Dear 'Looks' catalogue: Before reconsidering its contract with the pregnant Ulrika Jonsson, the mail-order outfit ought to wake up and realise that these days bulging is beautiful

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It seems you're having second thoughts about using the lovely Ulrika Jonsson to model 'tight-fitting clothes' in your next mail order catalogue, just because she's three months pregnant. This is the ex-weather-girl's first baby, and she and her husband are, the Daily Mail says, 'absolutely over the moon'. You should be, too.

OK, you've worked out that come July, when you plan to shoot the pictures for your '95 spring-and-summer collection, the slender, keep-fit fanatic you hired will be a different shape. She'll be seven months gone and may have quite a bump. But get with it. Gone are the days when self-respecting husbands would go out with their tumescent wives only under cover of darkness. Today pregnancy is nothing to be ashamed of. It's glamorous - and it sells.

Look at what it did for Vanity Fair. The former editor, Tina Brown, put a portrait of an eight-month-pregnant Demi Moore on the cover dressed in nothing but a large diamond ring, and sales soared. It was the best-selling edition of 1991, and people talked about it for months. Leslie Nielsen even promoted Naked Gun 331/3: The Final Insult with a photograph of his head imposed on Demi's gloriously bulging torso.

All very well, I hear you say, but the Looks catalogue is not in the business of nude or trick photography. It's clothes we want to sell, and we don't do maternity dresses. Maternity dresses? Do you mean those flowery smocks women wore in the Fifties, a uniform that said: 'I am at least two weeks pregnant. Please don't ask me to do anything more strenuous than think about baby's layette'?

Nowadays most pregnant women, not necessarily from choice, work to within a few weeks of their due date and want practical clothes they can wear in an office. It's still hard to find such clothes, despite Mothercare's brief fling with Jasper Conran. There's a market there just waiting to be catered for. And have you read the recent statistics? It used to be that 20- to 24-year-olds were the ones having first babies, now it's the over-thirties - the ones with the disposable incomes. They'll be your best customers.

Perhaps you're worried Ulrika won't be so photogenic once she's seven months gone. It's true hormones take women different ways. Some carry on looking like stick insects but with a bump in the middle: Yasmin Le Bon, Yazz, Neneh Cherry all flaunted their bellies in short black Lycra dresses. But the more normal ones who get a bit chubby all round can look good, too. Like Amanda de Cadanet - she turned up at a party wearing a frock so transparent you could almost see the baby kicking.

These women are just the most visible fringe of a larger movement of women who have rejected the old idea of 'confinement'. So 'have talks' with Ulrike's agent. But think twice before cancelling that contract. A luscious, melon-bellied Gladiator could be your best seller yet.

(Photograph omitted)