When you're pregnant, you'll need to adjust

There is an alternative to baggy tracksuits: the specialist retailer Formes has the technology to keep your bump discreet as it grows. Holly Davies goes shopping with five-months-pregnant Vicky
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The Independent Culture
For many young women the question "what shall I wear today?" is hard enough, but when it has to take a growing bump into consideration it is made all the more difficult.

Vicky Lynagh is 28 and works as a senior account manager for an advertising company. She is five months pregnant, and unlike women such as Caryn Franklin, the BBC Clothes Show presenter who began the trend to show off your bump with a bright colourful scarf, wants to remain as discreet as possible.

This was proving difficult until she came across Formes, a specalist pregnancy-wear shop on Brook Street, London.

"I don't have to look too formal for work, but as I began to resort to wearing tracksuit trousers I knew I was at the wrong end of smart/casual. Lots of my friends at work had told me about this fantastic shop which has all the clothes you would normally wear in adjustable sizes."

Formes' magic ingredient are special stretch panels, and waistbands designed to adjust with a button and elastic that can be made longer as you get bigger. Trousers, for example, come in four different "control forms", either with stretch panels all the way round, or just at the sides or the front, or from the side all the way round to the back.

Vicky went along without realising quite what she was letting herself in for. First she tried on a pair of Formes trousers in her normal size. The assistant then asked her how many months pregnant she was, and assessed her size. Her trousers were then slightly undone, the elastic at the side was unbuttoned and slackened off. A small round cushion was stuffed into the front to create the illusion of what Vicky will look like at nine months. After she and sister had stopped laughing, Vicky tried on the matching jacket. "I really like the fit of the jacket but I hate the ties attached to the back. I know that they are essential to allow for expansion, but I don't really like fussy details."

"We generally find that our customers don't want to be made to feel different. For some reason a lot of pregnant women have no confidence in their appearance - they just feel fat and horrible," said the assistant.

Vicky agrees: "Everyone was quick to tell me that my hair would grow and be in fabulous condition and my skin would look great. But it's all an old wives' tale. I look and feel hideous most of the time.

"When I found Formes, it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the selection of maternity wear on the high street is so awful that I really felt that I had nowhere to go. I've been to John Lewis, who's range was just plain frumpy. Mothercare was even worse. I walked in and walked straight back out. Marks & Spencer don't do any at all."

Formes certainly does seem to fill a gap in the market, and there is also a mail-order service. Prices are reasonable. Vicky spent about pounds 400 on a complete new wardrobe. Trousers are between pounds 60 and pounds 70, cotton rib T-shirts are pounds 25.

Formes, 33 Brook Street, London W1; 313 Brompton Road, London SW3; 28 Henrietta Street, London WC2; 8 Tunsgate Square, Guildford; 8 Royal Exchange Arcade, Manchester; 16 Waverley Centre, Princes Street, Edinburgh; 12 Exchange Arcade, Nottingham; enquiries 0181-689 1133; mail order 0181- 689 1122.