Fergie Is Great with Child, Not with Maternity Fashion Sense

updated 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Poor Fergie. Fleet Street has never considered the Duchess of York particularly spiffy in matters of dress, but now that she's expecting—and due in August—the problem is assuming some urgency. The trouble with Fergie's maternity clothes is fundamental, say Britain's arbiters of fashion decorum; she hasn't, to put it bluntly, been wearing any.

No, she hasn't been walking around naked. It's worse than that. The blooming duchess has spent the first six months of her pregnancy wearing styles that she wore before she was pregnant, stretching them to their very limits—and sometimes beyond. "What's happened to her is that while she hasn't gotten much of a bulge, she doesn't realize how much broader she has gotten in her hips," says Kathryn Samuel, fashion editor of Britain's Daily Telegraph. "She looks like a tank."

And tanks, say the critics, shouldn't wear double-breasted suits, even if they are a size larger than before. On Easter Sunday, Fergie's purple double-breasted Edina Ronay suit nearly burst its buttons, inspiring Daily Express columnist Jean Rook to compare Fergie to "a chock-a-block Easter egg." Nine days later, as she was curtsying before King Olav of Norway, the duchess inadvertently raised the hemline of her dotted blue-and-white Lindka Cierach dress—not to mention assembled eyebrows—in a northerly direction. "Her Royal Thighness Greets the King," blared the next day's issue of Today. Complained designer Cierach defensively: "It was a very good outfit, but it was made for her two months ago. You normally replace the panels in the front for the growing baby."

It's not as if Fergie doesn't have the money to buy roomier stuff. Rather, say palace insiders, the freethinking duchess simply loathes the idea of wearing maternity clothes. "It's perfectly healthy behavior," says Los Angeles-based radio psychologist Toni Grant, extending the royal mind-set some license. "Many women in the public eye today see no reason to make a special event out of pregnancy. It's just a normal part of life. I think her resistance suggests only that she does not view pregnancy as an encumbrance of any sort."

Fergie's resistance to maternity smocks and elastic waists has inevitably led to invidious comparisons between her and her sister-in-law Diana, who was considered a model mother-to-be during her two pregnancies. "Sarah could look at some of those pictures and get some tips on how to do it," advises Women's Wear Daily's James Fallon.

Maybe she already has. Last month, she showed up in bib overalls at a polo match. And, for those more formal occasions, the duchess has also received the bulk of the more than a dozen maternity ensembles she has ordered from French couturier Yves Saint Laurent. Not that the purchases signaled total surrender. Joy Hendriks, Saint Laurent's publicity director, says Fergie's new clothes include tunics over narrow skirts. " 'The clothes have to be short,' " she quoted Saint Laurent as saying, " 'because she's got very pretty legs.' "

—By Bonnie Johnson, with Laura Sanderson Healy in London

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