Rihanna: This isn’t your mother’s maternity wear
Designers are creating body-conscious looks for her and she’s not giving up on heels
Rihanna has always been a trendsetter, so it isn’t surprising her take on maternity wear is charting new territory for women.
We’re used to seeing celebrity maternity photo shoots. The women announce they are having a baby and then all but disappear from the public eye, only to show up post-birth talking about “snapping back” after losing the weight they gained during pregnancy.
For Robyn Rihanna Fenty the goal isn’t to wear clothing to conceal how your body changes, it’s about celebrating: a new life, a new body, a new chapter. She has redefined what maternity and postpartum fashion looks like. It’s sexy, tongue in cheek, and fashion-forward.
Her designer outfits are so fashion-forward, they do not exist in mass-market retailers. Designers such as Alaïa and John Galliano aren’t typically creating clothing for women who are six months pregnant – or beyond a size 12, even. (This is one reason maternity clothing is often frumpy.) Rihanna is using her access and fame to leverage what should be an industry standard.
Like she told Vogue in her May 2022 cover story, “I’m hoping that we were able to redefine what’s considered ‘decent’ for pregnant women. 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?”
Earlier this year, she revealed her pregnancy during the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show, where she performed at times suspended in the air. Over the course of Rihanna’s 18-year career, one thing is true: She is always having fun.
Dressed in a red Loewe flight suit fastened with a breastplate, a custom Alaïa coat (a tribute to late fashion editor Andre Leon Talley), red leather gloves, and Maison Margiela x Salomon sneakers, her baby bump was relatively subtle.
Appearing at the Academy Awards in March, she performed her first new music in years, the Oscar-nominated song “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wearing custom Maison Margiela, a crystal covered halter top, as well as applique-covered wide leg pants, designed by John Galliano. Her baby bump wasn’t displayed prominently on stage. We saw it, but it wasn’t the focus. Her voice was. That was a contrast to her appearance earlier on the red carpet, where she wore a body-conscious brown Alaïa sheer turtleneck with a leather bralette on top tucked into a matching brown leather maxi skirt.
In May, Rihanna left the Carlyle Hotel en route to the 2023 Met Gala honoring fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, she was wearing a fur coat from Fendi’s fall 1997 collection and white heels laced up her legs.
When she arrived at the red carpet at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, she was wearing white sunglasses adorned with exaggerated “eyelashes,” white fingerless gloves, and a hooded white jacket with camellia flower buds. She unzipped the jacket to reveal a body-conscious custom white Valentino gown with a camellia flower at the center of her chest. Her body was on full display at an event where celebrities turn to extreme dieting to fit into their red carpet looks.
Rihanna didn’t attend the 2022 Met Gala. She gave birth to her son Rza on May 13, a week and a half after fashion’s biggest night.
She had announced her first pregnancy in January 2022 with a snowy photoshoot on 125th Street and 12th Avenue under the Riverside Drive Viaduct in Harlem. She wore a long pink single-button Chanel coat from the brand’s fall 1996 collection with baggy jeans ripped at the knee, a Christian Lacroix cross pendant from the 1980s, and a Chanel chain-link belt strung low on her hips. The coat was open in the middle of winter to display her baby bump.
In the next months, there were several Fenty Beauty launches where she dressed in stylish, slinky clothing. She was often photographed leaving her favorite Italian restaurant Carbone wearing heels.
Pregnancy is a time when most women want to hide their swollen ankles and feet, Rihanna is choosing to feel pretty and sexy for her dinner date.
But it was Paris Fashion Week in March 2022 that cemented she was doing things differently. She attended the Dior fall 2022 runway show wearing a sheer black lace babydoll dress with only her bra and thong underneath. (Both from her lingerie line Savage x Fenty, naturally.) Her arms were slung though a leather trench that did shield her body just a bit from cameras but not much. What else should we expect from the woman who told us she either wears a bra or a top but not both?
“To me that dress is actually the closest thing to maternity clothes that I’ve worn so far,” Rihanna told Vogue. “And we hadn’t really done lady that whole time. So I was like, ‘Let’s do lady!’ ”
She covered the May 2022 issue of US Vogue wearing a red lace Alaïa jumpsuit with matching opera-length gloves. She wore red heels and matching red lipstick. The accompanying spread reads like a high-fashion maternity shoot: billowing Marc Jacobs coats worn only with Savage x Fenty panties, luxuriating in a bubble bath with her pregnant belly peeking through the water, a red bomber jacket worn open and without a top under with a slinky knit maxi skirt. There is a shot of her being rubbed down in Fenty Beauty body cream.
In all of her pregnancy outfits, Rihanna is showcasing a version of motherhood that feels joyous to watch in a time when we know Black women are at a higher risk for health problems and even mortality during pregnancy. Wealth and fame don’t insulate anyone: Both singer Beyoncé and tennis great Serena Williams were open about having difficult pregnancies.
Rihanna’s fun and it’s fun for us to see what she will wear next. Rihanna isn’t afraid to poke fun at herself or her condition, like when she modeled a Savage x Fenty graphic T-shirt that says “use a condom.”
It makes sense that producer Pharrell Williams tapped her, a pregnant woman, to star in his first campaign for the Louis Vuitton menswear collection. She’s refreshing with her own invigorating personal style while redefining what motherhood for Black women can look like.
She’s not married. She’s not hiding her body or its changes. She’s working through her pregnancies. When Rihanna and her son’s father, rapper A$AP Rocky, were photographed for British Vogue’s March 2023 issue, the singer didn’t know at the time she was pregnant again.
“How crazy both of my babies were in these photos and mommy had no clue,” she wrote when she posted the photos to Instagram. “Thank you so much @edward_enninful and @inezandvinoodh for celebrating us as a family!”