Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sometimes a topic is just too important, too provocative and far too urgent for one Fru Gal to tackle alone.
It’s sort of like when NBC drags Tom Brokaw out on camera to assist with a breaking news story; Robin just had to come back and weigh in on this week’s column topic: the amazing progression of maternity fashion over the past twenty five years. As a nation we have gone from dressing ourselves in flowered dresses that looked like duvet covers from the Queen Mum collection to today’s mommies-to-be who seem to favor a wardrobe primarily made up of tiny bits of skin tight spandex.
About a month ago we saw pictures that David Beckham has posted on the internet of his wife Victoria, nine months pregnant and rocking a tiny string bikini. Had our husbands posted photos of us pregnant and bathing suited online we’d still be behind bars serving out our sentences for justifiable homicide.
The photos of Posh Spice got us to thinking about how happy we are to be done having babies, and how grateful we are that Facebook didn’t exist when we were in the family way. The Fru Gals started having babies in 1984 and didn’t stop until 2003. And while we could debate the relative intelligence of all that, none of these kids are going back where they came from so we might as well just move on to how ridiculous we looked during our combined 13 pregnancies. Picture if you will Robin in 1984, sporting a pink floral Laura Ashley dress with giant puffed sleeves and intricately pleated bodice, giant sash tied in a bow around her ribcage.
One good gust of wind and she’d have been airborne.
It seems hard to believe that in the same year that Cyndi Lauper won the MTV best Video Award for Girls Just Want to Have Fun the ladies were feeling ashamed of their delicate condition, but how else to explain the whole “more is more” esthetic—as in having more belly means we need more fabric and more lace on the giant white pilgrim collars so that no one will notice that the woman drowning in chintz is pregnant?
Suzanne had her first two babies while leasing commercial office space in Washington DC and she had to look relatively professional five days a week. The summer of 1990 was hot and sticky and Suzanne was forced to wear wretched polyester maternity “suits”. The quotes are necessary because these so-called suits were all one piece—from the front they looked like a blouse and a jacket and a skirt, but from the back they were a barn-sized rectangle of cheesy gray polyester with a giant zipper running up the middle. The bread loaf-sized shoulder pads were ridiculous but at least they kept the sticky fabric off Suz’s skin.
For casual wear during that decade pregnant moms turned to the fabulous combination of stirrup pants and voluminous sweaters. By the time the baby was ready to pop the pants were pilled beyond belief and there was a band of dribbled food stains along the equator of the sweater front. At least the garish patterns (think Bill Cosby in a pudding pop commercial) helped hide the spots.
By 2000 or so things got a little better. Robin can recall Suzanne wearing a raspberry floral stretchy skirt with beaded trim that she paired with one of her husband’s starched white button-downs to host a reception for Tipper. According to Robin, Suzanne was gore-jus. From the front anyway-our Suzanne was never one of those lucky gals who didn’t look pregnant from the back. She looked like a whale. Maybe two.
Oh should we have kept going with the babies? We are always all about the fashion, and today’s maternity clothes are so much cuter than when we were waddling around. Young moms-to-be are adorable in their little stretchy tops and the new maternity jeans that are indistinguishable from any high end ones on the market—no more hideous fabric panels at the top of the pants that required a sail-sized trapeze top to cover them up.
And there are so many options for pregnant women these days. All we had was a maternity store in the mall that only sold over-priced and ugly get-ups. Target has snagged Manhattan favorite Liz Lange to design affordable and chic separates and even Old Navy has come up with a fresh-looking maternity line that avoids big arrows on the belly and Disney character screen prints. It’s all pretty cute, but there is, or should be, a limit to how tight these new fashions should be worn, at least to our aging sensibilities.
We saw a young woman on Main Street the other day and we are fairly certain we could tell the sex of her baby right through her yoga top.
Robin’s daughter-in-law was the picture of cuteness this past year while carrying the Broadbent’s first grandchild. Stylish dresses right off the rack, with high waists and skirts with a little fullness in the front to sweep attractively over her growing belly. She was truly the belle of the ball—but it isn’t just her. Every woman can decide how to dress while doing the saintly work of growing a person— frills if she wants them, a more classic silhouette if that’s more her style.
We only wish it could have been that way when we were performing miracles.
It’s summer and raspberries are both abundant and reasonably priced which means the Fru Gals try to use them as often as possible--it makes bypassing them in January a little easier. The cake would be perfect for your next special event-- a baby shower perhaps? And the salad is great on a night when you just don’t feel like heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven. It is nutritious and delicious, and pretty to boot!
Chocolate Raspberry Show Cake
Jhuzh up a regular chocolate cake with pirouette cookies and a couple of tubs of raspberries to make a special dessert that is easier than it looks. A nine inch cake serves 12. To achieve this adorable look with a larger cake just buy one more container of cookies and one more pint of berries for each additional inch in cake size. This cake is a showstopper with a 12 inch cake, but boy is it heavy. You might want to put it on the dessert table before adding the berries. And if you are going to make the 12 inch version, we suggest using mixed berries unless you want to take out a second mortgage for a 100% raspberry version.
Feel free to use a box mix and canned frosting if you wish. Or heck, you could just buy a chocolate cake in the grocery store when you go to get the cookies, we’ll never rat you out. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can find the Fru Gal’s favorite homemade chocolate cake and frosting recipe on our Facebook fan page.
1 nine inch chocolate cake, frosted with chocolate frosting
2 containers Pirouette cookies with dark chocolate filling
2 pints fresh raspberries or a mixture of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries
Decorative ribbon—enough to wrap around the cake and make a fairly large bow. Wired ribbon is great for this—the bow will stay perky all evening.
Place the frosted cake on a cake plate. Gently press the cookies into the frosting one at a time until the entire perimeter of the cake is enclosed. The cookies will stick up about an inch and a half above the top of the cake. Use the flat of your hand to press the cookies evenly into the frosting. Wrap the ribbon around the cake at about the midpoint and tie into a bow. Just before serving fill the top of the cake with the berries. Remove the ribbon to serve.
Chicken and Raspberry Dinner Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
For the dressing:
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
¾ cup vegetable oil
Put the sugar and the vinegar in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, close the lid tightly and shake until the dressing is thick and emulsified.
For the Salad
8 ounces fresh baby spinach or mixed baby greens
4 cooked chicken breasts, cut or shredded into bite sized pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas, steamed just until bright green, then rinsed in cold water to cool
1 seedless cucumber cut lengthwise into quarters and thinly sliced
½ pint fresh raspberries
Large handful of crispy tortilla strips or croutons
Toss together all of the salad ingredients except the crispy tortilla strips in a large, shallow salad bowl. Vigorously shake the dressing and add about half to the salad. Toss to coat and add additional dressing to taste. Top with the tortilla strips and serve.