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Fashion

How a Love Island contestant’s fake bump exposed the truth about maternity-wear modelling

Arabella Chi has been identified on the online retailer Asos wearing a range of maternity clothes – and a prosthetic pregnancy stomach

There are two items that I would have modelled fantastically well when I was pregnant: buckets and lingerie. The former because almost every single time I so much as thought about getting on the 253 bus, I immediately threw up; the latter because I was so sweaty, flatulent and tired, I was reluctant to dress in anything tighter or heavier than a pair of cotton briefs.

This week, browsers on the online clothing retailer Asos have been surprised to spot a photo of a Love Island contestant, Arabella Chi, modelling maternity clothing while wearing a fake bump. Suddenly social media is awash with people realising that, wait, pregnancy doesn’t always look like resting a beach ball against your ribs? That maternity-wear models sporting strappy heels and a thin layer of polyester might not actually be pregnant? Those women, with their defined jaws and matchbox wrists? Colour me shocked.

Prosthetic pregnancy stomachs are truly something. Imagine a pair of wafer-coloured Super Mario control pants that fasten around you like a wrestling belt and you are halfway there. Very fashion. Very now.

Asos has defended its decision to use non-pregnant people in its shoots for maternity wear saying the retailer doesn’t want to force anyone actually expecting a baby to stand up all day – which is admirable. But everybody’s body is different. Everybody’s pregnancy is different.

Until I turned seven months pregnant, I would cycle 12 miles to work to spend eight-hour shifts at the side of a pond, working as a lifeguard. I did this at least twice a week throughout my first and much of my second trimester. I was on a casual, zero-hours contract, like many models, working essentially as a freelancer, and was pleased that being pregnant did not hinder my ability to make money. I don’t want anyone in the world to be judged according to my example. I am simply pointing out that, for a lot of people – particularly anyone pregnant for the second or third time – standing up for large parts of the day is possible, likely and not always particularly well-paid.

Bodies change enormously when they are growing an entire human life (or sometimes two or three) inside of them. Hips change, breasts change, limbs, faces and feet change. It’s not quite so simple as screwing a large mixing bowl to your stomach and carrying on as normal. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for pregnant people to want images that they can recognise and relate to when shopping for clothes.

I bought almost nothing when I was pregnant, choosing instead to borrow T-shirts off my 6ft 2in friend Nick, and sew myself a collection of large-pocket sacks. But I will say this: one of those prosthetic stomachs would probably make a nice breastfeeding pillow. Or a birthing ball. Or even a foot rest.

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