Since announcing her pregnancy in January 2022, Rihanna has single-handedly rewritten the rules of pregnancy fashion; continuously unveiling jaw-dropping looks at high profile events.

Credit: Vogue shot by Annie Leibovitz

If you don’t already know – the singer/entrepreneur is expecting her first child with A$AP Rocky. Never a stranger to controversy, her pregnancy is being spent defying traditional notions of maternity style. She boldly casts it aside in favour of the “Fenty effect”. Shunning the stretchy pants and tent dresses, Rihanna is choosing sheer dresses. Revealing lacy underwear. Crop tops under mesh shirts and a bare belly adorned in jewels. Rihanna is at the helm of what can hopefully become an uncompromising new era in maternity fashion.

The Future is Expanding

Credit: The Independent

The goal of standard women’s maternity wear is to conceal and accommodate pregnancy. Throughout my personal pregnancy experience, faced with an ever-expanding stomach, I was dismayed at the appalling selection of mid-range items available to accommodate my growing body. I was often relegated to the frumpy maternity section in K Mart or the one style of maternity jeans available in Just Jeans.

The majority of brands simply don’t cater for this time in a women’s life. And if you don’t have the budget for bespoke fashion, your options are few and far between. Society, since the Victorian era, frames pregnancy as a transitory time for women. The metamorphosis from sexual appealing womanhood to matronly motherhood; and is mirrored in its fashion choices.

Credit: Vogue

With Rihanna’s pregnancy declaration in January 2022, fashion helped her to embrace, display and celebrate her changing body. She chooses not to cover up her bump. Rather, display it in her exposing garments and tight form-fitting fashions.

“Rihanna is setting pregnancy style ablaze,” stylist and fashion consultant Solange Franklin tells Vogue, and by doing so, simultaneously presenting a bold alternative for mothers-to-be.

New Rules

From the onset of her pregnancy announcement, Rihanna shows us how to play by our own rules. Along with her partner, A$AP Rocky, they announced their big news by posting a series of images on a snowy day in Harlem. The singer wears low-waisted, baggy, ripped jeans and an oversized pink Chanel quilted coat. The coat is left open to expose a perfect baby bump draped with vintage jewellery, including a gem-encrusted cross.

Credit: Rihanna’s Instagram

“I’m not going to buy maternity clothes.” Rihanna vehemently tells Bustle in March. The singer continues to confidently embrace her baby bump. She does this through bold fashion choices at large scale events; inadvertently redefining traditional concepts of maternity style.

“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 said in her Vogue cover interview.

“I’m sorry—it’s too much fun to get dressed up. I’m not going to let that part disappear because my body is changing.”

She unquestioningly challenged the status quo on pregnancy, maintaining that if it wasn’t something she would have worn before she was pregnant, then it’s not something she’s going to wear now.

Credit: Rihanna’s Instagram

With the global star due any day now, she is staying true to her word throughout the entire term of her pregnancy. 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.”

A Revolution in Style

Rihanna fans have long been holding out for a new album. Although for now, the mogul is focusing on delivering her own personal fashion revolution. She is doing this through both her groundbreaking style and her clothing label, Savage X Fenty. “Celebrating the bump in a beautiful, form-figure way isn’t enough,” said Hatch founder and CEO Ariane Goldman, reported by USA Today. “Now we’re showing the bump and bedazzling and bejewelling it.”

Credit: Rihanna’s Instagram

The most iconic look from her pregnancy journey thus far is undeniably the little black Dior dress made from sheer panelling. She pairs it with nothing but a strappy Savage X Fenty G-String underneath for the Dior AW22 Paris Fashion Week (Below).

Rihanna and her stylist Jahleel Weaver made the decision to remove the lining of the lace Dior cocktail frock, leaving it completely transparent. “Rihanna is just so fearless, so for me it’s always a question of ‘How do we make this look make sense for who she is?’ ” Weaver told Vogue.

Credit: Elle – Rihanna attends Dior AW22 at Paris Fashion Week

Of course, with every revolutionary figure, there will be some adversaries. Rihanna’s critics labelled her pregnancy style as indecent, as reported by Fashionista. How dare she be this “naked”, with her belly often fully on show, or peeking out beneath fringing or sheer fabrics? Tabloids have enjoyed portraying her stylistic choices as scandalous, rather then viewing her looks as that of a trailblazer

The Rihanna Effect

This criticism is not unique to the backlash received by many celebrities who have tried to branch out stylistically during their pregnancy. Kim Kardashian was crucified during her pregnancies, for wearing short, tight, even slightly see-through dresses under trench coats. “Back then, irreverent, revealing pregnancy style “just didn’t land,” wrote Vogue journalist, Michelle Ruiz, Growing—even if slowly—body positivity is begetting a shift: “If we’re gonna embrace women of all sizes, pregnant women need to be included in that spectrum.”

Credit: The Sun

Rihanna’s radical pregnancy fashion choices shatter the misogynistic and absurd Victorian notions of feminine decency that society stubbornly clings to. Rihanna’s pregnancy fashion is not just for the expectant mother. In fact, a display of radical maternity fashion which in itself is a feminist act. This goes on to encourage expectant mums to clothe, display and experience their bodies however we see fit, no matter what they look like.

Credit: Elle Magazine – Front Row Gucci Show Milan AW 2022

The Rihanna Effect on the maternity fashion industry has already made its impact. In the past year, maternity label, Hatch was “already going into crop tops and showing skin, which is a new direction for us,” Goldman told Elle magazine.

Now, “Rihanna is upping the ante,” Goldman adds. She’s watching Rihanna’s ever-changing looks in real time, wondering how they may or may not be adapted; asking herself questions like, “What does mesh mean to Hatch?”

Representing Maternity

Rihanna has long championed diversity within her own fashion line, Fenty Puma, already thought to be the most inclusive range in the ready-to-wear space. Several years back, she set the internet alight Savage x Fenty’s Fall 2018 runway show (serving as New York Fashion Week‘s grand finale on Wednesday evening), by adding two visibly pregnant women to the model line up. One of whom was, Rihanna-friend-and-erstwhile-muse Slick Woods.

Credit Fashionista – Slick Woods in look from Savage x Fenty’s Fall 2018 collection

Runways in general can definitely benefit from a dose reality, which certainly includes maternity representation. Woods stars in a number of Fenty-adjacent campaigns. And when she worked Rihanna’s runway in a harnessed lingerie look complete with thigh-high lace tights, stilettos and circular nipple pasties, she set the digital sphere ablaze. Joining her is a second pregnant model – a dancer – wears a mesh teddy with a halter back and plunging V-neck neckline.

Credit: Fashionista – A look from Savage x Fenty’s Fall 2018 collection.

Personal style choice is paramount to how the average woman in today’s society chooses to construct her identity. What’s more, maternity fashion forces the majority of expectant mothers into a dowdy, one-size-fits all category.

Challenging Traditional Notions

The drab design of most maternity wear serves to hide or accommodate a growing body. The styles do not accessorise and celebrate pregnancy. Maternity wear denies women their individuality and instead confines them to the role of mother. Rihanna’s pregnancy fashion choices do more than merely celebrate her impending motherhood. In addition, they display a rare sexiness. Her choices show us a woman’s pregnancy journey which undeniably challenges the binary status of traditional notions of womanhood.

Credit: Rihanna’s Instagram – Attending the 2022 Oscars

Fashion has always been a reflection of the historical era it accompanies, and amid a pandemic, a war, and a string of global uprisings advocating change, there has never been a better time for maternity fashion to embrace a daring new direction. Rihanna’s sexy, bold, bare-all philosophy is trailblazing in today’s climate. We can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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