Content And Community For Black Moms


Vanessa Newman is changing the way we all think about maternity clothes with her new line.

Vanessa Newman, co-founder of alternative maternity wear line Butchbaby & Co. Photo credit: Ornelle Chimi Photography

(Update: Butchbaby & Co. is no longer operating.)

Butch and masculine were not the usual words that came to mind when describing maternity clothes—that is, until Vanessa Newman founded Butchbaby & Co., an “alternity” line for queer, masculine, and transgender parents. The maternity wear line addresses an issue that non-traditional parents-to-be have faced for years—and one Newman has struggled with personally as an aspiring mother.

“I came out when I was 13 years old, and I wasn’t able to explore my sexual androgyny,” Newman, 21, says. “It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I realized I could marry a woman and I could have a family.”

It was then that Newman began to notice the bias in maternity wear. “My style was very androgynous,” she explains, “but the market didn’t serve that. Those moments are what brought me to start Butchbaby.”

Newman’s desire for inclusiveness—as well as her love of design, art, and fashion—shapes the brand’s ideals, and reminds us all that no matter what label we give ourselves, we all deserve to be comfortable and feel normal within our bodies. We spoke to Newman to learn more about how she’s helping moms-to-be who don’t want to wear leggings or flowing dresses through their pregnancies.

Vanessa Newman. Photo credit: Ornelle Chimi Photography
Vanessa Newman. Photo credit: Ornelle Chimi Photography

Why does Butchbaby & Co. need to exist?

There are people out there who want to have children who are not being catered to at all. There are queer women, androgynous women, and transgendered men who all deserve to dress comfortably and look just as good as all mothers do.

From the androgynous to masculine women that we interviewed during our initial customer discovery period, most women primarily shopped in the men’s section. In identifying as butch or masculine or androgynous, odds are you aren’t wearing clothing that would have you presenting as feminine. Maternity wear today is very feminine; the majority of it feels cheaper in quality [and] doesn’t compliment the body in the way more masculine women may want their body complimented. Current maternity wear often overly accentuates the breasts and stomach, and most of the pants don’t even have pockets!

Butchbaby & Co. is solving that problem by creating clothes inspired by menswear and masculine fashion, and adapting the elements and styles we like to create pregnancy wear that better suits more androgynous to masculine pregnant people.

People have really taken to the idea of Butchbaby & Co. Why do you think that is?

Having clothing that makes anyone feel comfortable and true to themselves is important. No one should be subjected to changing their identity or presentation because [a] product doesn’t exist for them.

What led me to even begin this project was because a whole room of LGBT individuals affirmed this project when I pitched it. In reaching out to over 30 individuals—pregnant or planning to be, androgynous to masculine—I was constantly thanked and affirmed because individuals felt there was a need for it, either for themselves or for someone that they knew.

We have over 2,000 likes on Facebook—that’s over 2,000 people who believe in the need for [the] idea. I think the buzz speaks for itself. There are people out here getting pregnant, and they want clothing that makes them feel comfortable in their own skin. And they so badly want this clothing, because it doesn’t already exist. That’s what makes Butchbaby & Co. important.

Planning maternity clothes that genderqueer parents-to-be can wear. Photo credit: Silver Crown Productions
Planning maternity clothes that genderqueer parents-to-be can wear. Photo credit: Silver Crown Productions

What types of maternity clothes will be in the line?

Right now we’re planning for a soft launch with a button-up oxford, jeans, and a pullover sweater. But we have plans for joggers, a hoodie, nursing tee, nursing sports bra, boxer briefs, and pants in the works.

Why do you think it’s taken so long for a company like Butchbaby & Co. to be developed?

Really, I don’t know. I guess no one has thought about it. Right now we’re in a neutral clothing movement. In the last five years, a lot of companies have come out with tomboy clothing—suits for women and a lot of androgynous fashion. The market is thriving and it feels like the right time [for Butchbaby & Co.] to happen, especially with more acceptance of same-sex marriage and parenting.

With gay marriage being legal now, how do you think it will affect the amount of same-sex couples getting married and/or having children?

It’s a very sensitive topic. I have a lot of friends who are queer who don’t want to get married or have kids, and I have a lot of friends who want to get married but don’t want to carry, so I think it is definitely a personal thing. But being able to know that you can get married and have a family will make some people feel more comfortable if they had any reservations about fitting in with society. That’s where Butchbaby comes in.

Team Butchbaby hard at work. Photo credit: Smeeta Mahanti
Team Butchbaby hard at work. Photo credit: Smeeta Mahanti

It seems like Butchbaby & Co. is more than just a maternity line. What else do you have planned for the brand?

As a Black conscious woman, I understand a lot of the societal issues that are going on. I’d like to use Butchbaby & Co. to focus on issues the Black, [Hispanic] and other communities are facing. We want to look at the root of these issues and figure out how we can implement true social change. We care about more than just the trans community and maternity clothing; we care about the homeless community, social justice, ethical manufacturing—all of the things encompassing societal change. We are still ramping up, but once we get there, we definitely plan to use this platform to put our money where our mouths are.

When is your official release date?

Our Kickstarter will be launching on January 19 and shortly after we’ll be releasing the work collection, which includes pullovers and other comfortable work items. There will be a reward system set up for social participation and we’re really excited about it.

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Ev Petgrave is a poet and writer. Being a mom, minority, and techie, she enjoys writing about social issues affecting these groups.


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