Real shopping: Style Police - No reason why bump should equal frump

The pregnant form has never been more fashionable. And these days, you don't need to resort to tents, says JAMES SHERWOOD

So we're a little late for the birth of Christ. But Style Police is taking this millennium baby bug seriously. While your girlfriends are squeezing themselves into Dolce micro minis, you must confront an accessory you knew full well would be cumbersome eight months after conception: the baby bump. The fortunate few look python-lithe with a bump the size of an ingested egg. Remember Jane Horrocks looking divine at all of eight months gone at the Grammy Awards 1999 in Libbie Lane? Others, though, are not so fortunate, like poor Scary Spice who looked like a Friesian cow in clinging black and white Tristan Webber leather.

Are pregnant women the race that fashion forgot? They shouldn't be. The world has yet to see breasts as fabulous as Tea Leoni's in full bloom this year. The natural glow of pregnancy would take the other broads a bucket-full of Clarins to achieve. Certain Style Police cadets have knocked Cherie Booth's frocks this year but, girl, you're glowing like a firework after that fateful weekend at Balmoral.

This season hasn't been easy for any of us. Too much bare flesh abounds and the silhouette is whippet-thin. Meg Mathews is the prime example of pregnant woman who tries to go full-on fashion and gets it wrong. Stetsons, knee boots and Chloe shades just made Meg look like a Charlie's Angel in the club. But at least the derring-do of winter's skimp-fest will shatter a fashion myth. Pregnant women don't want voluminous robes bought in size 16-24 shops like Evans. You've got a bump, not six stone in extra flesh. You won't catch Melinda Messenger in a tent. Fit is fine. So if we're breaking down the season with a swell stomach in mind there are options.

The cap-sleeve empire-line dress - very Wives and Daughters - exposes both la belle poitrine and creamy shoulders. It effectively raises the waistline to cinch below the bust. Of course, beaded evening slippers are sweet, but Style Police has no truck with the "expectant mothers don't wear stilettos" school of thought. If you can balance the bump on ritzy heels then you work it, girl. Why hide? Look how gorgeous Posh looked in clinging black jersey with shoestring straps and killer heels.

Pants pose more of a problem. This season's model is the hipster stovepipe pant. But we're not talking elasticated waist low-slung hipsters. The stovepipe pant is water-retention tight until the flare kicks out mid- calf. You may be giving this one a miss till after the big event. But you may find the season's palazzo pants in double-faced chiffon more sympatique worn with a cute camisole top and evening wrap. For day, just don't worry. The season's knits, be they ribbed cling or craftwork chunky, look fab. Just balance the bump. Tight on top then A-line maxi below: chunky with A-line midi.

How to wear it

Style Police has trawled the address book for a fashion A-lister currently with child. We found her but we're not going to tell you who she is. Suffice to say the lady knows her Veronique Branquinho from her Baby Gap. "Even if you're a size 10, pregnancy will add at least two sizes to your usual," she says. "This is good news if you are a size 10 and make it only to a 14 or 16. If so, you know Warehouse or Oasis will still have the season's pieces in your size. If, like me, you were starting at size 12 you may have problems. I bought a size 16 dress from Whistles for pounds 140 and came unstuck because I leapt another size within weeks of buying it.

"Forget catalogue shopping. Forget maternity ranges. Forget any pants with an added panel. My saviour was M&S. I bought a pair of their black velvet trousers for about pounds 30 and kept on upgrading on size every six weeks. For pounds 30 you can do it. In fact, I have a pair of size 18s in red and black waiting for when the size leaps again. I can live with M&S pants if I ham it up with vintage one-off tops from Greenwich or Portobello markets. It keeps my fashion antennae intact to buy baby pastel cashmere sweaters and beaded vintage pieces to wear with the velvet pants. Even if the bump shows under cashmere pieces I really don't care. I can wear one of my husband's jackets and a Jo Gordon stripey scarf and still feel like I'm in the zone with winter 99."

Where to buy it

Frankly, ladies, if you don't rise above a size 16 you've got the cream of the high street to choose from. If you do, then stores such H&M have maternity ranges which translate key pieces for pregnant women. Rise above it anyway. Style Police recalls a girlfriend who went first to Liberty and then to Harrods looking for fashion forward pieces. When she approached one slick assistant and informed then she was pregnant she didn't get the usual "Ooooooh". She got a Joan Crawford "How unfortunate for you dear". There's no point splashing the cash on a nice floaty Ghost dress or Issey's pleats in jumbo sizes. Tanya Sarne, designer of Ghost, has moved on from the tea gown and Issey's pleats really work with a svelte figure anyway. Don't do designer on the bottom half.

Should you think that Evans is the only big size Mecca then think again. Marina Rinaldi specialises in a little bit bigger than Kate Moss sizing and Rinaldi is the one-stop shop if you truly can't bear downsizing to high street when you're a designer darling at heart. If you want the right pants then you can't do better than Marks & Spencer - and this comes from a fashion gal who usually wears Junya Watanabe. Those elasticated waists work on double-faced chiffon palazzo pants, on velvets and even on the season's tweed maxi skirt. All Style Police can say is don't shroud. Love that bump as you will that baby.

Address book

H&M (tel:0171 323 2211).

Marina Rinaldi (tel: 0171 629 4454).

Marks & Spencer (tel: 0171 935 4422).

Oasis (tel: 01865 881 986).

Warehouse: (tel: 0800 915 9902).

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