CWU professor and mother invents versatile maternity jacket - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

CWU professor and mother invents versatile maternity jacket

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ELLENSBURG, WA - A Central Washington University professor in Ellensburg wins a national competition for her one-of-a-kind design for a jacket. The inspiration for it? Her own pregnancy.

When Andrea Eklund, a professor of the Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising program at CWU was just starting out as a new mom to now 1-year-old son James. It took a lot of work to keep her and the baby warm in the winter.

"I was putting on my winter jacket and then a baby carrier and then him and a blanket over the baby carrier, and I felt like the little boy from A Christmas Story," said Eklund.

That struggle inspired her to design a functional coat that had pregnancy in mind but was also fashionable.

"You feel really good wearing it," Eklund said. "Which is really important especially when you're pregnant and you're not feeling very good."

The jacket expands through each phase of pregnancy. When a woman's belly starts getting bigger, there's an insert that expands the jacket, which also helps when the baby is born.

"Put the baby in the carrier. Put the jacket on and then you undo the invisible zipper, zip it up, and the baby's head comes through the zipper," she explained.

The coat was such a hit at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Conference that Eklund is looking into getting a patent for her design.

"To get that feedback from the actual mothers at this conference, so like a few hundred people, was really satisfying for me."

But the win will also go a long way for her students.

"I think it's really important for students to see that so they understand that you know I can do what I'm talking (about), which is nice."

Eklund's versatile maternity coat beat out 30 other designers for "Best In Show" at the AAFCS Conference for professions from the apparel industry.