What We Expect from the Expecting: Maternity Dress as a Case of Liminal Consumption and Identity Formation

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O'Connor-Garcia, Erin
thesis / dissertation description
This study examines communicative discourses and identity management practices within the context of dress and style of pregnant women. Four pregnancy style guides and their online customer reviews are examined for themes of style during liminal life moments, construction of identity for pregnant women, and relationships between the books and reviews. Emergent themes include externalizing what is internal, normative clothing determining deviancy, and liminal life moments begetting social imaginaries. This study reveals that discourses on style, appearance, and consumption rely upon personal and social control and imply notions of construction of self and identity for pregnant women. The first theme of external/internal control indicates an emphasis on personal self-discipline and self-denial. The second theme of normative/deviant markers indicates an emphasis on group discipline and societal control through boundaries on women. The liminal life moment of pregnancy magnifies each of these themes. In terms of self-discipline, the pregnant woman must work harder to maintain the appearance of external and internal control. In terms of group discipline, the pregnant woman is marginalized further and her group membership is threatened by her changing appearance and power.