Britain's Prince William leaves the King Edward VII hospital with his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Durban - Kim Kardashian, Busy Phillips, Lara Stone, Jessica Simpson, Claire Danes and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, are just some of the celebrities who are expecting babies some time this year. And, surprise, surprise, they’ve all been placed on maternity fashion watch.

This, however, is not a new phenomenon. Princess Diana was placed on maternity fashion watch when she was pregnant with her sons in the early 1980s.

“I felt the whole country was in labour with me,” Princess Diana told Martin Bashir in the early 90s. When she was pregnant with William, she wore stylish clothes, in soft pastel colours and bold, bright colours. She wore detailed and classy coats and an array of hats and pillbox fascinators.

Even when it came to evening wear, her pregnancy didn’t stop her from wearing satin evening gowns, her jewels and tiaras. She fully embraced her pregnancy, yet she made sure that she looked amazing.

Diana proved that being pregnant did not mean nine months in the sartorial wilderness, as we’ve seen reinforced in recent years by Victoria Beckham, Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba. Wearing clothes that make you look like you’re a tent is so passé.

This year, special attention has been reserved for Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Kim Kardashian, as they are currently two of the most famous pregnant women in the world.

Both are seen as royalty. Kim is pop culture royalty, while Catherine is actual royalty, so the attention paid to their pregnancies is understandable. Both are stylish to varying degrees. Kim is edgier and takes more risks, while Catherine is more demure, classy and chic.

Fashion editor and stylist of 36 Boutiques’ 36 Magazine, Robyn Cooke, said she was excited about the maternity style showdown between Catherine and Kim.

“I am excited to be tracking both Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton’s maternity style in 2013,” she said. “These two girls have babies that are roughly due at the same time and yet are polar opposites in how they dress. It is going to be a blast to compare and contrast their pregnancy style. Cover up versus letting it all hang out?”

As we’ve seen with Kim in her first trimester, she has kept to her usual style of edgy, revealing clothes. On New Year’s Eve, she wore a black lace dress, which barely covered her body.

The next few days she was spotted wearing a see-through black shirt and a blue dress with cut-outs that exposed her ample cleavage and top part of her stomach.

Kate, meanwhile, has been in her usual demure dresses. She has only been spotted three times since the announcement: in a navy overcoat leaving the hospital; at the BBC Sports Awards in an emerald green Alexander McQueen dress; and on Christmas Day wearing a red coat dress.

But what about the ordinary pregnant woman at home?

Cooke said that this year maternity style would follow the trends of the season.

“Maternity wear trends are no different from standard fashion trends this season. Gone are the days when pregnant women needed to swathe their bodies in tents to hide their bellies.

“Pregnant women in 2013 will work the dropped waists of the 20s look, they will strut their stuff in the 60s-inspired mod shift dresses and they will pull on those stretch leather-like leggings just like the rest of us. And they will look awesome and on-trend.”

Another thing is the importance of proportion when it comes to maternity clothes.

“Proportion is all-important during pregnancy. A puff-sleeve blouse or a jacket with a strong shoulder (pad) will balance the body better as you get bigger. I would say every pregnant woman needs a Thula Sindi faux leather puff-sleeve jacket this winter.

“Then you need to invest in a soft, wider leg pair of trousers and a maxi dress or skirt that drapes and flares slightly – as this will also assist with proportions.

“Finally, for special occasions, a 50s-style full skirted dress from a maternity range is perfect. Don’t be too tempted to wear skin-tight if you are not a supermodel.”

While being adventurous with your maternity wear, Cooke warned you must know what suits and fits you well.

“Obviously pregnant women need to know what suits them normally and not lose sight of this during pregnancy. In addition I can advise that after five months, mini-skirt hemlines need to fall a bit longer – no more than five centimetres above the knee – as proportionally it starts looking wrong when the bump gets bigger.”

In recent years Cooke has been impressed by the pregnancy styles of Selma Blair and Jessica Alba.

On Selma: “She created a cool look that was more remarkable than her usual style. She used cotton and silk kaftans and shorts with an array of bright flat sandals to put together an easy, casual style.”

On Jessica: “She used maxi skirts and cardigans to create a pretty, feminine aesthetic. Neither of these girls did classic maternity wear. Rather, they played with proportions and styles that worked for the bump, right off the normal fashion rack.”

And comfort? I’d say it’s the most important thing.

After seeing three friends complain about how uncomfortable some of their clothes were during their pregnancy, I realised that fabric choice plays an important role in maternity wear.

Cooke agrees. “The most important aspect of building a workable maternity wardrobe is fabric. Look for soft, draping fabrics like jersey cotton, silk and viscose and those with stretch. This will build longevity into the garment and make it comfortable throughout your pregnancy.”

With these tips, here’s to a happy and stylish pregnancy. - Sunday Tribune