Danielle Brooks Talks Body Inclusivity, Maternity Clothing Line Developed With Universal Standard

Courtesy of Universal Standard (2)

The 'Orange Is the New Black' star opens up about the struggles of finding stylish clothing while pregnant and why it's one space in fashion "where women weren't being paid attention to."

In August, Orange Is the New Black actress Danielle Brooks took to Instagram to sing about the struggles of finding maternity clothes after she revealed in July that she is expecting her first child. "It’s so hard to find some clothes when you’re pregnant," she sang to her 2 million followers. 

Inclusive fashion brand Universal Standard answered her call by reaching out to Brooks to develop what would become a maternity-clothing capsule collection, with comfortable pieces designed to be worn before, during and after pregnancy. The Fit Liberty (Mom) collection is available starting on Tuesday, Oct. 29, with pieces including maxi dresses, sweater dresses, jumpsuits and tunics ($30-$185).

As is true of all core pieces in the Universal Standard collection, the company's policy is that if a customer's size shifts up or down within a year of purchase, any item of clothing can be replaced in the new size, free of charge.

Brooks explains that when she was shopping for maternity wear, sizing up affected all areas of the body, making it difficult to find flattering styles. "For some women, the only thing that is changing is their belly. It's not their thighs and it's not their arms," Brooks tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I was finding that my clothes were just looking baggy and not looking fit for me." 

She spent the first five months of her pregnancy "under the radar" — "I was very much hiding my pregnancy because I was doing Shakespeare in the Park," she says. "And so once that show was over, I was ready for people to see my bump. I wanted people to see my new curves." But form-fitting fashion then began "cutting off my circulation at my belly," she says, as she moved from size 14 to 18. 

The difficulties in finding the right fit mirrored other experiences Brooks had while looking for size-inclusive brands to wear on the red carpet. "As a consumer, it feels like people in this industry are acting as if they hear you as a consumer, but they really don't. They act as if they're listening to what we want, and I don't really feel like they 100 percent do," she says of some fashion designers and brands. For the Orange Is the New Black premiere in July, Brooks opted for a hat by Sarah Sokol Millinery and a custom silver sequined tuxedo jacket and gown by designer Christian Siriano.

"I'm just grateful for people like Christian Siriano, who I can call and say, 'Hey, I really want to feel like a million bucks at my last premiere for Orange Is the New Black. Can you help me out?'" Brooks tells THR. "He's smart enough to find the material to make sure that I'm comfortable and make sure that everything fits like a glove. And I appreciate his ear, the fact that he listens, and I feel the same way about Universal Standard." (The brand is also loved by Shrill star Aidy Bryant.) 

Brooks explains that the Fit Liberty (Mom) collection came about because Alex Waldman, co-founder and creative director at Universal Standard, "saw there was a space where women weren't being paid attention to."

Waldman tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement: "She expressed frustration after struggling to find options during pregnancy that were stylish but comfortable, and so she's been wearing her own Universal Standard pieces instead. Since many of our styles are made from super soft, stretchy material, they work for a woman's body at any stage. ... With Danielle's help, we curated this collection of pieces that offer women the freedom to go through this incredible phase of motherhood, or really any stage of life, without fear, anxiety, or an additional financial burden." 

For Brooks, the Fit Liberty (Mom) capsule is "taking away anxiety out of the equation when it comes to looking for clothes." She adds, "When they say they're for all women, they truly are!"