Pregnancy as Art: Gaultier’s Baby Bump Corset

Rare is the person who doesn’t know the name Jean Paul Gaultier.  Not only did he adorn Madonna in what’s become the iconic cone bra corset for her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour, he launched an era of provocative attire (and corsets) that challenged social norms about sexuality, female empowerment, and whether it’s for you or or not, our ability to go outside of our visual comfort zone. 
In his first major retrospective, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk“, we experience his 35 years, tracing Gaultier’s life and work from 1976 through today.  The exhibit is at San Francisco’s De Young Museum through August 19 before heading to Europe, and as fashion exhibits go, it’s the best I’ve ever seen. 
From room to room, one era to the next, we are given a content warning followed by a full exposition of intriguing mannequins, early illustrations, multiple screens of runway footage, beautiful and sometimes erotic photography glamorizing corseted celebrities and it’s all surrounded by his cutting edge fashion, flooding us with Gaultier’s finest work all at once. 
But in the midst of countless cinched waists, I was taken aback when I saw Gaultier’s Baby Bump Corset from the Bad Girls-G Spot collection, Spring/Summer 2010.  Illuminating in bronze-colored satin, the cone bra corset fashioned a strap-on pregnancy bump in a coil design, circling the belly like the bra does for the breasts.  It was twirling on a form so we could see every angle of Gaultier’s work. 
JPG mannequin 
I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  I mean, I love that Gaultier surprised me with a Baby Bump Corset, but it was so utterly opposite of its highly sexual counterparts, and exactly the opposite of what a corset does — cinching a waist to create an exaggerated figure.  It was strong and had a defined shape, but in many ways, the baby bump corset was far more feminine. 
After taking multiple iPhone shots (without the flash), I left and did some research.  Gaultier dressed 19-year-old model Jourdan Dunn for the Paris runway show in Spring 2010.  When it was first announced that the pregnant model would walk the show, the public only speculated as to what she’d wear.  When she appeared on the catwalk with a perfectly shaped bronze-bump, we were left, once again, shocked by Gaultier — by a “pregnant” corset. 
Gaultier Bump
My intrigue and speculation evolved into love.  I love that Gaultier chose to accentuate her bump over disguising it.  He decorated it.  He beautified it.  He worshiped it.  With a female confidence down the runway combined with Jourdan’s ideal skin tone to balance the fabric, she glowed. How lucky was Jourdan Dunn?!
She was herself, only pregnant…on a runway in Gaultier.