It's a Boye!

updated 10/10/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

One has to forgive Britney Spears—really, any pregnant woman—for minor fashion missteps, like her much-photographed cut-off shorts. "She loves to look cute, hip, sexy," says Spears's pal Jeanine Lobell, founder of Stila cosmetics. "The most annoying thing about being pregnant is losing your style." But cute, hip and sexy is a tough trifecta to pull off when your waistline grows like a watermelon and feels like a punching bag. Lobell knew just the fix and rushed over clothes from Chiarakruza, the maternity label by Stephanie Hansen-Boye that got Lobell through her own pregnancy. Before giving birth to Sean Preston last month, Spears was frequently spotted out in Hansen-Boye's cargo pants or A-line halter dresses.

"Sexy, but completely comfortable at all times," attests Christine Taylor, who, with husband Ben Stiller, welcomed second child Quinlin in July. Cate Blanchett, Denise Richards and Jennifer Garner also made the discovery. "The compliments were nonstop," says Taylor. "No one could believe it was maternity wear."

That's just what the designer was going for. During her first pregnancy in 2000, Hansen-Boye, then a photographer's assistant, avoided maternity clothes, determined never "to wear anything with a Peter Pan collar." Instead, she shopped at "civilian" stores, and improvised. In her seventh month, she altered a beaded bustier (read that again, moms: a bustier in her seventh month!) from Loehmann's to wear at her baby shower. Nearly three months later daughter Chiara Kruza was born—and soon after, her clothing line.

Boosted by a $10,000 gift from her parents, Hansen-Boye, 36, who had no prior design experience, quit her job, hired a patternmaker, and within six months had sold 180 pieces to the Babystyle chain. Currently sold from L.A. to London, Chiarakruza's stretchy modal spandex tops and casual dresses had sales of $4 million last year, says Hansen-Boye. Husband Tyler Boye, 32, a photographer, helps out shooting pictures for the company Web site from the Studio City, Calif., home they share with Chiara, now 4, and son Oliver, 20 months. And though she is no longer her own target customer, Hansen-Boye hasn't forgotten her original philosophy: "When you're pregnant, the last thing you need is to wear something that doesn't make you feel good."

Rennie Dyball. Alison Gee in L.A.

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