I’ve always had a love of fashion – even as a little girl, my mum tells me I’d disappear every now and again during the day, and it would be to change my outfit (supposedly up to 6 times a day was the norm). So it was only natural I would choose to ‘do’ Fashion (I studied fashion, work in the fashion industry, etc.) but more important than those credentials, is the fact that I’ve always had to dress with a heightened consciousness of my mid-section, thanks to the fact that I have my mother’s body (skinny legs, but with a tummy that is never flat no matter how much I work out) and an insatiable desire for food ALL the time. Ever since I hit my 20’s and my metabolism started to slow down and all that bacon I was eating didn’t just ‘disappear’, I’ve found it essential to be ‘tummy aware’.
So when I became pregnant, I thought “this is how I’ve trained my whole life to dress!”
First of all, I don’t know about all of you, but the first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was start trawling the maternity clothes, and I was SHOCKED at how terrible it all was. Do most maternity brands just think that pregnant women suddenly become super daggy (sorry, just to clarify, that is Australian slang for ‘uncool’ and crap basically.) About 90% of what I saw looked pretty derelicte…
There were some maternity brands that I found quite nice, but I couldn’t justify buying a whole bunch of clothes that I was only going to be wearing for a few months at most, so I set out to find myself a maternity wardrobe that I could wear throughout most of my pregnancy, and beyond.
Below are just a few tips that worked for me, and made me feel fabulous despite the extra weight I put on. It is mid-section heavy, but if you have any other concerns for hips, thighs, arms, boobs etc, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can send you a couple specific tips that might help!
*Also, since I am writing this from London, I feel I should clarify for any Brits – anywhere below where I have written ‘pants’, I mean trousers, not underwear.
TIP #1: Essential Jeans
First things first – as soon as your jeans don’t start buttoning up, you are going to need a good 2-3 pairs of maternity jeans. These will probably last the whole pregnancy so take the time to choose ones that you feel comfortable in. I settled on ASOS for mine (being quite short, a lot of the other jeans were too long in the leg and crotch for me – for some reason maternity clothes in general seem to be made for giants – and ASOS did a shorter leg). I also tried some from Seraphine (they were nice quality but too long in the leg for me), and H&M felt a bit thin. I didn’t bother trying any other brands as there are a lot out there, and the ASOS ones fit me pretty well, but don’t be afraid to try them all – this is what you want to invest the most of your time in because if you seem to be one of those people who don’t wear jeans that much usually, during pregnancy (and a little bit of time after – unless you are like Kerri and have magic abs) you will find that stretchy panel at the top a lifesaver! (Also great for Thanksgiving meals post-pregnancy).
There are usually two types – over belly, or under belly – and it will be a personal choice which you find more comfortable.
TIP #2: Leggings
Similar story for leggings – in the last trimester (or even from the second trimester if you are like me) you will live in maternity leggings at home (and probably many times going out) and if there is one time it is ok not to wear proper trousers/pants, this is the time to do it! You can get a few pairs of over-belly maternity leggings, or if you prefer under-belly styles, normal leggings work fine and will last well beyond the pregnant stage. (Maternity leggings are also great for thanksgiving, should you be concerned you won’t get more usage out of them…)
TIP #3: Stretch
Unless you are carrying twins/triplets/quadruplets etc – there is very little need to buy actual maternity tops and dresses, unless you need some fitted shirt styles for work (for this see my tip #4). For casual wear, anything that has some jersey or elastane in the material, will work really well. Ribbed jersey is great because it stretches with you, and then once you wash it, it shrinks back to its original shape. I bought a ribbed jersey tube dress like this: https://www.theoutnet.com/product/By-Malene-Birger/Sunset-cotton-jersey-mini-dress/493929 (this is no longer in stock, but an easy enough style to find elsewhere) – and it’s great to wear in summer on its own, or layered in winter with stockings and a sweater.
Same goes for ribbed wool – ribbed sweaters and tops etc. will stretch where needed then shrink back to its original shape.
You can also get a nice ribbed wool or jersey skirt and dress up or down for either casual or more formal wear.
TIP #4: Sporty-chic
Sort of a merger of tips #2 and #3 (i.e. leggings and stretchy fabric) – sportswear is great for pregnancy/post-pregnancy. My personal preferred sportswear brand is Sweaty Betty just because the colourful prints and styles appeal to me, but there are so many out there that would work equally as well. If you get softer yoga-type leggings, these will last a long time throughout and beyond. And pretty much all the sportswear tops I purchased looked awesome and were super comfortable throughout. The stretch in sportswear is pretty great. Team sports leggings with a cool sweatshirt, sweater or t-shirt for the ultimate sporty chic look.
TIP #5: Easy access
This is more of a tip for after you’ve had baby, if you decide to breastfeed – you don’t need to buy ‘nursing tops’. Yes, you do need nursing bras – I’ve tried other ‘normal’ bras and it’s a bit fiddly to get baby fed, so a nursing bra (whether soft cupped, padded with clips or not) is essential, but you don’t need to buy nursing tops. (Sidenote: There are a lot of nursing bras out there that are actually very pretty – Elle Macpherson do some really gorgeous ones.) Anything that button’s up or zips up is fair game which opens up the wardrobe a lot more than just limiting yourself to nursing tops. If in summer, sports tops with long extended armholes like this: http://www.sweatybetty.com/clothing/tops/vests/ecru-avesha-yoga-vest/ also work really well (you just need to pull the top across rather than down, if you know what I mean), and don’t look as frumpy as the nursing tops they have on offer (you know the ones I’m talking about – those tops with the ugly cross-over bit.)
TIP #6: Uber cool outerwear
Let’s face it – with all the stretch you’re going to be wearing, you are going to need something to really ‘up’ your look and I find a good outerwear piece is an instant lift to your outfit. I invested in a good leather jacket a couple of years ago (even before my pregnancy) and it instantly gave everything I wore while pregnant a ‘cool’ vibe. Whether it is a nice coat, jacket, vest, or sweater, invest in something that looks good over almost anything, and most importantly, looks good worn open. Because, obviously, as your belly grows, you won’t be able to close it. Case in point: as an example, just google ‘leather jacket pregnant look’ and you’ll see what I mean..
TIP #7: Accessorise
Don’t feel shy to go big on accessories while pregnant – keep your clothes quite minimalist (i.e. stretch jersey top, leggings/jeans, cool open jacket) and style your look with a nice scarf, big earrings, other jewellery, or even some cool shoes.
TIP #8: No patterns over the belly
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good print, but try to refrain from wearing any all over prints or patterns over your belly – this will make you look HUGE. A simple stripe or very subtle print is fine, but anything that is too loud on top will seriously make you look way bigger than you are. Keep the prints and patterns confined to your legs or your accessories.
TIP #9: Cover the unmentionables
There are some exceptions to this tip, but general rule of thumb – if you are wearing pants, trousers or leggings, wear a top that covers the crotch area, or you will find you will be showing off a bit of the phenomenon they call ‘camel toe’… There is something about the bigger belly pulling up the fabric that seems to make this happen to most pregnant ladies, so please don’t make that mistake!
TIP #10: Comfort above all
Pregnancy and beyond is a long road, and with everything else going on with your body, you want to be comfortable most of all. There will be f*** it days where you just want to be in your pjs and eat chocolate. Other days, you will feel great and ready to conquer it all – and the smallest thing can make you feel and look great. Enjoy it all and have fun with it! After all, when you’re pregnant is the one time you can really flaunt your body without being super self-conscious of all your lady lumps!
BEST SHOPS AND SITES FOR A MATERNITY WARDROBE
TheOutnet.com: I’m sure a lot of you already know about this amazing site, but I thought it definitely needed a mention – the discount version of Net-a-porter, it’s my go-to for fashionable high-end brands at a fraction of the price. I’ve bought a lot of things on here (like my ribbed jersey dress) that have lasted so much longer than any other maternity clothes I bought from some of the high street brands, and still look good now.
Cos Stores: Cos are great for smart, minimalist tailored looks, especially for work, and their sizing is a little larger than usual, and they have some great ‘oversized‘ styles that work really well during pregnancy. I bought quite a lot of tops and sweaters from here that I wore throughout my pregnancy and still wear now. Team oversized tops with skinny trousers, leggings or a pencil skirt for a really chic polished look.
Sweaty Betty: As mentioned above, this is great for high-stretch, cool, sporty looks. Bonus if you actually work out in them too! (Also worth an honorable mention is Lululemon – I know a lot of friends (and my sister) who swear by Lulu).
Nike: rather than for clothes, I’ve put this here for shoes – if like me, you have a lot of foot pain during pregnancy, get a pair of Nike Air Max – it will be like walking on clouds! Seriously comfortable shoes, I lived in these during my pregnancy (and even now they are still my favourite comfy pair). They do a lot of cool colour combinations and go with (surprisingly) a lot of outfits.
Eileen Fisher: a brand I only recently discovered – they have some lovely high-quality knitwear. Not a maternity brand and not the cheapest, but really fantastic quality and beautiful pieces that would last you during pregnancy and well beyond. If I were taller, I would have lived in their maxi-cardigan.
Comptoir des cotonniers: One of my personal favourite brands for my regular wardrobe, they actually have some really great ‘relaxed fit’ styles that look great in the first 2 trimesters and straight after baby pops out. Being a French brand, it is very polished and chic while still being casual and comfortable. (Another honorable mention: Maje is also another French brand I absolutely love, that do great outerwear and knitwear. They are quite expensive, but if you manage to nab something during their sales, their clothing is very good quality and instantly lifts your wardrobe. I’ve bought my leather jacket from there, as well as a coat, and those two pieces were my constant go-to’s to wear on top of most of my outfits during the pregnancy, and still are now.)
H&M: for really no-frills maternity wear, H&M are actually quite good for fast-fashion styles that you can wear for a short period of time without breaking the bank. A couple of t-shirts I bought from here actually lasted more washes than a couple others I bought from another brand, and after wearing them to death, I had no qualms about ditching them during my bi-annual wardrobe purge.
Zara: They don’t sell actual maternity, but are a great go-to for inexpensive styles. Go for an extra size or two larger than you usually wear for during your pregnancy.
Gap: Gap has some great casual maternity styles, and I have a couple of friends who lived in Gap during their pregnancy. For me personally, all the clothes were a little long in the body and leg, but I think if you are medium to tall, then this would be a good choice. For the low price-point, Gap is pretty good quality. The soft wireless bras they have are also great – these were the best maternity bras for me during pregnancy. (Sidenote: they also do some of the cutest and best quality baby clothes!)
ASOS: As mentioned above, this site was the best for me for maternity jeans and leggings. I wasn’t a big fan of any of their other maternity clothes and ended up returning them all (quality and fit are something to be desired), but worth a look if not for the sheer amount they have on offer.
Other honorable mentions: the usual suspects – Seraphine, Mamas & Papas, Topshop and Mothercare – all have quite a big range of maternity wear – not my personal taste, but worth a look if you are carrying ginormous babies or multiples and definitely need proper Maternity wear.
-Liz, mum to baby O
Aussie mama living in London, UK