Now that I only have a couple weeks to go, I’m realizing that I am really going to miss being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong: I’m anxious for the foot swelling, heartburn and frequent potty breaks to stop, but there’s also a part of me that can’t believe my baby will be here any day, that I have to learn to breastfeed, and that pretty soon I won’t have a little buddy kicking, hiccuping & rolling over inside my belly all day!
I really enjoyed shopping for maternity clothes, too, so when I finally had to stop buying them in order to focus on nursing wear and baby’s layette a couple months ago, I felt bummed. I like to think I’ll be pregnant again someday, but one never knows what life has in store!
I’ll do a post soon on what we learned while registering for baby stuff, but for now I want to share the tips I picked up over 9 months of pregnancy while shopping for maternity wear. Obviously I’m very focused on what works for petites, but a lot of my advice goes for any mama-to-be. And, as always, I LOVE hearing your comments and ideas.
It took ages for me to “show” in an obvious way, but somehow I put on what felt like a spare tire the instant I took a positive home pregnancy test. I felt pudgy immediately, so all my skinny pants went right to the back of the closet. Then, once morning sickness kicked in around 7 weeks, anything constricting made me doubly nauseous and had to go. So, to feel more comfortable, I transitioned to leggings, jeggings and dresses/skirts very early on. As I got closer to 12 and 13 weeks at the end of my first trimester, I phased in some (borrowed) pants and dresses one size larger, since I needed the looser waist but not a full belly panel yet. Two helpful things at this stage: a belly band, so you can stay in your “regular” jeans without letting everyone know you had to unbutton the waist to sit down, and maternity hosiery. Yes, hosiery.
Everyone laughs at me when I talk about preggo pantyhose, but they were a total lifesaver for me when it was still cold enough out that I needed to wear tights or nylons every day to work but couldn’t suffer through the tight waistband without getting sick. They helped me eke a couple more weeks out of my regular (one size larger) skirts and dresses before I had to give ’em up for maternity clothes.
I also found that I outgrew my regular bras extremely quickly. This was due in part to my cup size changing (woohoo! I’ve always been a 34A!) and also partly to the unexpected way your rib cage broadens ever so slightly during pregnancy (boo, that makes me feel fat). I wasn’t prepared for that physical change, which made most of my button-down work shirts impossible to wear past 8 or 9 weeks. Also, having been smaller-chested my whole life, I hadn’t ever dealt with needing meaningful support for the twins … but pregnant boobs are a whole other matter, and they can’t handle a flimsy bra. Sore, achy and expanding, they need a bit of help and TLC. I lived in sports bras, especially overnight, and then started wearing the Genie Bra, which was a godsend. I’m still wearing them at 38 weeks.
KEY ITEMS AND TIPS FOR MONTHS 1-3
- Buy maternity stuff early and often so the options are there as soon as you need them. Sign up for every free e-mail list and/or store credit card available for places you like. I carry a Banana Republic credit card, which can be used at Gap & Old Navy too, and I got on frequent-buyer lists for those stores plus Destination Maternity. Do it and watch the coupons flow into your mailbox.
- Be aware that smaller sizes (4 and under) sell out extremely quickly when it comes to maternity wear, so if you see something you like and it’s available in your size, just buy it. Be further aware that “petite” maternity clothes are usually just sizes 0 through 4, not clothes tailored for petite bodies like you might expect. So be prepared to get a few things hemmed.
- Grab plenty of sports bras for sleep & sturdier bras for everyday in a cup size larger. Buy these as soon as you find out you’re pregnant so they’re on hand the minute your girls need extra support. The swelling and soreness can be staggering.
- Leggings and jeggings. Maternity options (I liked Old Navy’s, both under- and over-the-belly) are great and cheap.
- A couple of skirts and dresses one size larger than you normally wear.
- That said, buy maternity clothes in your regular size. Don’t listen to sales people and relatives who tell you that you need to “go a size up.”
- 1-2 elastic waist sweatpants/shorts or fold-over yoga pants for lounging (and exercise, if you’re feeling up to it). Fold-over yoga pants can take you from week 1 to 40 and into post-partum.
- Long tanks and shirts for layering & covering any pooch.
- Invest in some new, comfy underwear. You’ll find yourself wanting things that are seamless, with good coverage, and which aren’t too flimsy or tight or stringy. Cotton is best. Plus, you don’t want to stretch out your nice stuff! My absolute, hands-down favorites: these from Gap, with a couple close runners-up from Destination Maternity and Target.
- A belted trench is expandable in front and conceals the belly for quite a while. This is good for keeping things mum, but bad when you’re on the subway and just wish everyone could tell you’re pregnant so they’d give up their seat before you throw up all over them.
- Don’t be afraid to move into maternity wear, especially underthings, as soon as you need them. You’ll be a million times more comfortable. There’s no correlation between gaining too much over the entire pregnancy and needing maternity stuff early on. I had to shift into maternity jeans and pantyhose even before 12 weeks, but I’ve gained a healthy 20 pounds so far with just a couple weeks to go. Just avoid tops & dresses with side ruching if you’re keeping the news under wraps at work.
- If you have bad morning sickness like I did, diversions are your friend. Think textured and fun-colored tights, pretty scarves, long necklaces and lip color that pops. These distract from a sickly pallor.
Truly, this is the golden time. You are finally showing, so nobody thinks you’re just eating too much pasta anymore, and you probably aren’t so big that things such as bad balance, swollen ankles and heartburn are plaguing you yet. You’ve likely stopped making a million trips to the bathroom and thus are sleeping better, so your “glow” is in full swing & maternity clothes are looking GREAT on you. Enjoy it while it lasts.
This is when I really started rocking my full maternity wardbrobe, and was glad I’d bought most of the pieces early. Here’s my punch list of essentials:
- Jeans, skinny and boot-cut
- Dress pants, at least 1 pair black (I got 2, one tailored for heels and one for flats, plus a gray pair)
- Leggings, at least 1 pair black
- Tights, 1 black and one sheer
- 1-2 tunics, ideally 3/4 sleeve for versatility
- 6+ shirts (cover the basic colors, then go for stripes or patterns)
- 5+ tanks (I like these and these)
- 6-8 dresses that can be layered with sweaters and cardigans in winter and spring, then worn alone in warm weather
- At least 1 pencil skirt (Gap makes a nice one) that works for office or casual (I needed more for work, so I bought blue, gray and black).
- 2 or 3 maxi dresses (they look adorable with denim jackets, they hide cankles and they conceal inelegant seating positions)
- Exercise tank, pants & jacket
- 2-3 pairs of shorts (I got denim and white; gray or khaki would have been my next choices. I only really needed 2 because I only wore them on weekends).
- Use what you already own when it comes to cardigans, jean jackets, belts and coats, unless you’re hitting your third trimester in winter. The “maternity versions” are not cut that differently.
It’s here before you know it. Suddenly you’re more awkward than you bargained for, and outfits are less about what’s pretty than what’s easy to put on, easy to sit in, and comfortable for puffy legs, sore backs and itchy bellies. Demi panels probably aren’t too comfortable for you anymore, but full panels may irritate your stretched-out skin. It can be a battle. Sometimes under-the-belly options actually start to feel better. My recommendation is to wear whatever is comfortable and don’t try to hold yourself to any pre-pregnancy standard (or even what you could wear in the second trimester). And take seriously any doctor’s recommendation to put your feet up, wear compression socks, etc. Probably the worst part of this trimester won’t be looking bad, but having to work hard to get dressed every day. You won’t be able to bend over very well, and clumsiness will have reached new levels. Check out this ingenious product one woman designed to overcome this awkward phase:
3-4 skirts, 6-8 dresses and maybe 2-3 pairs of pants should give you enough outfit combinations if you’ve been stocking up on accessories, tanks and cardis all along. That may sound like a lot, but by waiting for markdowns or buy-one-get-one sales, I nabbed several of my dresses and skirts for $10 or $15 each. I picked up a few more chic pairs of flats since I found heels uncomfortable once I started showing and my balance went off, and again I made good use of maternity nylons and compression trouser socks underneath it all. Since I was pregnant December through August, I relied on long sweaters and flowy blouses early on, transitioning to maternity skirts and pants by February and then mostly maternity dresses from April onward since I was always running hot. Other than when we had a series of heat waves, running hot was kind of nice after years of toting a pashmina everywhere because I’d always be cold! Key for me was making sure I had one “public speaking” dress for days when I had to give a presentation, teach or otherwise get up in front of people. For me, that was this Gap dress:
I already did an extensive post on prenatal fitness, but I’ll just reiterate that there ARE good maternity exercise clothing options out there, and they aren’t pricey either. I made good use of my existing elastic-waist pants until I was about four months along, when they started to roll down in the middle of Zumba class (oops!) Then, I picked up a full-panel pair of capris from Motherhood Maternity, plus a couple maternity tanks made of moisture-wicking material from Old Navy. Leggings rounded out my fitness wardrobe for gentler classes or at-home yoga & walking around the neighborhood.
Don’t push it here if your back is hurting, no matter how far along you are. Things can go from bad to worse really quickly if you ask too much of your body or ignore what it’s trying to tell you. With pregnancy, there’s no such thing as “powering through!” I thought just because the shoe still fit on my feet, it wouldn’t cause problems, and learned the hard way that this is how pregnant women end up with hammer toes, calf cramps and blisters. Key pieces:
- Roomy walking shoes/sneakers
- low work heels
- plenty of cute flats
- flat boots for winter/rain
- If summer, pretty sandals with room for your feet to grow a bit. Make sure the heel isn’t too high (like a low wedge). I love Bare Traps.
- some micro liner socks for when your feet get bigger and start to rub the inside of your existing shoes.
Want to know what I did? I got some hospital scrubs at a uniform supply store (Army-Navy outlets will have them, too) and just let the waist out bit by bit as I got bigger. They can be tied anywhere that’s comfortable for you, which cannot be said of some other pajamas that will pinch right where your full bladder is. I also used my husband’s undershirts to sleep in (granted, he’s 6’4″ so they’re like a nightgown on me) or just stuck to under-the-belly cotton shorts and a sports bra. Pregnancy turns you into a furnace and our bedroom already runs hot because of the way our house is built, so there were no footy fleece PJs for me. If you’re struggling with heartburn or back pain, invest early in a full-length body pillow made for pregnancy. For $50, it will change your life.
In the winter, I wore leggings and jeans with flats or low boots. My favorites were my skinny pair from Old Navy, a versatile boot-cut pair from Gap, and these black leggings with a full panel, which had great support and smoothed out the bumps nicely. In the summer, I wore a few non-maternity skirts that had foldover waists, as well as shorts, and this fabulous Old Navy bathing suit for beach days.
Things I didn’t have to deal with
- Special occasions. I’m not sure how I got away with not having any weddings during this gestation, but boy do I feel lucky!
- Winter. And thank God — maternity winter coats are hideously expensive.
- Travel. Because instead of a babymoon, we had to remediate mold from the inside of our bathroom walls. However, A Cup of Jo has some great tips on planning your babymoon, from picking a location to packing well.
And by this I mean, “shortcuts to getting ready when you need 12 hours of sleep” and “minimizing your routine NOW before the baby comes.”
Moisturize. Not just your belly and your chest, which are so prone to stretch marks, but the rest of your body and your face as well. Hydrating your face well can help keep hormone-induced breakouts at bay, and slathering lotion on the rest of your body is a good habit to get into so you aren’t caught off-guard by the intense itchiness that can come on without warning when your baby decides to have a growth spurt. All that stretching can make you want to scratch yourself to death, and it can show up overnight!
One thing that just came on the market which I should have tried: sprayable lotion. When I think of all the acrobatic maneuvers I performed every morning just to get cream on my legs when I couldn’t bend over anymore…..
Try dry shampoo. Most likely, your hair will be thicker, so you can get a second or third day out of a blowout. I used this tactic to grab some extra sleep!
Pay for pedis. Eventually you’ll have no choice because you won’t be able to reach your toes, but I found that this $25 worth of pampering made me feel a zillion times prettier. Just don’t get the massage part in your third trimester because rubbing the pressure point between your heel and ankle can bring on contractions.
File nails daily. They grow so fast, you really have to in order to keep them looking neat. Or, do I what I did occasionally — get a manicure and have them trimmed very short with a polished, pretty nail color, so you get a break from all that maintenance. This helps keep a good shape to your nails, too. I liked having a manicure to feel professional whenever I had to get up and talk in front of people and knew the bump was distracting.
Invest in a good razor. You’ll be shaving a lot more often, if you’re like me! I ended up getting those razors with the shaving cream built in, like Schick Intuition. It was just easier.
I was willing to shop anywhere that had stylish clothing that fit me, within my budget. I saw no need to pay full price for anything when you can sign up for friends & family programs for free at almost every store on this list. There’s always a sale somewhere if you wait a day or two!
Old Navy. Always having a sale at some point! Their rewards rack up really fast, and their prices are super reasonable to begin with. I got several dresses here that could switch between work and play, plus my two favorite lightweight sweaters. I know I said to just use your regular cardigans, but every now and then you’ll have a day when you want to be able to pull something cozy around the belly. Here is that cozy something:
Motherhood Maternity. People criticize this store for being lower quality than they’d like. I disagree — I had no issues with their stuff, got great compliments on their dresses (most of which are priced below $40) and was actually able to find professional pants in several colors, hemmed for my height. When it got hot, this is where I went for cute shorts that didn’t break the bank.
Gap Maternity. In my opinion, great for basics like tanks, leggings and jeans. Prices can be steep for non-sale dresses and skirts, especially since similar styles can be found elsewhere (Old Navy, Target) for less.
- Ann Taylor Loft Maternity. Styles offered were great-looking. But everything I ordered from here went back — why? Three reasons: 1) Pricy. They had the worst sales of all the retailers I shopped. 2) Small sizes (4 and under) sell out instantly — and I mean by 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning when new inventory comes in or a sale is on. 3) Poor fit. Their so-called “petite” maternity items are no such thing, and the one pair of cropped black pants I purchased from here required $20 in hemming to fit properly. I shouldn’t have bothered for the limited use I got out of them.
- Liz Lange for Target. They don’t carry a lot of variety at any given time — maybe three dresses, two styles of tank top in a few colors, and a handful of shirts and pants — but when you hit on something flattering, it’s good quality and priced well. I got my workout jacket here as well as a couple work dresses.
- Asos. I just wish I’d discovered this website earlier in my pregnancy. Very reasonably priced for on-trend stuff.
- Baby Depot/Burlington Coat Factory. Their stuff is pretty cheap, I’m not gonna lie. But for weekend t-shirts or lounge wear, you can’t beat it. They carry a smallish selection of maternity wear right next to their baby department, which is worth a look as well.
Didn’t have much luck
- Consignment stores. They almost never get in a good selection of clothes for sizes 0 and 2.
- H&M Maternity. Cute stuff, all of it way too casual for what I needed.
- The plus-size department. Obviously. Why do sales people suggest you look here when you ask if a department store carries maternity clothing? Mark and I could never get over this.
Throughout my 9 months of pregnancy, I shared my favorite preggo finds on a Pinterest “maternity fashion” board. Check it out and follow me!
If you want a chuckle, check out this article on the 12 things you miss most during pregnancy. One thing on the list that I definitely agree with is the ability to wear cute shoes. Even before my feet got too swollen to fit into any of my shoes (seriously — I literally have been wearing black Old Navy flip flops for two months straight) I found that heels were too totter-y, anything strappy cut off circulation, and half the rest just looked different (a.k.a., unflattering). It remains to be seen how much my feet will shrink back down to normal size after I give birth, but I’ll keep you posted. A wise husband (mine) once said, “don’t worry if your feet are permanently bigger. Won’t it be exciting to get to buy some new shoes?” CHA-CHING!