plastic loaves’ maternity wear is funny, sexy, smart, and not for kids

In their first collection, the label asks us to think about the duality of our bodies, and why we wear clothes at all.

by Wendy Syfret
20 October 2015, 3:58am

Any way you look at it, Plastic Loaves isn't a regular label. Started by 23-year-old Zarnie Morcombe and her grandmother Heather Morrison, it was originally simply a way for the two women to spend time together. The first thing they made was a maternity top embroidered with the words "Mum's titz" and crude images of breasts and dicks. It isn't what you'd expect from an intergenerational partnership between family members, but the shirt is representative of the collection that would grow around it. It's funny, practical, and weird, but immediately starts a conversation about the way we wear clothes, see our bodies, and frame pregnancy as a very serious business.

After the shirt, she made other items including a bib and a bandanna. All raise the same questions about the duality of the female body, and how we choose to express the different parts of ourselves through clothes.

Zarnie's pieces are sometimes sexual, but not sexualised. They're unusual, but deeply practical, and ask the wearer to think about how they use clothes to tell a story about themselves. The designs ask big questions like, why are maternity and sex so separated in our mind? And show that clothes can make you think, as well as look cool.

So you're pretty young, and don't have kids, why make a maternity shirt?
Well it's not strictly a maternity shirt. It has this duality, it could be a foreplay or maternity shirt. It's completely up to whoever wears it and however they want to interpret it. When we started making it, people would ask what we were doing and Nan would say, "Oh we're just working on this kinky shirt". That's how she viewed it, but a lot of people see it differently.

How did you feel when you finished making it, and realised you make this simple garment that actually brought up this big disconnect between bodies and sexuality?
I knew it meant a lot to me because it made me nervous and uncomfortable to show people.

Looking at the other pieces you've designed, you play with form in a lot of different ways beyond asking if a top is for a baby or for fooling around.
Yeah, we're also working on these bandanas that have a little slip in the back of them that fit a perspex photo frame where you can put a photo of say your child or your animal. It's about sharing and inviting people to ask questions about your life.

All the clothes we're working on are partially unfinished so it's up to the user to complete and make it their own. We did it this way rather than just creating all these things everyone will wear and be exactly the same.

I like the way you've broken down the distinction between clothes, your body, your personality, and how you interact with objects.
Totally. Also with the maternity shirts we added a dummy chain so you can hang whatever you want .

Cool, so it could be for a dummy, but also for another charm or object to make it personal.

Had you been thinking about this stuff a lot before you made the collection?
I've been thinking about all this for a while. I think it's got a lot to do about the relationship I have with my mum.

You're one of seven kids right? Seeing your mum pregnant and go through all this must have informed a lot of this approach.
Yeah, I've always been around babies and know what it's like to have a child and to breastfeed even though I've never been that person. I've been in all those change rooms in shopping centres. It always bothers my how they're so hidden away—you have to walk around on every level until you find them. And when you do, they're just worst place to be.

So much of being pregnant is being hidden. Even having to remove yourself to breastfeed is so insulting.
Yeah! I think it's (breastfeeding's) really beautiful.

Getting back to the foreplay/breastfeeding top. Were you conscious of addressing the crossover between the practical and sexual roles our bodies serve.
Well I'm young, and I'm going through the dating stuff at the moment. But I've got friends from high school who are having children. It's this weird crossover point. Also, I figure if you're having children at some point you're obviously also fooling around.

Clothes are designed with holes for everything—our arms, legs, and heads. Boobs are essentially another thing you need a hole for. I'm thinking about how we wear clothes, it's about sharing a story and accommodating for the body. It's also about me being frustrated by a lot of these things.



Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Hyun Lee
Model Yifan Zhang

plastic loaves
zarnie morcombe