I’ve had to take a bit of a hiatus from Style Tutor this year because of some other things I’ve got cooking — namely, a growing baby bump. Juggling the demands of work and school and baby planning, not to mention the fact that my energy is seriously on the decline here in the last few weeks, I just haven’t had time to blog. And, if I’m being honest, I haven’t felt particularly stylish lately, either. But I had to make them time to talk about the frustrating topic of maternity clothes now that I’m headed into the home stretch.
It’s true what they say … maternity clothes are mostly pretty terrible. But they don’t have to be, and I think when you know where to look and what to look for you don’t have to throw in the style towel until after the baby comes. So I’ve put together a few tips and suggestions for the expectant mothers out there to help you save some money and feel good about yourself while you’re lugging around a basketball (or two) underneath your shirt.
Tip #1: Don’t go overboard on the maternity clothes. You may be tempted to run out and stock up on stretchy pants and tops at the first sign of a bump. But if you’re keeping your weight gain in check, resist the urge. Maternity clothes are not cheap, so I suggest you make your regular clothes work as long as possible. I bought a few items here and there during months 4-6 — mostly Old Navy maternity tanks (see #5 below) to extend the length of my regular shirts — and invested in a Bella Band (#8) to help keep my regular pants up after long after I’d stopped being able to button them (another trick that really does work: looping a rubberband through your button hole to keep your pants lying somewhat flat around your belly). I found the Bella Band to be a real life-saver — in fact, I’m still using it with a couple pairs of pants and shorts I can still squeeze into with only six weeks to go. But it wasn’t until I was into my sixth month that I found I really needed to buy maternity clothes. At that point, because it was winter, I bought a few pairs of skinny cords, one pair of skinny jeans and one pair of bootcut jeans from the Gap and Old Navy (see #s 1 and 4 below). The skinny cut works best f0r me, as it emphasizes the fact that I’m still mostly my normal size, except for in the mid-region. My one pair of bootcuts are a little more roomy, so I wear those on my more casual days. As far as tops go, I’ve been sticking mostly with regular cardigan sweaters or blazers over Old Navy or Gap tanks and tees.
(more tips after the image)
Style Notes: Old Navy Pop-Color Rockstar Jeggings $39.94 / Gap Printed Drape-Front Dress $64.95 / Destination Maternity 3/4-Sleeve Striped Maternity Tunic $34.98 / Gap 1969 Demi Panel Always Skinny Jeans $33.99 (sale price) / Old Navy Scoop Rib-Knit Tank $12.94 / Old Navy Tank Maxi Dress $28 / Old Navy Low-Rise Leggings $14.94 / Ingrid and Isabel BellaBand Everday $28 / Gap Eversoft Skinny Cardigan $41.99 (sale price) / Rebecca Minkoff Safety Pin Earrings via Piperlime $48
Tip #2: Buy a few items a size up before you head into the maternity section. As I mentioned before, especially in the first half of the pregnancy, you won’t really need actual maternity clothes. In fact, they may just make you feel a lot bigger than you are. Instead, I recommend you buy a few cardigans and basic tops in a size or two up from your normal size. These can grow with you for quite a while (especially with a tank or Bella Band underneath), and you can still wear them post-baby. While a splurge, one of my favorite purchases during my pregnancy has been a pair of AG Stevie Ankle Jeans in a size bigger than I typically wear. They are the softest, most comfortable jeans — and the best part is I can still wear them, albeit with a little rigging. I know they will continue to be a go-to for months after the pregnancy.
Tip #3: Raid your friends’ closets. Chances are, you have some friends who have been down this road and still have some maternity clothes taking up space in their closets. Hit them up to help add to your wardrobe. Thanks to my very fashionable friends, I’ve inherited a pair of Seven For All Mankind maternity jeans, as well as several cute dresses, skirts and tops that I would not likely buy for myself. Much like the sisterhood of the traveling pants, I will pay these clothes, along with the ones I purchased, forward to the next mom-to-be in need.
Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to show off the bump. As much as I don’t love maternity clothes, I actually think it was a lot harder to get dressed at the beginning of my pregnancy when I wasn’t really showing but my clothes were starting to get tight. At that point I was trying to keep the pregnancy under wraps, and coming up with ways to wrap myself up (especially during a hotter-than-normal fall) was pretty tough. Once I “popped” around 22 weeks, I just had to go for it and embrace that belly. And while I still feel very self-conscious walking around with a giant basketball attached to my front, trust me when I say it’s a lot better than hiding it in some garment that will inevitably make you look like a tent and have people do the “is she or isn’t she?” thing. Everyone’s pregnancy is different — some are “all belly” and others gain weight all over — so how you show off your attributes has got to be an individual decision. But take advantage of the growing bustline (to a certain degree; an excessive amount of cleavage is never a good idea — pregnant or not) and the bump. Nothing is more freeing than wearing a form-fitting dress (see #2 above) or top and not having to worry about sucking in your tummy. And for those who want a little more protection under those bump-revealing outfits, Spanx makes a line of maternity body shapers.
I really hoped to get into the whole tunic/leggings look, which I think is cute on a lot of pregnant women, but it hasn’t worked out so well for me. My long torso and the fact that I’m carrying very low makes me look strangely disproportionate. But for those ladies with perfectly round bellies, I think it can be a very cute look (#3 and #7 above).
Tip #5: Balance comfort and style. It’s tempting to live every day in a pair of yoga pants. When I am not in public, I’m almost exclusively wearing my Old Navy roll-panel yoga pants because that is how I feel most comfortable. I fully expect my husband in the not-so-distant future. But I resist the urge (and it is strong) to wear them anywhere other than walking the dog around the neighborhood because it’s important for me to feel as much like my “normal” self as possible. And that means putting myself together each day before I head out into public. But it’s a compromise. I’ll admit to wearing my hair in a ponytail much more often than I normally do — a hot blow dryer on my already too-hot body is not something I can handle every day. I’ve also ditched all but the shortest heels and have definitely dressed down my work look to more of a casual-Friday style. But I’m working hard to put my best fashion foot forward by embracing maternity dresses and making up for wearing jeans to work by emphasizing the accessories. As the fingers get too big for your favorite rings, turn to drop earrings — they add some sparkle and will draw attention upward to your already glowing complexion. (How cute are the earrings in#10 above? They remind me of blinged-out diaper pins.) So the moral is, go with what’s comfortable while still maintaining your pre-maternity style. You’ll be glad you did when people compliment you on how great you look. Trust me when I say you will eat up those compliments.
So if you’re in the market for some clothes that will grow with you, fear not. While I’ve stuck almost exclusively to the Gap and Old Navy because I’m familiar with their sizing, and their frequent discounts make the clothes more affordable, there are several other places you can turn to. Destination Maternity is the grandmommy of all maternity stores, featuring three separate stores at different price points under one roof (or online). The selection is pretty vast, and while it does skew to the pricier side, frequent sales and coupon offers help. Amazon has quite a good selection of maternity clothes from established and boutique designers. And while I haven’t bought anything from this site myself (but am constantly checking it for bargains) several friends have raved about flash-sale site Gilt, which features maternity clothes along with great deals on baby and kid gear. I’ve seen lots of great deals on fashionable maternity work clothes. While shopping online is a bit of gamble because you can’t try things on, Amazon has an excellent return policy and Gilt will return most items for a credit.
I hope these tips will help you navigate the world of maternity wear — I suspect my next post will tackle another frustrating fashion topic: post-baby transitional clothes.