Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nothing says "trendy" like belly panels and bootcut maternity jeans

Do you shop at Forever 21? Although I am pretty far outside their demographic (trendy dressed tweens and teens) I will admit the store does have one quality I find appealing: dirt-cheap clothing.

Forever 21 just announced a new line of clothing and is promoting feverishly online. The website images are of a youthful blonde model wistfully looking down at her pregnant belly beneath the slogan "Meet the newest addition to our family"(See image above).

A pregnant model? That's right, Forever 21 is expanding their brand by including a new line of maternity wear. Called Love 21, the clothing line includes bootcut and skinny jeans that accommodate a pregnant belly, as well as a number of trendy tops and large purses designed to hold all of one's "Maternity Essentials." The clothing line is available in five states: Arizona, Alaska, California, Utah, and Texas. Bloggers at The Gloss pointed out that three of these states (Arizona, California, and Texas) have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates nationwide.

How common is teen pregnancy? For starters, the United States has more teen pregnancies than any other industrialized nation. According to the CDC, there are about one-million teenage pregnancies annually. Most of these pregnancies are unintended.

Forever 21 is receiving a great deal of attention as a result of their new Love 21 line. On the Facebook page of The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, a debate has started about whether or not the clothing line is encouraging and/or glamorizing teen pregnancy. As of today at 12:15pm, the responses seem to indicate that most consumers feel that this relates to consumer demand, such as creating a line of plush-size clothing. One woman writes: "It does not promote teen pregnancy. No One [sic] with any fashion sense gets pregnant for the clothes! I agree it is a business that is simply looking to fill a niche in the market." Another contributor states "I think the visibility it is bringing to teen pregnancy makes people uncomfortable with the fact that it means there is a market."

With over one-million teen pregnancies a year, it does in fact seem like there is a market for maternity clothing. But just because there is a market, it does not mean that there should be a market. What are we doing to prevent teenage pregnancy?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2/3 of all teenagers who have a baby will not graduate high school. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the following needs to happen:
  • Strengthen a culture of personal responsibility regarding sex, getting pregnant, and bringing children into the world, as well as strengthening the practice of always using contraception when you aren’t ready to have a child;

  • Support responsible policies that will increase the use of contraception, particularly by those who cannot afford it and by those at greatest risk for having an unplanned pregnancy; and
  • Provide more education to teens, parents, and young adults in their 20s that encourages them to take sex and pregnancy seriously, stresses personal responsibility and respectful relationships, and includes extensive information about contraception

Here's an idea: What if 100% of the profits of the Love 21 Maternity line was donated to organizations committed to comprehensive sex education, such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and Planned Parenthood?

What do you think? Is Forever 21 glamorizing pregnancy or simply filling a niche in the market?


  1. I think this is about condoning or rather giving in to the fact that CA (and those other states) has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and mostly that is due to teens lack of knowledge about taking care of themselves. And most teen mothers come from teen mothers themselves. It’s a sad cycle that should not be perpetuated. We should teach these girls to empower themselves with knowledge of their body and contraception not sell them pregnancy clothes.

  2. While researching this blog post I came across a website for teens with a link that said "Teen pregnancy: how does it happen?"

    I mean, "how does it happen?" Seriously. The link went on to explain how unprotected sex can lead to unplanned pregnancy. I think the fact that this actually had to be explained on the website is a clear indication that something is greatly lacking with sex education in this country.

  3. I found this article interesting, having heard about some of our high school girls wanting to become pregnant for various reasons. I think the facebook contributor summed it up best, "I think the visibility it is bringing to teen pregnancy makes people uncomfortable with the fact that it means there is a market."

    Love the thought-provoking posts. Can't wait to read more.