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By Teresa Gallagher and Maria Mueller

Just as fashions will inevitably continue to evolve in the new century, the fundamental needs of women for comfort and style will become increasingly stronger. In response to these demands, the maternity fashion world will manifest the millenium with diversity, the most dramatic changes being found in clean, pure lines, slim and feminine silhouettes, and luxurious fabrics utilizing new technologies.

Moms-to-be at the turn of the century have the same multitude of options as their non-pregnant counterparts: bright new colors, up-to-the-minute fabrics, and the latest and greatest styles. After all, a pregnant woman continues to need freedom of movement and absolute comfort without sacrificing any of her pre-pregnancy style and flair.

Colors are vibrant and varied, with gray alternating with black as a basic. It is also a color statement on its own with shades running from the palest hues to the deepest charcoals, and, in between, a "heathered gray" with hints of blue. The color combination that is making the biggest splash results from pulling together any of the grays with the come-back shades of pink which run from a soft blush to a deep, bold raspberry or fuschia.

Contemporary color palettes also include all shades of greens, blues, and taupes, either on their own, or coordinated into mini or bold stripes, or used as accent colors in border prints.

Sensational fabrics are also giving 21st century maternity wear a new liveliness. The ultimate in softness is found in silk or satin, microsuedes, and jersey knits. Ribbed ottomans and soft crepe knits are among other fabrics that are adding interest and vitality to maternity wardrobes. For cooler climates, corduroy is back, as well as velour and chenille. In warmer weather, cotton and linen retain their position as independent top choices, as well as providing a main ingredient to some of the new fabric combinations, such as rayon/linen, and cotton/rayon/spandex. Stretch cotton twill will be the fabric of choice for pants and shorts, as they provide the ultimate in freedom of movement. Polyester has several new faces with its endless mixtures with rayon, linen, spandex, and nylon. For the transitional seasons in between, nothing beats polyester's latest appearance as the new matte jersey, with the look and feel of silk and the care of cotton.

The single hottest maternity trend for the millenium is the movement towards a more slim fit that hugs, rather than hides the body. Trend-setting owner and designer of Japanese Weekend, Barbie White, is introducing her new "Hug" line that accentuates all the parts of a pregnant woman's body, and adds a much needed feel of femininity, while staying in step with the more sheer dressing of the future. "It fits, caresses, embraces,...because everyone needs a hug." The concept of the line is to flatter the body, while accommodating the body conscious. The pieces are designed to skim the body, and can be worn alone for those women who wish to accentuate their pregnancy, or can be worn with a sheer or mesh overpiece, or a woven blouse worn as a jacket, so more modest personalities can have the same feeling of sensuousness, yet still feel fully covered. The line, with it's younger appeal, so far includes a dress, a tank, leggings, boot cut pants, a skirt, and a very contemporary crop slim pant with side vents. The dress and the tank either have traditional tank straps, or more updated spaghetti straps to accentuate the shoulders and the neck. In the spring and summer seasons, the tank will be available paired with a color matched sheer cardigan, tee, or ballet top, and the dress will be paired with a long sleeve sheer overlay, for a completely coordinated look

21st century skirt and dress lengths are as varied as personalities, and there is an option for everyone: mini lengths, slightly above the knee, the new 26" length that falls just at the knee, as well as slightly above the ankle and at the ankle. Pant lengths are being designed to keep pace, with the addition of the new slim, cropped, just-above-the-ankle style, to the traditional straight leg and boot cuts. Capri pants will continue to be hot, with new dimensions such as non-paneled waistbands, and new fabrics, such as indigo denim and stretch twill. New for jeans is the rolled up cuff, or cuffs with patterned borders and tassels.

Waistbands are also going through some changes. Along with the very common front stretch panel, is the ever-comfortable and limitless drawstring. New stretch fabrics are now able to accommodate front zippers and buttons, expanding the use of the garment to post-pregnancy.

Sweater sets will continue their popularity, moving from simple cotton to every other possible fabric. Long or 3/4 sleeve cardigans are being paired with short sleeve crewneck tunics, or scoop neck tanks to add versatility between hot summer days, and cooler summer nights. New cardigan styles include single button or tie closures, in addition to the more traditional crew neck button up.

As owner of New View Maternity Apparel Group, Inc. in New York City, Armanda Texidor is in the enviable position of getting a pre-season and complete overview of several of the top maternity designers' collections, as they hit the boards. She sees "a novel attitude emerging toward the way people feel in maternity clothes. Fashionable attire has taken a turn to "svelte", and nothing could be better for the maternity industry. Maternity clothes are more necessary than ever, and the demand for them has been heard loud and clear."

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