Guest Post: Maternity Fashion Tips

Jun 18, 2013

Since this is a blog geared primarily to 20- and 30-something women, I receive a number of e-mails regarding stylish maternity wear.  This is a topic about which I know precious little.  Luckily, Capitol Hill Barbie, whose blogs I have been reading since 2005, knows a lot about the subject.  The following guest post makes a great jumping off point for those of you who are navigating the precarious world of maternity fashion.

Congratulations!  Both on the pregnancy and the newfound reason to buy a whole new wardrobe!  Just kidding…kind of.

I’ll start off by saying that maternity suits are really hard to find.  I do firmly believe that you get a little bit of a pass on being as formal as everyone else when it comes to workwear when you are pregnant.  No one really expects you to have your normal closet depth when you are growing another person, and most days you could get away with one notch down on the formality ladder.  However, I understand that if you are going to court, or a very high level meeting, etc., a suit is important.

If you just found out that you are expecting and it’s your first baby, you have some time before you need to think about for reals maternity clothes.  I would encourage you to get a Bella Band, which is this stretchy tube of fabric that allows you to wear your pre-pregnancy pants unbuttoned for a while.  You will be the envy of all your friends, male and female.  You’ll also probably be able to get away with your regular suit jackets for another few weeks as well depending on how your rib cage/bust area is growing.

Next, get ready to invest.  I know the temptation is to say, “I’m only going to wear it for 9 months, so I’m not going to spend a lot,” but don’t do it.  You are going to wear the everloving crap out of your maternity clothes, plus, you’ll need them after you give birth (sad but true).  And you don’t want to buy super cheap stuff that will look cheap and worn out after a few wearings.

If you work in a professional office, I would buy at least one good full suit in a neutral color like this black suit from Jules and Jim, this slim legged black one from Olian, or this tie front one from Maternal America. Some other good brand names to look for are Ripe, Noppies, and Isabella Oliver.

Then, I would get a pencil skirt, another basic jacket, dress pants in a grey or navy, and a sheath dress (love love love this one from More of Me Maternity).  These things will let you mix and match so you can always have a jacket and dress bottom without needing a full suit.

Double Duty.  Once you have solid basics, you can fill in as needed throughout your pregnancy with less expensive tops and dresses from Gap Maternity, Loft Maternity, Topshop or Asos. These will work under blazers, for more casual days at the office, and when you are not at work.  Also, don’t rule out everything in your closet or at the store just because it’s not “maternity.”  There are lots of open cardigans, long blouses and t-shirts in the stores these days that will look fine on a pregnant body. (Editor’s Note: A friend wore size 12 DvF wrap dresses for her entire pregnancy and then put them up on eBay afterwards.)

Sales.  A lot of great maternity retailers are have big sales pretty frequently, like Isabella Oliver, Belly Dance Maternity, and Figure 8 Maternity.  Shopbop has a pretty sweet maternity section for denim and dresses and they typically have a sale or some kind of promotion happening all the time.  If you are a little farther along or willing to spend now, you can find some great deals on basics.

Also, keep an eye on Gilt children’s section or Zulily because they often have maternity wear on sale, although I have heard that some lines like Rosie Pope produce lower quality clothes for those sites, so make sure you can return any piece if you don’t like it.

Keep in mind.  One huge factor to remember when shopping for maternity clothes is that your body changes every day. So something that fit you on Tuesday is now a total peep show on Thursday.  Heels ok on Monday? Well, Friday afternoon is a totally different story.

Make sure that you are comfortable and covered. Try scarves over shirts that are looking a little low cut, invest in cute flats that are a little big and use an gel insert until you need the room, a maternity slip or shapewear piece goes a long way, and wrap dresses are indispensable.  Dress the body you have that day, not the one you had before you got pregnant.  And have fun!

If you have any maternity advice to share on stores you liked or clothes you wore to death, leave your thoughts in the comments.  Because this is definitely one of those areas where other women are your best source of information.  Thanks, Capitol Hill Barbie for the post, and don’t forget to check out her blog, Baby Steps in Heels.


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  1. AB says:

    I was cursed with being tall and pregnant–which made many clothes impossible! Here is what got me through–
    One pair of black and one pair of gray Theory dress pants.
    A Liquid wrap print maternity dress
    A Japanese Weekend black jersey dress
    Two black blazers, different styles, from Pea in the Pod (my hands down FAVORITE maternity store. Granted, it’s expensive, but most maternity stores will make you cry. Go to Pentagon City, their sales associates are generally great.)
    a pair of maternity spanx. Yes, they make everything smoother.
    Some poly print dress shirts from Target purchased in large or XL
    Drapey cardigans in black, navy, and gray
    Flats and tall boots
    That’s basically my maternity wardrobe. I wore the crap out of this stuff but it was easy to accessorize with scarves, necklaces, and cheap printed shirts. Good luck!

  2. eduncan says:

    God bless you for this post!

  3. Nic says:

    I’m currently 37 weeks pregnant and can’t recommend “Mine for Nine” highly enough! It’s rental maternity wear, but unlike Rent the Rentway, they have all types of clothes. I’ve rented a bunch of work clothes and even a dress for a black-tie event from the website. It’s very quick and easy.

    They send you two sizes, you send one back immediately and then keep the other to wear.

    Also, keep in mind that you’ll likely change sizes during pregnancy. For instance, I was a large until about 28-30 weeks and then went up to a x-large afterward particularly in shirts.

    And finally, check out consignment shops. Most of the baby consignment shops in DC have a maternity section and I found some great pieces there for really cheap–like a maternity swimsuit for $5 right before the babymoon to Mexico.

  4. Andrea says:

    I’m 32 weeks pregnant with my third child as we speak. So I’ve been on the maternity clothing bandwagon for a while. However, that being said, a few lessons I’ve learnt is that don’t spend on expensive maternity jeans when the ones at Gap will do just fine. Do spend a little more on professional wardrobe pieces like suits and jackets if you are planning on having more than one kid and will continue to work in a professional environment where you have to dress up. Do look beyond the maternity section for regular clothes that you can wear post-baby. I look for long maxis (in the summer) that have substantial stretch, like in jersey fabric. I also like stretch wrap dresses in a size or two larger as these accomodate a growing belly. My favorite piece in my closet and one that get compliments on every time I wear it is a ‘Max Studio’ striped jersey dress in Medium that is non-maternity. I got it from Marshalls for $30. It flows beautifully and has stretch but also bounces back post-maternity. Do spend on maternity sleepwear and undergarments ‘coz there’s just no getting around the comfort of those. But otherwise, you’ll be surprised to find that you can wear a lot of non-maternity clothes in the right fabrics that will probably look great long after pregnancy.

    • L says:

      Second the Max Studio recommendation. I bought every color they had and used it through both pregnancies/breastfeeding.

  5. Helena says:

    Great tips! I also endorse Japanese Weekend maternity and Isabella Oliver. Also, JERSEY DRESSES. So much more comfortable than maternity pants/skirts. If you are pregnant in colder weather, pair your dresses with tights in a size larger than your usual (and no control top). Yes, they may not disguise the lumps and bumps of your pregnant body, but I recommend not worrying about it. You’re growing a human, bumpiness comes with the territory.

  6. KS says:

    This post is unbelievably helpful. Thank you!!

  7. KRF says:

    I agree about searching for mat wear on Craigs List, Ebay, and consignment shops. If you live in the DC metro area, The Wiggle Room in Bethesda is a great place for mat clothes and baby clothes/items. I am petite and had to tailor my mat clothes so I needed to factor that into my clothing budget. I also did well with some Old Navy items by reading the reviews and catching a good sale with free shipping. The same was true for Kohl’s. All the best to the new mama’s out there!

  8. K says:

    I agree on a lot of this, but I don’t think you generally need a maternity suit. I decided early on only to buy one if I had a trial, which I haven’t, and that decision has been fine. Even at hearings in federal court, nobody thinks twice about it. I also did not buy any maternity blazers; I’ve continued to wear my regular ones, just unbuttoned and with my belly poking out.

    (By the way, I started a maternity style blog, so you can see how I’ve styled things:

  9. Belle, thanks for letting me guest post! It was fun to browse through the maternity sections again without freaking out my husband.

    These are some amazing suggestions in the comments, I totally second the idea of rental or consignment for special events or trials if necessary. I’ll have to bookmark those sites on a secret Pinterest board or something.

  10. HillMama says:

    I second the Wiggle Room in Bethesda, I found a couple great dresses there. Bellies and Babies in Del Ray rents fancier dresses if you have a lot of formal events like I do.

    Also, if your neighborhood has a parent’s listserv, join it ASAP. I live on the Hill where the “Moms on the Hill”/”MoTH” listserv is huge. People are always selling or giving away maternity stuff.

  11. Joules says:

    I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve definitely been enjoying following along with Ahn’s pregnancy at 9to5Chic. She’s been doing a great job of staying comfortably fashionable through it all.

    Style by Joules

  12. Liz says:

    A style blogger I’ve followed for a while just recently announced her first pregnancy, so she’d be a good resource as well:

  13. Beth says:

    I was preggo last winter and what got me through was a few sheath dress/blazer combinations. I was fortunate enough that I could wear my pre-pregnancy blazers (unbuttoned of course) throughout, and with a scarf or fun necklace I was dressed appropriate to meet with clients. I found dresses easier because I had more flexibility with shoe height. Also, I second the recommendations on Noppies and Japanese Weekend – expensive, yes, but you do wear the crap out of them and they’re mostly washable

  14. A says:

    Target has great basic maternity tees, and a pea in the pod frequently has great sales. I don’t live near any good maternity stores so I would watch for the sales and order everything I liked, try on and return what didn’t worked. The number one thing I learned? Ruching! So much more flattering than things hanging off your pregnant belly and making you look like a tent.

    Oh, and I second the comment about jeans. Don’t worry about brand. The designer brands are not the same quality as their standard brands but cost just as much. My favorite pair was made for A Pea in the Pod.

  15. Jessica says:

    I am 32 weeks pregnant and work in a very professional office at the State Department. Pre-pregnancy I wore suits nearly every day. Up until about 25 weeks I wore the Bella Band with all my pre-pregnancy suits and it worked perfectly. Office mates commented about how they couldn’t believe I still fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes which was amusing because I didn’t really, I was just using the Bella-Band so it looked like I did. Eventually my pre-pregnancy pants began to dig in to the bottom of my growing baby bump and I decided it was time to graduate to actual maternity clothes. I purchased two pairs of maternity dress pants and two pencil skirts as well as several sheath dresses. The dresses and skirts are by far the most comfortable pieces especially as the weather gets warmer and warmer. I tried both the demi panel pants/skirts and the full panel pants/skirts and have found that the full panel is considerably more comfortable for me. Plus the full panel has the added benefit of a bit of smoothing. As for tops, I purchased several from Loft, Motherhood, and Kohls. I still wear my pre-pregnancy blazers unbuttoned with my maternity pants if I have a meeting otherwise I go blazer less and no one seems to notice. Lastly, I cannot recommend enough the maternity Spanx, specifically the Power Mama, These things are awesome, not only do they smooth, they also provide support (which is really important because back pain in the third trimester is horrible) and they prevent leg chaffing in the hot weather.

  16. Rachel says:

    My biggest piece of advice is to wait to buy something until you need. I know the excitement to buy maternity clothes when you’re finally showing is strong, but when you’re four months pregnant, you don’t know wheat you’re going to need later on. I gained most of my weight in my hips and butt (the only time I’ve had much of one) and not so much in my belly. Turns out I could get by without really buying maternity tops.

  17. L says:

    I ended up having to purchase a series of progressively larger maternity pants and skirts due to some out-of-control water retention so I would recommend only getting a few maternity pieces at a time. some pieces only lasted me a couple of weeks before I was bursting out of them again, which is why consignment shops are great. If you are in the Baltimore area, Tried But True in Hunt Valley and Little Lamb in Roland Park have a great selection of maternity clothes and lots of black, which I found was a style life-saver. It’s amazing how many times you can wear black pants in a week if you rotate through colorful blazers ( I just kept my regular ones) scarves, and necklaces. I also looked for stretchy blouses in non-maternity styles at Banana Republic, Gap and I am still wearing them now, in the “4th trimester” which, by the way, is where fashion and hope seem at their lowest– I am 3 months post-partum and still wearing maternity pants. Was NOT expecting that.

  18. Lily says:

    I really like Cozy Belly tanks for maternity shapewear. I wore one all through my first pregnancy and it was a lifesaver!

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