Barbra Streisand was photographed at London’s Ennismore Gardens in Spring of 1966 wearing this striped cotton-velvet dress from Albert Nipon’s Ma Mére maternity line. This photo appeared in the August 1966 edition of Ladies Home Journal, with an accompanying interview by Gloria Steinem. For the fashion spread in this piece, titled “New role for Barbra: How to dress the part” fashion editor Trudy Owett had her favorite maternity outfits flown to London. Barbra then chose her favorites out of the bunch to model for the photo shoot with David Montgomery.
Barbra found out that she was pregnant on opening night of West End’s “Funny Girl” on April 13, 1966. Without a proper star replacement for the role of Fanny Brice, the show closed on July 16, 1966. While in London, Barbra and Elliot Gould rented a $1,500 a month, three floor flat at 48 Ennismore Gardens. The photo shoot for Ladies Home Journal took place in this home, and in the gardens directly across the street.
In 1954, Albert and Pearl Nipon opened two high-fashion maternity wear showrooms in NYC and called the line Ma Mére. The line was manufactured in Philadelphia, and eventually grew into a chain of 100 stores nationwide. While Albert ran the business side of things, his wife designed the clothing. Regarding the line, Pearl said “I have to relate to what I do…I became involved with designing maternity clothes because I had to wear them and they just looked terrible.” A signature style of the Ma Mére line were flared, trapeze silhouettes. These were showcased on pregnant models in a 1958 fashion show (a rarity at the time). Ma Mére emphasized that maternity clothing could be chic and that pregnancy was not a condition a woman needed to disguise.
While the demand for high-end maternity clothes shuttered in the late 60’s, by 1973 Albert Nipon had transformed his brand into an internationally acclaimed fashion house. Celebrities like Barbra Walters, Mary Tyler Moore and first lady Nancy Reagan all wore his dresses. Sales reached over $60 million in 1984, but that same year Nipon was indicted for tax evasion and bribery and was sentenced to federal jail for 20 months. The company never fully recovered and declared bankruptcy in 1988. It was then sold to Leslie Fay Cos, a New York based sportswear company, which allowed the Nipons to continue to design until shuttering in 1992.
Barbra’s Ma Mére dress featured a jewel neckline and gathered empire waist. It is comprised of vertically striped cotton-velveteen in muted Earth tones. There are long sleeves and two darts at the bust. The back of the dress has a long zipper closure. This was paired with flat black T-strap shoes by I. Miller Galleria.