Maternity clothing is making fashion headlines these days, thanks to Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian, both mothers-to-be.
Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, exudes an elegant classic look, while Kardashian, the reality TV star, is the polar opposite, says Suzanne West, owner of Frankie & Julian's clothing boutique on Frazier Avenue. Media reports say Kardashian's baby (with singer Kanye West) is due in mid-June, with Middleton's (and Prince William's) due date a month later.
"Kate Middleton is classy and, while she'll choose designer fashions, she'll also wear reasonably priced brands," West says. "Kim Kardashian is strictly high-fashion influenced. She'll only wear designer or couture fashions, much of which turns out to be terrible choices.
"Middleton is all about looking appropriate. After all, she is a princess," West says. "Kardashian is not famous for anything other than reality TV, which has, surprisingly, brought her a lot of money. ... Money, though, doesn't always buy you style."
Kardashian is showcasing her pregnancy wearing skintight mini and leather dresses, voluminous skirts, even a barely-there bikini. Middleton wears mostly demure coats, babydoll dresses and flattering silhouettes.
West blames professional stylists for Kardashian's poor choices.
"In recent photographs, Kim looks pitiful," West says. "Many people who are interested in fashion are talking about her unfavorably, and I think the reason why is because she has gained so much weight. The sad part is that her stylists are probably dressing her in these crazy fashions to distract from her weight gain. Unfortunately, it's not working."
Middleton, on the other hand, is staying svelte despite her recently emerging baby bump. Her clothing choices complement her changing body shape, experts say.
Chattanooga's Jonesy Wood, who recently gave birth to her second daughter, Meyer, says she favors Middleton's maternity style.
"I think Kate dresses very cute and proper for her 'duties,'" Woods says. "It seems as though she's finally embracing the baby bump. I had a hard time doing that because I felt like I looked overweight. I really love maxi dresses and am very thankful they are trendy at the moment."
Some of today's fashion trends can serve as double duty for maternity clothes, such as the maxi and empire-waist dresses and tunics, West says.
"We can't all dress like a princess or celebrities and buy designer maternity fashions," she says. "We can try to emulate a look, but what I'm seeing locally is that many women are buying 'regular' clothes that can also be worn during pregnancy."
Lesley Greenfield, whose second baby is due next Tuesday, purchased only a few "actual" maternity clothes. Instead, she's updated her wardrobe with non-maternity fashions.
"Rule of thumb with actual maternity clothes is to keep it simple and don't spend a lot because you aren't going to wear them when you're not 'preggo,'" Greenfield says. "Tunics, leggings and maxi dresses are my go-to [fashions] and I will definitely wear them post-baby, too. Jewelry and accessories are also fun when you can't fit into everything you want to wear."
Still, Greenfield admits she's been following the maternity moves of Middleton and Kardashian and, like Wood, she favors Middleton's choices.
"I think it's fun to follow Kate's style. It's obvious to me that she's stayed true to her style - classy - and her choices flatter her thin body type," Greenfield says. "I also like that she doesn't spend an extravagant amount of money on them, like Kim Kardashian. ... Her clothes can appear obnoxious and larger than life - not in a good way."
Kardashian is taking the "bold" route while Middleton's chooses discretion and protocol, according to the website dailymail.co.uk.
"Kate's reign and supremacy is indisputable, in power and dress, world over," the website notes. Kardashian, on the other hand, has a 'if you have it, flaunt it,' attitude. ... She chooses to break away from every taboo in the book."
Maternity fashion guru Liz Lange defends Kardashian. Lange, whose introduced a maternity clothing line at Target a decade ago, tells celebritybabyscoop.com, that Kardashian's maternity style is "super sexy."
"She doesn't shy away from serious embellishments like ruffles, sequins and feathers and she's not afraid to show skin," Lange says. "I love that her style is starting a dialogue about maternity fashion. It's something I encourage expectant moms to have fun with."
Middleton, though, is the "epitome of elegance," Lange says, noting that the royal mom-to-be is consistently chic and polished, and "has effortlessly translated her tailored, ladylike style to her maternity wardrobe."
Still, the social media and tabloids continue panning Kardashian's wardrobes, West says.
"On Facebook, a floral dress she wore to a gala is being compared to a 'frumpy' dress worn by Robin Williams in the movie 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' " West says.
Williams responded to the comparison on Twitter. The Academy Award-winning actor tweeted the image of both dresses saying, "I think I wore it better!"
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.