When Lucy Rook couldn’t find a dress she liked that she could also comfortably breast feed her baby in, she decided it was time to create her own.
“When I had my first baby, Rocco, I was quite surprised at the lack of feeding dresses out there. I found myself in maternity wear or, for want of a better word, ‘mumsy’ dresses that I just didn’t want to wear.
“Two years later, I had Bonnie and we went on holiday with my stepchildren, who included two boys, who were then teenagers. I found meals out really awkward.
“It was the choice between desperately trying to feed discreetly in the nice dresses I had packed or being able to feed in tent-like maternity dresses that swamped me. I spent the whole two weeks dreaming up Discreet Bowtique – and the next two years making it happen,” she tells Weekend.
Her dream was to create affordable, fashionable clothes that women would want to wear whether they were feeding or not.
Lucy, who lives in Wolverhampton, went in search of a manufacturer who could to turn the design she had in her mind into a reality.
“I thought of a design, which is now the Sally dress, which had a layer on top and an under-layer with two slits for feeding.The top layer would then rest on top of the baby while they were feeding so you couldn’t see anything.
“I don’t think any mother should have to cover up to breastfeed but I know many feel more comfortable doing so especially when they are in a restaurant.
“I thought it would be a case of cutting two holes in the material and it would be done but I have no experience in dressmaking.
“When I started, it was important to me to keep everything in Wolverhampton so I wanted to find a manufacturer in the city which I did. They were really helpful and we ended up trying different designs. Once we had come up with the finished design, I had to find a pattern maker.
“A lot of this work has gone overseas to places like China so this wasn’t easy. I found a pattern maker who taught on Wolverhampton University’s dress making course – she turned out to be my mum’s next door neighbour.
“She made me a size 10 pattern and then once we were happy she made the other sizes.
“I then needed material and I found a supplier in Tipton who showed me lots of different material and colours,” she explains.
The next step was to recruit photographers and a model to help showcase the dresses on the Discreet Bowtique website and they were also found in Wolverhampton.
“It all worked out well. From start to finish it took about two years from having the idea to launching the business just before National Breastfeeding Week in the summer,” says Lucy, who is expecting her third child.
She believes her dresses will help mothers to reclaim a bit of their own individuality while still dealing with the practicalities of breastfeeding when out and about.
“Our dresses aim to make mums feel like themselves again. They are clothes that help women feel confident while feeding – wherever they are. They have soft, double layer jersey tops and feature hidden, discreet feeding slits – offering easy, under-layer breastfeeding access.
“Our dresses are not maternity dresses – we think mums are ready for a change when their baby arrives – but they are super forgiving. They are all made from jersey for the perfect fit while mums are still changing shape.
“The Sally and Susan dress can be dressed down with leggings and flats for baby or toddler groups or dressed up with tights and heels for work. The Kimberley dress comes in navy. The sparkle top layer adds a sense of glamour making it perfect for a christening, wedding or party where you’ll be feeding,” Lucy tells Weekend.
Through Discreet Bowtique, which also sells baby headbands called Bonnie Bows, Lucy hopes to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding.
“Here in the UK we have one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
“I believe those low numbers are a lot to do with a lack of support, as well as a lack of knowledge. I also think there’s still some stigma attached to it – particularly around feeding our babies in public.
“It can be a daunting experience feeding when you’re out. That’s made worse, I think, because there aren’t many clothes available that keep you covered up. What is on offer is often overpriced – and nearly always maternity wear. It’s my hope that Discreet Bowtique can offer feeding mums, like us, affordable fashionable clothes we can look, and more importantly feel, amazing in.
“Worries about what we wear are obviously only part of the story. Every day our social media accounts share breastfeeding facts and news stories from across the world. Our website also has links to groups who offer feeding mums help and support. There are some really useful videos for new parents on the website too, some films I made for the NCT.
“I believe the amazing benefits of breastfeeding our babies are still chronically underreported. I’ve pledged that five per cent of all of our profits will go to helping change that,” she says.