Modern Maternity

Krista Karo at her West Orange home, the base of operation for her online venture.

Krista Karo at her West Orange home, the base of operation for her online venture.

You could say Krista and Dan Karo are cut from the same cloth. While living in West Palm Beach, Florida, Krista, a West Virginia native, attended a wedding with a friend in May 2006. There, she caught the eye of the best man, Dan Karo. The two bonded over small talk about the fashion business: Dan was a Manhattan-based executive in the textiles industry, and Krista had majored in fashion merchandising at Ohio State and had worked as a manager for retailers such as BCBG and Max Azria before going into television production and later pharmaceutical sales.

The attraction was so strong that Krista found herself flying to Manhattan five days later to interview for a job. “I moved to New York City by Memorial Day,” she recounts. First came love, then came marriage, and then came baby Olivia in 2007.

Working as a pharmaceutical sales rep calling on doctors on the Upper East Side, Karo needed to look polished throughout her pregnancy. “To maintain that standard of professionalism, I bought a lot of high-end maternity wear,” she says. With the prestigious labels, however, came high prices. “I thought, what am I going to do with [expensive] clothes that I hardly wore?”

With her husband’s help, she brainstormed the idea of establishing an online consignment boutique for expectant mothers. The business model seemed apt in the midst of a recession when most of us are looking to save dollars wherever possible­—and purchasing designer goods might seem an extravagance.

“Maternity clothing has come a long way. There was a time when we had to hide our burgeoning bellies under shapeless and unflattering maternity clothing. Today’s woman, however, has many more options,” says Karo, 37.

“Pregnant women are no longer condemned to wear oversize tunics and baggy tent-like maternity clothes. Instead, they can choose the latest fashions that flatter and emphasize their growingbumps. Just because you’re pregnant does not mean that you have to sacrifice your sense of style.”

Dubbed InStyleBelly.com, the business was launched last March from the West Orange home the family moved to in 2008. Karo accepts garments on consignment from anywhere in the country. Items must be in great condition—minimal wear, no pilling—and typically sport upscale labels such as Pea in the Pod, Bisou Bisou, bebe, Cynthia Rowley, Michael Kors, 7 for All Mankind, Isabella Oliver, Diane Von Furstenberg, Nicole Miller, True Religion, and Juicy Couture. Merchandise is consistently coming in and going out, says Karo. Some of the clothing still has the tags as occasionally expectant mothers will grow too fast to fit comfortably into even recently purchased clothes. “It’s a common problem,” she says.

The website is updated regularly as garments are sold. If an item doesn’t sell after 90 days, it is mailed back to the consignor. Over that three-month period, the price is reduced based on the length of time it is posted. Anyone can return an item within three days (without charge) and Karo welcomes buyers to reconsign their purchases when they have outgrown them.

Karo prides herself on being completely accessible. “I encourage people to call with questions, for example, about sizing. My phone is attached to my hip at all times,” she says.

Word has spread quickly about the maternity-wear enterprise among satisfied customers on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and through advertising Karo placed with Mommy & Me groups in major cities. “InStyleBelly.com had 10,000 visitors in just the first few weeks,” says Karo.

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Krista Karo has carved out a studio in her basement, where she photographs the clothing for her website.

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Krista Karo has carved out a studio in her basement, where she photographs the clothing for her website.

Clothing for a Cause
Being surrounded by maternity clothes all day, Karo was becoming aware of pregnant women everywhere—especially on her favorite TV soap opera, Days of Our Lives.
“I’ve watched that show since I was in the fourth grade,” she confesses. When actress Alison Sweeney’s recent pregnancy was written into the storyline for her character, it got Karo thinking. The maternity clothes on TV shows are typically high-end and have limited use. Drawing upon her prior television production experience, Karo knew how to reach the wardrobe department at the popular show. That fortuitous phone call led to a charitable partnership.

The maternity clothes worn by Sweeney on Days of Our Lives have been donated to InStyleBelly.com to benefit Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization that sponsors autism research and awareness. Now fans who are expecting can make a deeper connection with some of the program’s most recognizable characters.

“If you’re a fan of the show or just want to buy some great maternity clothing and help raise money for a good cause, this is a great opportunity,” Karo says. “We’re thrilled to receive such beautiful maternity fashions by some of today’s most sought-after designer brands and specialty retailers. The donated clothing from Days of Our Lives complements our collection.” Karo hopes other celebrity moms will also consign goods for a favorite cause.

Finding Balance
Managing a booming business while tending to an active toddler can be daunting, but Karo is the first to admit that she has a sweet deal.

Krista Karo's at-home enterprise allows her plenty of time with daughter Olivia.

Krista Karo's at-home enterprise allows her plenty of time with daughter Olivia.

Both she and her husband work at home. His office is upstairs, while Karo has converted the finished basement into an office, photography studio, and playroom. Baby Olivia loves to spend the day close by her mom. “There’s nothing down there she can bump into, so it’s a safe environment,” Karo says.

While Olivia is not permitted to play with the InStyleBelly merchandise, she does enjoy playing dress up on her own. “She loves to be in front of the camera in the studio,” Karo says. Apparently she’s also inherited an appreciation for fine clothing. “We were walking through Nordstrom the other day and she pulled at some clothing that was very expensive and said, ’That’s cute, Daddy!’ which is something I always say…grab an item, examine it, and say, ‘Oh, that’s cute!’ She’s getting into my mentality already!

“Having us both working from home allows us to be flexible,” Karo says. “We don’t have a nanny; we’re very hands-on. We have breakfast and lunch together and try to have dinner as a family every night, although a 2-year-old’s hunger schedule can vary from her parents.”

That schedule is about to become even busier as the household prepares for the arrival of a second child. “We’re expecting a baby boy in February,” Karo says. “I’ve learned to be more go-with-the-flow with this pregnancy,” she adds. “I feel so fortunate in my life. My husband is home all the time, which isn’t the case for most women. He’s a great husband and an amazing father. I have such a wonderful balance between family and business.”

Karo is already mulling over expanding the consignment idea to baby furniture, toys, and other goods that children quickly outgrow without much wear and tear. One thing’s for certain, this entrepreneurial mom does not rest for long.


Bump Basics for a Chic Holiday

A self-professed “boot freak,” Krista Karo—now expecting her second child—intends to keep on wearing this fall and winter’s hottest trend throughout her pregnancy. “I live in boots! In fact, I have a whole closetful of boots,” she admits. Other expectant moms who wish to follow suit should consider going up half a size in boots especially during their last trimester when feet swell the most, Karo advises. “Boots are so big this season, but for pregnant women, it has to have a platform or some sort of solid support. No stiletto heels,” she warns.

Another fashionable style extending from summer into the fall and winter months is the long tunic. “Wear them over leggings,” Karo says. For holiday parties and gatherings, she recommends anything beaded or sparkly. “Charcoal is a popular hue right now, maybe something in the charcoal family with glitter,” she says. “Tailored jackets for maternity wear can also serve as an alternative to dresses. My mantra is to always be comfortable. Choose soft fabrics, nothing scratchy. Wear big knitted sweaters or soft cashmere.”

Karo’s blog (InStyleBellyblog.com) offers more fashion tips for expectant moms, as well as information on designers, such as Liz Lange, who specialize in maternity clothing, and updates on her InStyle Belly inventory.


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