a few tips about maternity clothes

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Some of you already know this, but my dear friend Johanna recently announced that she is expecting her first baby! I cannot wait to meet that little bundle in the spring.  He or she?  Curly hair or strawberry blonde… or both?

With all the joy — “this is really happening!” — comes so many questions.  “Maternity clothes?  Choosing baby items?  Working within a budget?”  She asked me to pass along any advice that I had as it came to me, and I thought it might be fun to turn the multiple emails I knew I’d be writing to her into a bunch of blog posts for her… and for other new moms out there, too.

So, whether you’re in the thick of this stage, looking forward to it (or dreading it!), or waving at it in the rearview mirror, welcome to a new little blog series on Making Room.  Please share your own tips and advice; we’d all love to learn from each other’s wisdom!

——–

Johanna wrote that maternity clothes that are “attractive/affordable seem awfully hard to find!”  I remember feeling the same way in those early days too, as price tags discouraged me (“but I’ll only be wearing this for a few months…”) and the cheapest things often just weren’t my style.  Can anyone else relate?

Over two pregnancies, though, my maternity wardrobe has grown and I now love many of the pieces in it.  Some of them are totally cute and I was excited to wear them again when I was pregnant with Gil!  However, I didn’t build my wardrobe by dipping in and out of maternity stores or by online shopping.  The truth is that I spent no more than $50 on my entire maternity wardrobe (right down to undergarments, which were all new).  My strategy is…

Beg.  Borrow. Steal.

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1.  Beg, ie. ask for things

Let people — especially family members and close friends — know that you are in need of maternity clothes.

All of the maternity pieces in the two photos above (dress, jacket, sweater, jeans) were gifts from my mom and mother-in-law.  (The scarf was a non-maternity gift from my sister!)  They knew I needed maternity clothes and so that is what I got for my birthday and for Christmas.  All of these pieces have gotten a lot of mileage in both of my pregnancies, so thank you, Mama and Mom!

Also, letting close friends know you need maternity clothes can lead to some fun surprises.  A friend might be in Old Navy, see something cute, and think of you!  Or, in the case of my sister-in-law Jess, they might decide to go on an online shopping spree and surprise you with a box in the mail.  (All the things you got for me, Jess, were wardrobe staples for both me and Becca Arthur.  Thank you again and again!)

Finally, don’t be afraid to return things if they just aren’t your style.  Most people who gave me maternity clothes also handed me a receipt “just in case.”  I took advantage of that in a couple of instances and often walked out of the store with a much larger pile of clothing than I walked in with, thanks to sales and coupons.

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2. Borrow

Ask a friend, neighbor, or community member
if you can borrow their maternity stash.

The shirt in the photo above was one of many incredible maternity clothes that I borrowed from this super talented young lady.  She and I were a part of the same church in D.C. and she had listed her maternity clothes as “available to borrow” in the moms’ group.  I was kind of sorry to give them back after Lena was born.  They were cute!  Highlight of that experience: walking into a church event and having her and multiple other women say, “Hey, I know who you borrowed that pretty maternity top from!”

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancyhas a lot to say about sharing maternity clothes.  I enjoyed that book and recommend that section of it.

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3. Steal, ie. find things for a steal

A beautiful maternity wardrobe does not have to cost much.  It takes patience and time to build an attractive, functional maternity wardrobe on a dime (ie. a steal). 

However, patience and time are two things our culture does not value.  Here are a few tips to help you thoughtfully build your wardrobe on a budget (and with things you like!):

  • Make your current clothes last as long as possible.  With most first pregnancies, you won’t need real maternity clothes until halfway through or more.  You can make your regular clothes stretch (pun intended) by sticking to more forgiving, flexible materials and patterns.  The green floral top I’m wearing above is one of my favorites… but it’s just a size L shirt from H&M that has a tie in the back (and cost $5 on sale).  For your pants or jeans, use “the rubber band trick.” (<– that is a great blog!)
  • Hand-me-downs are amazing.  I love love love my neighborhood moms’ group on Capitol Hill in D.C.; it networked the community so well through a simple email listserve.  With about 5,000 moms on the listserve, there was always something baby- or maternity-related that someone wanted to give away (like the brown blouse above).  Through taking others hand-me-downs, sorting through, donating what I didn’t want, and saving what I did, I got most of my maternity staples for free.  (And yes, I did this while working full time.)  Is there a moms’ community in your neighborhood, church, town, or city?  If not, start one.  All it takes is a Yahoo or Google Group and a few ground rules.  Here in Italy the moms in my community use a Facebook page.
  • Shop sales and thrift stores.  Check out Craigslist for women who are desperate to sell their whole maternity wardrobes.  Take your time… there is gold out there!
  • Buy only when you need to.  Your body will change and clothes will not fit the same at 20 weeks (“these maternity pants are huge… lucky me!”) and 40 weeks (“I cannot fit in anything.  Time to be born, baby.”)  When you don’t fit into what you have, it’s time to go shopping.  You’ll be disappointed if you bought everything you thought you’d need at 20 weeks and then get tons of hand-me-downs and gifts… and end up with a lot of money wasted.
  • Finally, accessorize.  Taking time to add a scarf, belt, boots, or earrings somehow takes you from wearing “preggers clothes” to “an adorable outfit.”  I am terrible at this, but I love this mom’s ideas for “dressing the bump.”  Made me want all her clothes!!!

Now it’s your turn!  Do you have any advice for dressing well during pregnancy?

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25 Responses to a few tips about maternity clothes

  1. Anne August 26, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Yes! Everything you just said. Over the course of five (so far) babies, I have come to realize two things: 1. Elastic waist bands are your best friend during pregnancy and beyond, and 2. Maternity jeans will never, never, never, EVER fit and will always keep falling down. Things that I like are dresses, leggings/tunics, and skirts/tops. If you can find jeans/pants that fit and won’t fall down, you are one of the lucky ones because for me I would put the pants on, walk five steps, and the crotch was at my knees…not exactly the look I was going for! I look forward to more from this series!

    • Becca August 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      1. Amen and amen to this one. Loved my comfy yoga pants so much.

      2. That’s so funny what you mentioned about jeans! I have only had one pair that have really worked for me and stayed up… and I had to fix them to get them to stay up because that crotch-at-the-knees problem was driving me crazy. These were full-panel jeans, and so I sewed a 1/2-inch-wide strip of elastic around the entire top of the panel. I had to use a zigzag stitch for stretch. I kept the elastic pretty snug, and the result is that the jeans stay up BEAUTIFULLY. Now those jeans are now a staple of my maternity wardrobe after that fix. They are my favorite pair (Mavi by A Pea in the Pod) and I looove them. Btw, they were also an example of getting a gift (from my mom) with a receipt, going back to the store, and exchanging for something I really knew I would love, wear, and keep wanting through multiple pregnancies.

  2. Jennifer August 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I tried my best to buy non-maternity clothes that would accommodate a growing belly, and be wearable after the baby was born. Long, loose-fitting tops and dresses work the best, and anything with a yoga style waist is heaven! Maxi-style skirts and dresses also work well to cover up swelling feet :). My belly was always itchy, so anything to avoid the big maternity panel was great. There’s a science to picking and choosing the right maternity wardrobe, and not feeling like you spent a ton of money for such a short period of time. I hope to learn more to use through my next pregnancy and pass on to friends!

    • Becca August 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      Love all this advice, Jennifer! Totally agree about the yoga-style waist… I lived in those types of pants during my second pregnancy especially! I also had an itchy belly — particularly towards the end — and found that a Bella Band helped a lot with keeping itchy sweaters, panel pants, or fuzzy fabrics off my skin.

  3. Tiffany August 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Amen to everything! I don’t have much to add except being aware that shoes might be a challenge. With my first, my feet swelled so much and so rapidly that I had to invest in a larger pair of shoes. With my second, they swelled just at a much slower rate, so I was able to keep wearing my normal shoes (which are now stretched out and too big–ha).
    Other than the shoes, I think I only bought one or two maternity pieces. Everything else was begged and borrowed!

    • Becca August 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Those feet problems… especially towards the end… don’t want to remember! I made the mistake of getting on an airplane for an international flight and only bringing my Chacos. I attempted to stuff my super-swollen feet back into my shoes after the flight and could not understand why they wouldn’t fit. I looked down and didn’t even recognize my feet! Yikes! Needles to say, that was a very painful and slow walk through the airport…

  4. Joy @ Caspara August 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Amen, sister! Er, sisterS as I agree with the previous commenters too. Having spent a full three years of my life pregnant now, I look at everything I’m thinking about buying and ask myself, How long could I wear this if I were pregnant? I think it’s so great to have clothes that work beyond pregnancy without being “maternity.” But I’ve yet to figure out the jeans issue (and I might never, because if you ask my husband, we are done) (of course, he always said that and then was the one who decided it was time for another). Same problems as Anne above.
    Also, Wyatt completely threw me off. *Maternity* clothes that I had worn with the three girls and they fit just perfect only in the last month were too small by month 7. I hated having to buy stuff a size up for those last two months. But he was pretty huge, and it made a big difference.

    • Becca August 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      Here’s hopin’ that my husband changes his mind like yours did, Joy… :-)

  5. Jess August 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    you’re welcome! of course…all investments in my future wardrobe…when i begin my surrogate baby-carrying business.

    • Becca August 27, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Might have to share with me… I told Elliott I want to be a surrogate if I can’t have another baby of our own!

  6. Abi August 27, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    I love this post! Recently I have been finding NWT maternity jeans at Goodwill for about $5 or $6! I snatched up a few pairs for the future #2, thinking maybe it was a sign? I never had as much luck when I was actually pregnant, though. A good friend of mine lent me her entire maternity wardrobe, so I didn’t have to buy much anyways (and she is a fashionista, so I really lucked out!) I agree, ask around to friends, and you can probably borrow or inherit much of what you need. Also, my mom is a teacher and had lots of stretchy teacher dresses that I wore until I got super-huge. They were cute and comfy and forgiving of my expanding waistline for the most part. Thanks for posting this, friend! I will be sure to pass it along to any friends who are expecting in the future. (Jo is my only friend who is pregnant now! :)

    • Becca August 27, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Wow, NWT jeans for that price are definitely a steal! I’m longing to live near some good thrift stores when we move back to the States. That thrill when you find a great deal… I miss it!

  7. hollister amsterdam September 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

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  8. abercrombie and fitch hamburg September 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    All women should have a number of essentials into their closet. Your basics includes a couple of pairs of dark colored dress pants, and two pairs of jeans, you to definitely wear with heels and another to wear with flat shoes. Additionally, every woman have to have an easy, but elegant black dress.

  9. hollister scs September 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Keep new clothing as clean as you’re able. Should the item was expensive, you might wish to consider hand washing. Washers and dryers damages clothing and cause them to deteriorate faster than normal.

  10. Rogers September 26, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Hey Becca…you can easily get the maternity wears online..They are of good quality. I had used the service and to be frank my better half was happy. She said that they were comfortable too. Please try them.Hope it will prove useful.

  11. mumswithtums January 27, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Really it is a matter of issue for the mums that what type of dresses will make them comfortable and delivers them a best look for that period. The blog will help them out from this issue.

  12. Cheap Maternity Clothing Online February 17, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    The Idea of borrowing maternity clothes is incredibly helpful… thanks so much for sharing!

  13. maternity jeans March 26, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    Thanks for wonderful post!!
    For tip i say when anyone in pregnant then she will be use the Maternity Jeans. Its would be comfortable.

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