Not all 1940s babies waited to be born in the baby boom after World War II ended. These wartime “New Dresses for Mother-to-Be” reflect the desire to conceal pregnancy as long as possible, as was the case in the 1930s, too. (Click here to see some surprising maternity fashions from the thirties.)
Butterick 2330 came in sizes 12 to 20, bust 30 to 44 inches.
These dresses have expandable waistlines, thanks to a fabric drawstring /belt in a casing at the waist. This is an improvement on 1930’s maternity clothes which had much of their room for expansion in the back of the dress. However, these dresses must have been much shorter in front than in back by the eighth or ninth month — and hems were already rising to the knee. (Some women may have stayed indoors as much as possible by then; in previous centuries well-to-do women were “confined” to home in the later stages of pregnancy. Working women didn’t have that luxury.) These 1942 dresses do have the virtue — considerable in a time of fabric shortages — of still being wearable after the baby was born.
In 1942, maternity dresses were not strikingly different from other fashions; this style with center front fullness is not a maternity dress:
“Butterick 2334: Tailored dress with double-breasted closing; peg-top skirt. Long or short sleeves . . . . [Sizes] 12 to 30; [bust] 30 to 42.”
These are maternity dresses:
Butterick 2328: “Slimming lines in this maternity coat frock. Buttons punctuate the surplice bodice and wraparound skirt. Easy fullness drapes softly from shoulder detail. A tie belt adjusts the fullness at the waist. . . . [Sizes] 12 to 20, [bust] 30 to 44.”
Butterick 2335: “There’s a decidedly youthful look to this tailored maternity frock. Fullness is concentrated in the slimming front panel. Adjustable drawstring waistline. We suggest a wool and rayon blend. . . . [Sizes] 12 to 30; [bust] 30 to 42.”
Butterick 2329: “Youthful two-piece frock for the expectant mother. The smock-jacket with its bow neckline is designed on discreet lines. The skirt with bodice top is adjustable at the waistline . . . . [Sizes] 12 to 20, [bust] 30 to 44.”
Boxy jackets were not necessarily for mothers-to-be.
Companion-Butterick 2282: This “casual boxy coat” with quilted lining (and matching quilted hat from pattern # 2282) could be made from tweed with a velvet lining and collar: “We think it smart for both day and evening.” [It has no room for expansion and a very narrow overlap in front.] In sizes 12 to 20, bust 30 to 44 inches.
The majority of dresses in this December 1942 flyer did focus on a slender waist, so other women may have been very alert to the significance of the drawstring waistline as a pregnancy indicator. That may also explain the many references to the “slimming,” “youthful,” and “discreet” properties of the maternity styles.