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Sylvia Flote modelled maternity wear with a fake bump. Now she's pregnant, she wants us to know the truth.

Australians might not know Norwegian-born model Sylvia Flote by name, but her baby bump is currently attracting international media attention.

This week, 36-year-old Flote, who is expecting her first child with fiancée Sigmund Oakeshott, criticised some online retailers’ use of pregnancy bump prosthetics to promote their maternity fashion – instead of using pregnant models, such as herself.

“Surprisingly, many do not know the majority of models modelling pregnancy clothing are actually girls with a fake bump attached,” Flote tells Mamamia.

“I modelled pregnancy clothing like that once. At the time, I thought little of it, and treated it as a novelty even, but now finding myself pregnant and experiencing how my body changes, I’ve been reflecting on the ethical aspect of it all.”

 

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A post shared by Sylvia Flote (@sylviaflote) on

It’s the ethics of online stores ASOS and Boohoo that Flote has directly questioned, because, as she claims, they are being dishonest with their customers.

“If companies won’t put in the extra work it requires to research and source actual pregnant women to model their products, they should at the very least include a disclaimer letting the customer know this is an image of a regular model wearing a fake bump,” Flote says.

The mum-to-be firmly believes that using regular models with pregnancy prosthetics, or stuffed bras to give the impression of pregnancy cleavage, sends a wrong, and dangerous, message to women.

“With pregnancy, it’s not simply a growing stomach, but a small deposit of extra fat storage, extra fluids and growing breast tissue,” she explains.

“I feel a skinny 20-something girl with a slapped-on belly, is just not the right message to send out.”

Flote is unimpressed with the excuses some retailers have given for their practices.

“In 2017, ASOS claimed they only use stick on bellies because they care about the welfare of the model,” she explains.

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“They did not want to make a pregnant lady be on her feet all day working hard. I find this response most curious.

“I see women in full work all the way into the last month of pregnancy, and if a woman feels fit and capable, why take away her opportunity to work and pay her taxes?

“After all, pregnancy is not a disease.”

 

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???? @ellenvonunwerth * * * #preggo #pregnant #maternitymodel #19weekspregnant #19weeks #redhead

A post shared by Sylvia Flote (@sylviaflote) on

She feels treating pregnancy like a condition to be wary of is not only unnecessary, it harms the working model who wants a career and a family.

“Models are freelancers, and rely on money coming in by getting as much work as possible,” she says. “Most of us wait longer than needed before starting a family, as we need to work up a buffer for our maternity leave.”

Seeing pregnant models being denied the chance to work, or being afraid of becoming pregnant in the first place, makes Flote angry.

“Are we to starve ourselves for the first four months in hopes that clients won’t see we are pregnant? Then have five months without income, followed by the time we need off to breastfeed and recover from child birth?”

Flote says more retailers need to follow the example of fashion giant Zara’s approach.

“I have shot for Zara maternity, and feel incredible honoured and grateful to be able to work for a company who always use real pregnant women.

“They put in the extra work to provide their customers with a better shopping experience, and at the same time, are doing something great for the pregnant woman who is saving up to support her newborn baby.”

pregnant model
Flote happy and healthy in her pregnancy. Image: supplied.
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She adds, “Companies have to be open for working with model agencies they haven’t worked with, and sometimes change the brief of what kind of look they are going for.”

Flote wants retailers to reflect the reality of a pregnant woman’s body – and not use a misleading image, as we too often currently see. And if a pregnant woman isn’t used, they need to be honest about it.

“All I’m asking is, please, can we add an explanation; ‘this model is 26 weeks pregnant’, or ‘this model is wearing an artificial bump to represent a seven-month pregnancy’,” she says.

“Pregnant woman want to know what we are presented with. Is this an image of something completely unattainable, or is this a fellow pregnant woman?”

pregnant model
Flote is grateful for the opportunity to work. Image: supplied.

As for her own pregnancy, Flote is feeling very well, and is proud of her burgeoning shape.

“It’s pretty strange to feel oneself change so much, but a pretty awesome feeling too!” she says.

“It blows my mind every day that we are capable of doing this.”

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from from politics, to parenting. Instagram: @namawinston Facebook: @NamaWinston.
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