Maternity Survival Kit: Ode to a Classic

Preggo Survival Kit
$119 at
A dress. A tunic. Leggings, and a skirt. Who knew these four pieces would cause a revolution?

Not so long ago maternity clothes were considered a fashion backwater. "Why market to pregnant women?" style execs wondered. "They're a limited-time market."

Then came 1994. Cherie Serota and Jody Kozlow-Gardner were marketing execs at Henri Bendel. After Cherie returned from maternity leave, the two of them put their heads together, brainstorming over cocktails and drawing a rough idea on their napkins: a set of wardrobe basics that, combined with items already in a woman's closet, would get her through trimesters two and three with a minimum of fuss. They came up with their four-piece set, put it in a cute little box, and called it the Pregnancy Survival Kit.

They had one meeting: with Bloomingdale's. They sold out Labor Day Weekend, their first weekend in the store, and by Christmas they were well over a million-dollar business. Belly Basics was born. And women cheered.


They quickly branched out, making the kit in more than just basic black, creating seasonal versions, and adding individual pieces in case we just needed more. But more importantly, they signaled to the women's apparel industry that yes, indeed, there was money to be made in materna-wear. After all, more of us were working than ever before, and these were the Clinton boom years – maybe we weren't going to buy a whole new wardrobe, but we had the cash to expand it a bit. At $99 a kit, the Belly Basics were an easy way for overwhelmed women to look great without squeezing themselves without a major shopping expedition. And it was the absolute perfect shower gift.

And this led to the wide variety of maternity clothes we have today. Gap and Old Navy, Levi's, Seven Jeans, and other brand names have created maternity departments. You can shop pregnancy fashions at megastores from Nordy's to Wal-Mart. Trust me, this wide swath of options did not exist in the bad old days. Belly Basics was sold to a corporation in 2004 but continues to sell the original kit, plus seasonal varieties and individual pieces. Not bad.

The basic principle still holds true. Take care of the basics, and you can get away with a minimum of maternity-wear purchases. Leggings or a skirt goes with empire-waist tops, a tunic over the pants that you can only fasten with a hair elastic, a basic dress becomes your everyday staple. What a lifesaver!

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