lots of floaty short smocks over pencil skirts (!) with stretchy maternity panels. I distinctly remember at least one pair of her pregnancy pants that had no maternity panel at all, just a giant U shape for her belly. The pants had a drawstring that you tied tightly atop your belly bump to keep them from falling down. Good thing we lived in North Carolina and not Wisconsin, at least for my May-born brother.

  6. I made that and all the other Lauren Sara maternity patterns when I had my sons back in the late 90s. They were perfect for work, and I felt chic wearing them, even in the third trimester.

  7. I am now , after no sewing for 20 years, trying to sew maternity for my daughter. One thing is the way patterns themselves have changed for the worse / thin paper, notches in not out, ink not very dark or think lines, these patterns are lucky to make it through one garment let alone use over and over. It’s every pattern company. I was very disappointed to see so very few maternity and infant patterns and no nursery at all . Sewing has gone away I guess. The other thing is my daughter is 5’1 and very thin / there are no really small sizes seems all start at 8.

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