I’ve gotten a huge number of emails over the last few months from newly preggers gals asking what maternity wear pieces are really necessary to buy, and what stuff you can get away without. I think that’s such a great thing to ask!! And since I now end up just saying the same thing over and over, I thought it would be best to finally do a post about it! To be honest, I had the same concern when I was pregnant with Bunny, and I wasted a lot of money buying maternity clothing I never wore. Though I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject, these are my suggestions for building a maternity wardrobe.
Jeans – BUY
This is something that you can’t really wing. Let’s face it, you lose the ability to zip up your pants pretty quickly. I’ve tried a lot of brands, and my personal favourite maternity jeans are from Gap Maternity. In my experience, they just fit truer to size, are more comfortable and last longer. You will pay a bit more than from other maternity stores, but I really think it’s worth it.
Cheats: There are some cheaty ways to get around buying maternity jeans, but they won’t work for everyone.
- If you carry your baby high in your abdomen, you can buy or make yourself a belly band. They are basically just stretchy bands of fabric that hold your unzipped pants up. I have friends who wore these for their entire pregnancies without ever having to buy a pair of jeans, but I carry my babies quite low, so for me they only worked in the first trimester.
- If you can sew, you can refashion a pair of your regular pants into maternity jeans, by removing the waistband and adding a stretchy one instead. You can get my tutorial on how to do this here. Just be sure that you choose a pair of old pants that have a little stretch in them, or are about a size bigger than your regular size, as in all honesty, you will need that extra room by the end of the 9 mths!
Skirts & shorts-BUY
This is something that I would definitely recommend buying from a maternity store because as with jeans/pants you simply won’t have a waistline anymore. I like Motherhood Maternity for skirts, and in fact I like their shorts too, because they have a pretty big range and they’re super cheap, so you can feel pretty good about getting a bunch.
As a side note, when it comes to maternity skirts I really prefer straight/pencil styles. Personally I feel like big flouncy skirts under a huge belly just looks weird, but it’s like I said it’s a personal preference!
- Buy or make yourself a belly band and use it with zip up skirts. Though keep in mind this may not work for your whole pregnancy.
- Refashion an old skirt into a maternity skirt (the tutorial I wrote for jeans should work fine for this too)
- If you have elastic waistband skirts you can use this throughout your pregnancy, by simply letting them sit below your bump. If you can sew, this tutorial of mine will show you how to make super easy one.
Tops – maybe
Perhaps others won’t have this issue, but I’ve tried maternity tops from lots of brands and they all seem to have the same problems – not enough room for belly past your 6th month, almost no allowance for increased bust size, they’re not much longer than regular tops and in general, are super frumpy. Honestly I just found them super useless. So my inclination is to tell you not to bother, but I’ve gone with maybe, because perhaps other people didn’t find them as cruddy as I did.
- Empire Waist. Empire waist tops are amazing, and will last till the end of your pregnancy as long as they are long enough.
- Jersey. There are a lot of super stretchy little tops out there these days, and anything like that will last till the end of your pregnancy. From Aust I have a lot of Witchery tops which work perfectly and no matter how far out they get stretched they spring back to their original size. LOVE. Here in the states I really like getting tank tops from Gap Body, because they’re long, cheap and super stretchy and work great for layering when you’re pregnant or otherwise.
- Sew your own from scratch. If you buy a 4 way stretch jersey fabric, and make yourself a regular fitted tshirt or tank style top, it will still fit out till your 9th month. You can always check out my maternity & nursing sewing patterns here.
- Refashion something from your Hubby’s wardrobe, or even something of your own. As an idea here’s a top I stole from my Hubby and made into a maternity shirt, and here’s a top I made from an oversized tshirt.
Dresses – maybe but mostly don’t bother
As with tops you can go and buy a whole bunch of maternity dresses if you want, and there are a few good styles out there, but in my experience there really isn’t much point. I would recommend trying to work with your current wardrobe for this one
- High waisted or empire waist dresses. I’m a huge fan. Dresses that either sit high on your waistline, or are in fact empire waist, will work the entire way through your pregnancy as long as the skirt part is gathered.
- Jersey dresses. A few dresses made from stretchy jersey will still fit you in your 9th month.
- Tunics. I love good tunic, especially when it’s mini dress length. That’s because you can wear it with leggings as a dress, or jeans as a top.
Sweaters – don’t bother
To me this is seriously a don’t waste your money item. I’ve tried on a lot of maternity sweaters from different stores, and heres the deal, they’re pretty ugly, aren’t useful when you’re not pregnant and most don’t actually provide enough room for your tummy when you get past your 6th or 7th month. Total waste.
- Cardigans. I love cardigans. If you have cropped ones (which I have a tonne of), you can button them up all the way till the end of your pregnancy, if you have regular cardigans, you can just leave them loose, which looks perfectly cute, or you can belt them, to get a more cinched look.
- Use your super stretchy ones. Look through your wardrobe and you’ll probably find some really stretchy sweaters. I was shocked by how many I found in my wardrobe, and they stretched right out to my 9th month. Though I haven’t shown a lot of these in my outfit posts (mainly because to me they are lazing around the house wear), it’s a great option.
- If you can sew you can make your own. Here’s a tutorial I wrote for making a wrap sweater in a style that’s been quite popular for maternity wear recently, and here’s another tutorial for making a grandpa style cardigan
Pajamas – don’t bother
I wasted some money on maternity PJ’s my first pregnancy and I really really regret it. For one thing, they’re were the most super frumpy ugly things ever, and for another they didn’t even really work that well.
- Jersey. I’ve said it a lot, but hey it’s the truth. If your wardrobe is full of jersey you will be fine! All of my jersey nighties (yes I do wear nighties), and PJ tops lasted me till the end of my pregnancy. Of course some of my shorter and less stretchy tops showed a lot of belly in my last month, but you’ll get the same problem with maternity PJ’s (they really aren’t designed too well)
- Wear it low. I wore my regular PJ pants till the end of my pregnany because they have stretchy waistbands I just wore them all on my hips .
- Steal from your Hubby. Sure it’s not glamorous, but your Hubbies PJ’s will more than likely fit you smashingly till the end of your pregnancy. It’s something all my friends and I secretly do (ok me not so secretly anymore!), and it had the added benefit of making me feel a little better when I was grumpy. (Hubby’s sweatshirts have magic abilities to make me no-longer grumpy!)
- Sew your own if you’re that way inclined. Here’s a pattern of mine that you can use to make a nursing & maternity nightie – I made a couple of these because I like things I can use when preggers and nursing.
Leggings & Tights – don’t bother
Once again I bought myself some maternity tights with my first pregnancy and can’t really see the point. Basically the difference is that they make the waistline longer and a little wider so that they can fit over your belly. I just can’t see the point. It makes them show under tight clothing, and it feels like you’re wearing granny panties. No thank you.
Though I do recommend having some tights and leggings to wear when you’re pregnancy, because with that tummy all your dresses will suddenly start looking much much shorter, and leggings and tights can combat that. Also they make it possible for you to wear dresses and skirts in winter without freezing.
- Use what you’ve got. It’s not a big deal actually. I simply push down the waistband of my tights to be below my bump (which isn’t a problem for me because I never buy my tights too small, I like them a little roomy), and all my leggings are hipsters from target so no problem there.
- If you’re handy with the sewing machine you can make your own leggings out of old track pants using this tutorial
Winter Coat – maybe
This really depends on what season it is when you will be most pregnant, and how cold it gets where you live. For my first pregnancy I was due in summer, so coats weren’t an issue at all. I just wore my regular ones in my first trimester, and then it was warm so I didn’t need one. For this pregnancy however, I was due mid winter, and based on how big my tummy got with my first pregnancy I was sure I would need a maternity coat. Having said that though, there were still quite a few times I didn’t use it at all. So it’s totally a judgement call.
- Don’t do it up. I found with the extra heat my body generated from being pregnant, I could often get away with wearing a regular coat and just not doing it up. This works especially well if like me you spend most of your time just moving between your car and various different buildings!
- Make one yourself. This is the coat I made for myself. It’s based on a McCalls sewing pattern and I thought it worked remarkably well. As a side note the last time I checked McCalls was clearing this pattern out for $3 – if I was you I’d snap one up!
So like I said before, I’m by no means an expert, but these are my tips based on my Maternity wear buying experience. And as you can see I’m a great believer in trying to make your current wardrobe work as maternity wear. Please note though that when I say not to bother with an item of clothing, I don’t mean you don’t need these items in your wardrobe (because you probably do!), I simply mean I think it isn’t worth it to buy maternity specific versions of that item.