When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, there are about a dozen things that immediately start racing through her mind. One of them being what she’s going to wear for the next nine months. Before the maternity market existed, women would alter clothes they already owned by letting out the seams of a dress or by adding an elastic waistband to their pants. Today, moms-to-be are still guilty of buying bigger and baggier sizes from their favorite brands and calling it maternity wear. To be clear, this isn’t because there aren’t options out there for expecting moms. It just so happens that many of those options aren’t very stylish.
Finding an outfit that connects a woman’s life before, during and after baby sounds like a balancing act no one should ever attempt. But designing clothing for a body that’s changing by the week is no easy feat either, especially when trying to retain an identity that existed pre-pregnancy. When Hoboken mom Stephanie Manganelli was pregnant with her first son, she was underwhelmed by the amount of flattering and fashion-forward garments available in stores. So she and her mom, Debbie Grill-McInerney, decided to do something about it by starting Stowaway Collection in 2016.
During Manganelli’s career beginnings in fashion marketing, she spent time assisting on photoshoots, runway shows and styling “real women with real bodies”— a tool she would find useful later on when designing her maternity line. However, it wasn’t until Manganelli’s own pregnancy journey that she was able to understand the complex changes a woman’s body goes through, and even better, how to create pieces that complemented and celebrated such an important time.
Stowaway Collection recognizes pregnancy as something more than temporary. The brand aims to bring the same trends and sensibility from the fashion industry and transition them to fit the maternity field. Despite the misconception, women are looking for maternity clothes that are as close to their normal, everyday style as possible. Stowaway Collection’s offerings range from color-blocking dresses to pencil skirts, drawstring pants and off-the-shoulder shirts—all crafted to show off the baby bump other brands try so hard to hide.
Each item of clothing is made from stretchable and luxurious fabrics to accommodate women through all stages of motherhood, from 40 weeks and beyond. They’re meant not only to be versatile, but to provide a sense of comfort and confidence at a time when women might feel that they have less control over their own bodies. Most importantly, Stowaway Collection doesn’t overlook the working mom by offering easy online accessibility with free shipping and returns. The designs are made to go from “desk to dinner” and can be dressed up for a night out or paired with your favorite sweats. I recently spoke with Manganelli, now a mother of two, who shared what it was like starting her own business, tips on dressing during pregnancy and how the Hoboken community served as her inspiration.
You founded Stowaway Collection back in 2016 out of necessity. What does this brand bring to the maternity space that the market hasn’t seen before?
When I was pregnant with my first son, my mom and I went shopping for maternity clothes and left feeling so disappointed. There were no options designed to flatter the pregnant body. Everything I found was made to just “accommodate” and hide the bump under tent-like silhouettes. Stowaway Collection is designed so that all pieces celebrate your growing bump and show it off. Everything we make can go from the desk to dinner and is made in the USA with luxe fabrics. When you’re wearing something that’s chic, flattering and body conscious you’ll look better, you’ll feel better and it’ll photograph better for all those #bumppics.
How did being pregnant with your first son play into your understanding of what pregnant women wanted?
It’s the whole reason the brand was born! I was our first fit model and our designer. I tested every silhouette imaginable to see what was most flattering. Living through it helps you realize what’s needed at each point in the pregnancy. At the beginning I wanted to show off that I had a bump, albeit a small one. Then as I neared the end of the pregnancy all I wanted to wear were comfy, stretchy pieces that still looked flattering. Knowing I didn’t want to buy a new wardrobe, I made sure what we offered in our collection met both standards to last all trimesters.
What is something you think most women get wrong when dressing during pregnancy?
Some women don’t prioritize their maternity wardrobe and just buy their normal brands a size or two larger. As these pieces are not designed for a pregnant woman, you end up not feeling and looking your very best. Maternity clothes exist for a reason, they’re made for this beautiful time in a woman’s life and are designed to fit your growing bump. Utilize them and show off that bump!
As a Hoboken resident, did the fellow “mommy community” have an impact on your designs?
Immensely! I had an entire community to test the pieces! Hoboken is the perfect blend of a cosmopolitan, metropolitan and family-oriented city. The moms here need to be dressed and ready to go for the entire day for many different roles. From school drop-off to the corner office to soccer games to a date night. That’s what inspired the desk to dinner designs.
Do you have any tips on how to transition one’s maternity wardrobe after the baby comes?
Buy pieces that don’t need to be transitioned. If you invest smartly in your maternity wardrobe it’s everything you need for bump, nursing or pumping and as your bump slowly (very slowly!) goes away. Our pieces are designed to take you through pregnancy and beyond, so you can really get longevity out of your purchase.
What advice would you give other women who hope to start their own business?
After you’ve done your due diligence and tested the market, just close your eyes and jump! That’s my life motto and especially applies to entrepreneurship. The self-doubt can creep in when something doesn’t go your way and you have to remember to just jump (over and over again).