Local designer and boutique owner Dionne Klein lets me in on her maternity magic.
While I was anticipating my first born, I amassed an entire new maternity wardrobe before I was even 10 weeks along. Seven For All Mankind jeans, Rock and Republic skinnies, specialty front panel office suits, nursing dresses and tanks…if it had the word ‘maternity’ on it, I bought it. And I may have worn any and all of those pieces a grand total of once before I outgrew them completely. For the record it wasn’t a sweet kind of ‘oh, my belly’s now too big’ outgrown, but more like a ‘my puny human clothing no longer fits me’ outgrown.
I gained a whopping 70 pounds with Vee —more than half of my pre-pregnancy weight. And it wasn’t so much the number that irked me, but the fact that I had spent a tidy sum on what I thought was practical and timeless fashion and still had to limp through my last 7 weeks with men’s pj bottoms and ill-fitting tank tops. (Ladies, buy things as you need them and in response to the way your body changes instead of what you think your body will do, and you’ll be way happier).
Years later, after ups and downs and multiple losses, I finally came to terms with not having any more kids. All my mat clothes went back to friends and to women’s shelters along with my baby gear.
And then the news about this little guy came along.
This entire pregnancy, I fought maternity clothes. I fought them hard. I fought clothes in general, actually —especially pants which I swear are a conspiracy, but I digress. Luckily before I got too jaded, Dionne Klein, owner of Belly Maternity in Toronto and designer of Belly’s own line of super cute bump-flattering frocks changed my entire outlook. I just wish wish wish that I’d walked into the Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton boutique a little earlier than third trimester.
As I was saying, this pregnancy I fought maternity fashion head-on.
Aside from a few maternity tops bought out of necessity to cover all kinds of my new bumps, I managed to get away with stretchy dresses and leggings with tunics until about 32 weeks. Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t ‘anti-maternity’. I totally looked into big box maternity sections for what might be good ‘basics’, but really, they didn’t do anything for me and I didn’t feel like paying extra for the same leggings I could get one aisle over, and one size up. Sure the belly wouldn’t exactly be the same. Sure the waist would be a few inches off. But who cares, right?
Turns out, I do.
There comes a time somewhere between perceived bloat and outright waddle that you actually want to feel like your clothing fits your shape, ever-changing as it may be.
Belly carries other cute mat labels as well as their own, which Dionne has been designing for about a year and a half. We met over Twitter and made some plans to connect at the shop so she could introduce me to her line and maybe even pick out a dress for me to wear. I’m a big fan of shopping locally, and I love supporting home-grown designers so things came together quickly.
Dionne is a petite powerhouse with a warm smile. Her eyes twinkle when she talks about her business and her fashions, and it made me feel like I’d known her forever.
We eagerly darted from rack to rack of clothes, and I was struck by the rich palette of colours —everything from jewel tones to patterns, neutrals, and summer brights. I notice right away that everything follows a few simple design rules. Classic. Timeless. Simple elegance. I could wear anything in the store with a pair of flip flops, or with heels and a clutch.
I couldn’t wait to try things on which is saying something when you’re shuffling like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Somehow though, Dionne’s steering made things easy. She pulled colours and styles that worked with my body type and was totally honest about what size fit best, what style flattered the most and where it drew attention (like away from butt, or towards cleavage). She also asked ‘how do you feel in that?’ more than ‘how do you like it’ every time I came out of the change room. It put me at ease. It made me feel like I didn’t have to flex or suck in to get a ‘Spanx’ view of the outfits, pose unnaturally, or make the pinch-nosed ‘mirror face’ that I often assume when I’m putting on makeup or trying on clothing at a store. I could just be me and that meant walls came down quickly. Between dresses we swapped stories about labour and our kids.
I ended up in love with a gorgeous all-season wrap in a snake-skin pattern (made from a super-soft bamboo fabric) called ‘Olivia’. I also didn’t want to take off a viscose-blend scoop top fitted tee-dress with side-ruching called the ‘Lauren’. Both of them found their way home with me thanks to Dionne and they’ve been go-to’s ever since.
- Go in your early 2nd trimester so you’ll be over any queasiness and feel ready to try on the entire store, and show off your new bump in some sweet threads that will grow with you.
- Pricing runs reasonably for a boutique with designer labels. The quality of the Belly line, their post-partum friendly designs, fabrics, and classic looks are worth it. (Dresses run around the $100+ mark.)
- Let Dionne and her staff suggest colours and cuts that you might not pick for yourself. They know how to dress pregnant bodies.
- The shop is significant other, raging hormone, and kid friendly.
- There’s both street and above-ground lot parking close by —here’s the address and directions!