...No thank you by imogen fox: Big belly blues

It's not easy to feel sexily pregnant in a kaftan. Unfortunately, high street stores are slow to offer stylish alternatives to the classic `tent' look

BEING pregnant shouldn't mean that mothers-to-be are condemned to shop for baggy, unsexy clothes in places they would normally shy away from. But it often does. Smocks and leggings are still the usual fare despite a couple of high street stores venturing into boot-cut maternity trousers (Next, pounds 39.99.) Retailers, it seems, just can't get their heads around the fact that women aren't actually embarrassed to be with child and don't want to disguise their bump. Expectant mothers want to feel attractive, but it's difficult when most of the high-street shops which do offer maternity wear seem to think they can offer tatty, badly-cut clothes just because pregancy is a temporary way of life. One particular high street floral dress accommodated the bump but ended up too tight around the rear.

So what do pregnant women need? Laura Tennant, expectant mother and Real Life's editor, wants "clothes that are smart and sexy, especially when it comes to eveningwear; and for work decent well-cut trousers, much like I'd normally wear." Better-end high-street retailers are disappointing in this respect. Surely it can't be that hard for the likes of Jigsaw and French Connection to do a smart, simple dress?

French catalogues do seem to have the right idea. Formes catalogue shows proper models looking good and is less homely than its British counterparts. Prices are fairly expensive: trousers from pounds 55, dresses from pounds 75 and bandeau belts which show off your tummy, and go over dresses or trousers for pounds 11. La Redoute's Cocoon collection is less pricey: tops from pounds 19.99, dresses from pounds 34.99, and swimsuits at pounds 19.99. "The Pregnancy Survival Kit" available from The Great Little Trading Company includes pregnancy basics such as skirts, leggings, dresses and tunics, in stretchy cotton lycra, pounds 129 +pounds 3.95p&p. Otherwise, get some easy summer stuff (non-maternity) from places such as Racing Green, who do lots of simple tunics and loose dresses for around the pounds 20 mark.

Next: 0345 100 500; Formes: 0181 689 1133;La Redoute: 0500 777 777; Great Little Trading Company: 0990 673 008; Racing Green: 0171 291 2405.

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