Rihanna fans have been wanting a new album, but instead they're getting a photo album in fashion revolution. The singer and entrepreneur, who is expecting her first child with A$AP Rocky, is defying the conventions of maternity wear and sparking a "Fenty effect" when it comes to pregnancy style.
No, Rihanna isn't actually compiling a new photo book, like the one she released in 2019. But she's definitely cataloged her nonconforming, high-fashion pregnancy style on social media – and it all started with the initial baby announcement. She and A$AP Rocky posed in front of photographer Miles Diggs' lens under a West Harlem viaduct. Despite the below-freezing and snowy New York City day, Rihanna exposed her baby bump between the folds of a Chanel coat while embracing Rocky to confirm they were soon-to-be parents.
This clever pregnancy reveal — and the fashion that has accompanied it — has created the same revolutionary buzz of her previous work. The launch of Rihanna's Fenty Beauty line set off a "Fenty effect" causing other cosmetics brands to to incorporate inclusive makeup shades in their lineup and her Savage X Fenty lingerie collection spurred other designers to consider inclusivity in their sizing.
As photographers persistently capture the 34-year-old (and her accompanying baby belly) on red carpets, fashion weeks and magazine covers, she continues to push boundaries when it comes to maternity clothing and it's catching on.
Rihanna told Bustle in March while wearing a silver custom Coeperni outfit, "I'm not going to buy maternity clothes." Her May Vogue cover story accompanied a photoshoot of the star wearing Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, and Manolo Blahnik shoes, among others.
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"When I found out I was pregnant, I thought to myself, 'There’s no way I’m going to go shopping in no maternity aisle,'" she told the magazine. "I’m sorry — it’s too much fun to get dressed up."
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The star has stayed true to her word: No smocks, tent dresses or elastic band denim in sight.
"What Rihanna is doing right now is just incredible," Ariane Goldman, founder and CEO of maternity fashion label Hatch says. "It's quite bold and fierce and empowering that she's just rocking her belly and kind of dressing around the bump."
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Shortly after the pregnancy announcement, more photos of Rihanna in her baby-carrying era began to emerge. A paparazzi-esque shot featured Rihanna in an all-black outfit with a lace-up Jean Paul Gaultier top as the focal point.
Soon after the singer posted another shot of herself captured in denim and leopard print, finished with a Roberto Cavalli jacket. Rihanna's choice in vulnerable lowrise jeans put her belly on full display and was further showcased by an open-panel shirt.
In the past, celebrity high fashion approaches to pregnancy have been met with harsh criticism. Kim Kardashian was seen wearing Tom Ford, Mugler and Donna Karan during her pregnancy with firstborn child North West in 2013 but the looks were rarely praised. Kardashian's Met Gala debut was widely labeled a fashion faux pas after she arrived in a form-fitting Givenchy gown. She recalled in a 2019 tweet how after the gala she "went home & cried … of insecurity."
Year 1- 2013 Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. I was Kanye’s plus one & so nervous! I didn’t know anyone & I’m sure no one wanted me there lol. I did my own lipstick & the color is so off. I went home & cried after of insecurity but this is one of my fave looks now. pic.twitter.com/M1so9DVEn4
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) May 6, 2019
Amy Odell, fashion journalist and author of the forthcoming "ANNA: The Biography," says Rihanna's pregnancy looks are "notable and exciting" partly because "we were missing that for a while" while the pandemic shuttered events, runways and red carpets due to the pandemic.
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"It's really exciting to see someone like Rihanna who is in this joyous moment of her life, being incredibly fashionable (and) being out there," Odell says.
Rihanna and Rocky attended the Gucci show during Milan Fashion Week wearing custom pieces by the label. Rihanna's look included a silver headpiece, low-rise satin pants with a dragon on the side and a mixed media lace and latex crop top — giving her future offspring an uninterrupted view of a high fashion runway.
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She followed up at Paris Fashion Week with a fur jacket and an Off-White pink leather dress for the design house's show. But it was her Dior fashion show look that truly turned heads as she showed it all off with a see-through tulle Dior dress, wearing only Savage X Fenty underneath.
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“To me that dress is actually the closest thing to maternity clothes that I’ve worn so far,” Rihanna told Vogue in the May cover story.
Rihanna's maternity fashion influence
Despite Rihanna's comparison of the transparent Dior to maternity wear, journalist and author Odell says she'd be "surprised" if luxury houses started dipping a toe into the maternity department.
"I think that luxury maternity wear is probably a challenging proposition for businesses because you don't wear it for that long," Odell says. "But I think that what Rihanna is doing is likely to influence how other celebrities approach fashion when they're pregnant."
"Dollface" star Shay Mitchell is also feeling empowered and embracing her bump while pregnant with her second baby. On Instagram, she's often posing with crop tops, low-rise jeans, feathered blazers and Burberry sets.
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But the influence isn't just swaying celebrity moms. Goldman, who started Hatch in 2011 to create more "on trend" clothes for expecting parents, has seen a shift in maternity fashion for the everyday consumer, too.
"If you had asked me years ago, would I incorporate crop tops in Hatch collections offering, I'd say 'you're out of your mind,' " Goldman says. "We started designing into them, just seeing where trend was happening … and we can't keep them in stock. So clearly the trend is changing."
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While this fashion moment for Rihanna will end when baby arrives, she hopes a change in society's attitude around pregnancy lasts much longer.
"I’m hoping that we were able to redefine what’s considered ‘decent’ for pregnant women,” she told Vogue. “My body is doing incredible things right now, and I’m not going to be ashamed of that. This time should feel celebratory. Because why should you be hiding your pregnancy?”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rihanna's pregnancy fashion could change future maternity clothes