Ask the Edit: The Trouble with Maternity Wear

Apr 28, 2022

I have dressed for every type of event that you can imagine — from mucking horse stalls to meetings at the White House — and I have never encountered a situation as confounding as maternity clothes.  So let’s talk about it.

Let me say in advance: influencers are no help here.  None.  Zero.

Most received their maternity attire for free.  Others have been paid to tout products some have privately told me they didn’t like.  Others just sized up from their usual small sizes into larger misses sizes for their whole pregnancy.  And most work from home, where they can wear linen caftans and nap dresses and leggings, while the rest of us have to find clothes with seams and buttons and zippers.

At 21-weeks in, I am beginning to lose hope.  So let’s take this one month at a time.

Months 1-2. Didn’t really notice I was pregnant.  It just looked like I was on my period.  I gave up wearing heels because my feet and legs tired easily.  But the only real change I needed to make was to get a pack of bra extenders because I went up a band size by week eight.  Oh, and I needed bigger pajamas, because my larger bust undid the buttons while I was asleep.

Month 3. This is when things started to change a bit.  My high waisted work pants (which are all of my work pants) stopped fitting and I had to switch to stretchier options from Spanx and NYDJ.

These pants were fine until recently, when the Mediums stopped fitting comfortably.  Now, I can’t find the NYDJ pant in a large, because every American woman went back to the office at the same time.  But I will wait and hope, because the pants are worth every penny, and I couldn’t recommend them more highly for the pregnant and the not-pregnant.

In preparation for being pregnant, I bought two pair of my favorite jeans in size 30, which is 1.5 sizes above my usual size.  This was a good decision.  I’m still comfortable in those pants as of week 21, but I can see the end is near.

Why not just buy a Bella Band (or generic belly band) to extend the life of my pants?  First, I hate how they look. The black, slightly shiny fabric poking out from under all of my tops and suit jackets made me nuts.  It also signaled to every woman I didn’t want to know I was pregnant that I was.

Second, with high waisted pants, the bands didn’t work.  At all.  By noon, I would be pulling and tugging in every direction.  I can see how with a lower rise, they would work well, but with a high waist, there was no joy in Mudville.  And as for the rubber band trick, it really only works with denim.

Month 4-5.  This is when I needed to switch style, but not necessarily size in tops.  Anything with buttons felt precarious (since one wrong twist and I could open all of them at once).  But thanks to how oversized every retailer makes clothing now, I had no trouble finding a replacement that fit.

I switched styles from fitted tops to a looser-fitting pullover style.  I bought them in my current size small (they run a hair big) and medium, because I want to be able to wear these basics for at least the next 6-weeks.  And at the rate my body is changing, I’ll need to be prepared.

The other top that got me through was the Juliette cardigan from J.Crew (40% off today).  It fits loosely, looks elegant, and if you don’t want everyone to know you’re pregnant, it’s tough to tell thanks to the lines on this style.  I’m a 6-8, and a small still fits loosely.

The two areas of real friction here (literally and figuratively) are shoes and bras.  I’ve gained two cup sizes and a band size already.  I swapped out my regular demi-cup bras for this Natori Bliss Bra.  The cups offer more coverage, without looking like something your 90-year-old Nana would wear.  The material is also soft and flexible, and I feel really comfortable in the bra.

As for shoes, I don’t know what to do.  I’m essentially hobbled by edema.  The OB I’m seeing is clueless as to why I have 8-month swelling this soon, and multiple consults with other doctors have been no help.  My flesh pours over the top of my sneakers like exploded cans of Pillsbury dough.  And some days, the pain is so great, I have to come home early from work and cry on the drive.

I sized up in Rothy’s, and that helped for about a month.  So I think for a pregnancy not impacted by extreme swelling, that would be a good solution for most women.  The flexible knit lets them stretch with your feet.  I would recommend the round toes over the points for comfort.

I’m also in the market for a supportive, black driver or other loafer.  Haven’t found one yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

The Future.  I just ordered some products from Seraphine, and given how many of you said this brand worked for professional work attire, I’m excited to try the brand.  I will report back.

Besides that, I’m going to buy a handful of pants and dresses three sizes up from my usual size and see how far they take me.  If they get me through month sixth, I’m happy.  I can sell them on Poshmark when I’m done.

After that, I’m thinking about a pregnancy capsule wardrobe.  So stay tuned.

As for casual attire, you will find me at Old Navy, Gap, H&M and Target.  I am done trying to pretend that the $120 maternity clothes are better than the $50 ones.  I’m also done pretending that this is the time to invest in nice pieces, because even if I love them, they’re just going to be covered in breast milk eventually.

I know this sounds a little fatalistic, but there isn’t a pregnant woman I’ve talked to who hasn’t started off thinking that she could find the perfect solution and eventually just surrendered herself to reality.  Every pregnancy is different.  Every woman’s body is different.  And the retailers just toss a belly bump on a designer-size-4 fit model and pretend that’s going to work for a real flesh and blood woman.

Dressing while pregnant is just about survival. But we will make it through, together.

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  1. Susan says:

    Preach!! Dressing while pregnant was a nightmare. And if you’re even remotely tall (I’m 5’7” on a short day, with a long torso), going up a size or two doesn’t help with the added length in your belly/torso.

    Like you, I had a professional job and couldn’t pull off leggings and nap dresses at work. I didn’t gain an exceptional amount of weight but I never had luck going “up a size.” I bought a few overpriced wrap dresses from A Pea in the Pod and unfortunately that was it for work wear.

    One shoe suggestion: have you tried clogs? They’re back in style again, and while they weren’t while I was pregnant (lol no f s given by yours truly), they helped immensely. I have a pair that I still wear getting mail/running to Dunkin’)I love them so much (and I bought them in 2013!)

  2. Mary says:

    You may have seen this already but today’s afternoon post on CorporetteMoms has washable pants, with a selection of maternity pants also. Good luck and good hunting!

  3. Anne says:

    I was lucky to be pregnant during the first year of the pandemic and therefore working from home. On the whole, this meant I could cobble together an outfit comprising whatever was clean and comfortable judgment-free (including a harem pants/crop top/oversized cardigan combo when I was about 8 months in – Rihanna would have been proud). However, when I needed to look pulled together (in work or life), my saving grace was a cotton sheath dress (that I ultimately bought in every color) from Costco. I know, Costco. They were perfect. I could add a denim jacket and fun accessories for a casual look, or a blazer and pearls for a professional look. By the end, these dresses were the only items of clothing I was willing to wear.

    • Belle says:

      I have honestly thought how much easier this part of pregnancy would have been in 2020, 1000x. Everything else might have been harder, but this part would have been a breeze.

  4. RR says:

    On the swelling, I so feel you. With my twins, I had near-constant swelling of the feet and lower legs. It didn’t even go down over night after the first 4-5 months. It was just swollen and more swollen. Honestly, by the end, I had one pair of ugly loafers from DSW in a larger size and wide width that was the only thing that fit. I would recommend visiting zappos and searching by wide and extra wide. Then go comfy. There are a few brands that aren’t too bad. Munro has lots of widths and some decent styles for example. Also, if you aren’t already, compression stockings, stat. There are some from Comrad or Wellow that aren’t hideous like the old-school “suntan” ones you see in drugstores. They help a lot.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that it is glorious when it goes away. It took about 2.5 weeks after the birth, and suddenly, I had ankles again! I gained 38 pounds with the twins, and I lost 65 in three weeks after they were born–that’s the amount of water retention I had. For me, it was just the swelling. Never turned into anything concerning. And my second pregnancy, during the summer, had barely any swelling, so it’s not necessarily something you will experience again if you have more children.

    Much love.

    • RR says:

      Also, for maternity clothes, Gap was a stalwart for me. And they weren’t around when I was pregnant, but Universal Standard’s maternity offerings look great.

      There’s just no easy way around the weird transition time before the full on maternity clothes fit. Stretchy pants are your friend.

    • KLO says:

      Comrad compression socks are also sold on Amazon at a cheaper price than the Comarad website. But beware — consider ordering the size you think yoy are and a size up. I just gave birth 3 weeks ago, had a lot of edema, and even the size large left marks on my skin.

  5. TheLOOP says:

    I navigated maternity dressing through three pregnancies, all pre-COVID, and based on this post, it seems like the options for pregnant women have not improved at all. Over the three pregnancies, I bought a total of two actual maternity clothes – a dress from Asos and pants from Old Navy. What worked for me was maternity tights with pull-on sweater dresses in winter and lighter pull-on dresses in the warmer months, topped with a blazer. I bought so many of these for around $20-40 from TJ Maxx and the like. I stuck to solids or very small prints to keep it professional. On the rare days that I wore pants, I used a waist extender like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Extenders-Extender-Maternity-Adjustable-Waistband/dp/B091PLYS96/ref=asc_df_B091PLYS96/. I wore longer style flowy tops so the extender was never visible. That said, you are absolutely right that every body does pregnancy differently and the fact that retailers keep throwing ill-fitting, overpriced, cheap looking goods at pregnant women is infuriating.

  6. Susan says:

    Compression socks and tights and stockings are essential–and they will take away some of the pain. hugs to you!

  7. Hope says:

    I also had bonkers foot swelling. By my last month of pregnancy, I had 3 separate cankles that would all bruise from slapping against each other. I could get a small amount of relief by lying on the ground with my legs resting on a wall and my feet straight up in the air… but it never lasted.

    People don’t believe how bad it was until I show them a picture.

    I swelled up all over. At one point I gained something like 7 pounds of water weight in a week. They never figured out what was causing it.

    I finally gave up and wore Birkenstocks everywhere. They didn’t look very good, but nothing was going to look good at that point. And they were the only shoes that felt anything less than torturous.

    I got pedicures a lot more frequently. The woman who I went to would slap my feet and calves to try and get circulation going. I don’t know how much it helped, but it was nice to have someone care enough to try.

    If it’s any consolation, my feet went back to normal almost immediately. I had the longest pee of my life after giving birth and then I went to wash my hands and said “oh yeah, that’s what they look like.”

    • Belle says:

      This is as close to hope as anyone has offered me since this started. I walked out of an appointment because a nurse laughed at my ankles and told me it was only going to get worse. I literally hopped off the table, and left. Like, how cruel to laugh in someone’s face when they’re limping down the hall to the appointment, and you’re supposed to be the person who is offering them a solution or at least some empathy?

      Did the Birkenstocks help? I would do anything right now for my feet not to hurt.

      • Aria says:

        I didn’t have a ton of swelling until my third trimester, but I wore Birkenstocks for my entire pregnancy and they were the only thing that let me be comfortable on my feet. I had a pair for inside slippers and a pair to wear outside and they were the only shoes I wore. They’re also great for after pregnancy since Birkenstocks are always awesome.

      • Hope says:

        That is so horrible, I’m really sorry that nurse was so insensitive! Nobody has any idea how your pregnancy will go, and it doesn’t help anyone to try and scare them like that.

        My name is actually Hope, so hopefully I can be some real hope for you. 😉

        I had to let my Birks out, but they gave me more support than your standard sandals and they could accommodate how big my feet got. I remember almost crying from pain after cramming my feet into a pair of ballet flats for a meeting, and then getting into said meeting and realizing that all of the women were wearing flipflops. After that, I went from wearing my Birks at my desk to wearing them all of the time.

        This is my feet about a week before I gave birth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hopers/shares/eh5mpv

        This is my feet about 2 weeks after I gave birth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hopers/shares/gvvGb4

        They shrunk a little more after that, but the pain relief was pretty much immediate. You aren’t going to have pontoon feet for the rest of your life, I promise.

        The other thing that helped a lot was getting in the pool (I joined a water aerobics class and hung out 3x a week with a bunch of old ladies). Moving around boosts circulation, but it’s so hard to move when your feet hurt like that.

      • Rachel says:

        Birkenstocks are my go to summer shoes after I injured my foot years ago and couldnt wear flip flops…now I will never go beck because they are so very supportive and I do like how they look (most of my styles are the gizah–i love the EVA for the pool too). I wore them through 2 summer pregnancies (July and Sept) and they were perfect and I didnt have to worry about squeezing my feet into anything.

        I will add one thing contradictory to originical commenter—my feet swelled after giving birth (and lots of saline) for a few days. I wore slippers home from the hospital and to the pediatrician. Then they went back to normal. (My mother’s foot was always half size bigger after having us).

        • Kim says:

          I had swelling after birth too, but I think it was from the IV fluids at the hospital. I found it went away a few days after the IV was taken out.

        • Anna says:

          Late to the party here, but I just bought my first pair of Birkenstocks and they took about a week of careful breaking in to be comfortable. Given everyone’s rave reviews, if you decide to get them, don’t give up! Pace yourself with short stint wearing, maybe cushion with wool socks at first, and be sure to flex the soles aggressively.

      • AAM says:

        So sad regarding the nurse’s comment.

        So many attitudes about children and pregnancy just seem so negative: “it’ll just get worse”, “you think this is bad? Wait till they’re screaming at 2 am”, and then not even to mention how poorly new parents are received in the work place. Children are good things! Maybe some empathy would work wonders.

    • D says:

      I was incredibly swollen as well. The edema was so bad that my pet left paw prints on my legs. I immediately felt better after giving birth and two weeks later, all the swelling was gone.

    • Emily says:

      Yes to Birks! I hadn’t worn them since middle school but once I slipped those on my swollen pregnant feet, I never looked back. They were the only shoes I wore in late pregnancy, including to the office. I never would have worn those to the office prepregnancy but I’m of the firm belief that the normal office attire rules do not apply. It’s all about survival.

  8. aMY says:

    This is all so real…and a potential business idea? Actual functional, quality, affordable maternity wear? (Yes, I know it’s been done, but how well in many cases?)

    Gap maternity, Lululemon aligns, and Rothy’s slip on sneakers were my saving graces through pregnancy. Amazon has some decent maternity dresses too, one of which I wore to a wedding 4 days before my due date and received more compliments on than anything else I’ve ever worn, pregnant or not.

    Wishing you and baby all the best, Abra!

  9. Maya says:

    I didn’t make the connection until my 2nd pregnancy, but nursing bras are great during pregnancy (and postpartum, obviously!). Stretchy, no wires, accommodating of changing shapes and sizes. Wear them before baby and after and get lots of mileage. I really liked Cake brand and Bravado.

    • AJT says:

      I’m still wearing nursing bras two years postpartum! Yay for stretch and no underwire. I put the little lining cups back in for a little more shape.

  10. Carissa says:

    A few observations:

    Several retailers that offered maternity lines closed those lines, I assume due to COVID cutbacks. This sucks, because places for staples from known entities like, say, Boden and J Crew, were eliminated. Even Target’s maternity offerings are significantly fewer than they were a few years ago.

    I’m on my third. I cheaped out completely with my first, trying NOT to buy maternity clothes. I ended up feeling very frumpy and sad by the end. This time, since I’m a different starting size, I’m just buying clothes meant for a pregnant lady since they DO fit better and are more flattering on a bump. It’s worth it to me to spend some money to feel like a moderately attractive human being, not wearing the same crappy clothes over and over again.

    Re: that nurse’s comment: unfortunately, yes. There’s this whole attitude toward pregnant ladies that is…merciless. It is the WORST. “Suck it up, buttercup”–who does that?! If it were any other medical condition?!?! It is cruel. It feels like your legitimate concerns are not heard or taken seriously. I’m sorry that happened to you! I hope you found a better nurse for your next appointment.

    • Liadan says:

      I had the same experience with maternity clothes on my first vs second pregnancies! Definitely buying cute clothes that help me to feel stylish this time around–even clothes from before pregnancy that still fit are not flattering over a bump the way specially designed maternity clothes are. Stitch fix is good for cute dresses and jumpsuits; not a ton of work clothing options but great for work from home and casual clothes.

    • Amy says:

      This. I feel so bad for women trying to buy ‘work’ maternity now. I basically bought all of Ann Taylor, gap, jcrew maternity lines and filled in with Rosie pope and motherhood maternity. I had hyperemesis which means I did have the basketball belly that looked fake because I lost 20% of my pre-pregnancy weight and nearly got hospitalized to get an IV. I could have cheerfully throttled all the people who told me how ‘good’ I looked when I was suffering so badly. I was so grateful for a coworker who had the same condition and told me it was OK that I hated pregnancy and that I’d feel amazing the second I gave birth, which was true!
      I hope you feel a bit better and it’s ok if pregnancy kind of sucks and you don’t love it!

  11. kiko says:

    I’ve had three (full term, singleton) pregnancies and am currently a few months postpartum Clothing, especially professional clothes can be a challenge but a good capsule wardrobe mentality really helped. Japanese Weekend and Seraphine, as well as a few Motherhood Maternity pieces really helped fill out my wardrobe. I also found Gap and Old Navy to be good (esp for business casual/casual)– they run big even in regular sizing so I just kept that in mind. I am a 4/6 when not pregnant and wore SM in almost all maternity clothes. I paired lots of flowy tops with stretchy/pull-on pants or those knee/midi-length ruched/stretchy maternity dresses, all paired with a regular blazer or cardigan. I preferred to avoid the full over the belly waists for pants. I also absolutely loved getting bags of maternity hand-me-downs from friends that I could sift through. Don’t really have recs for shoes because I kept wearing my normal pumps and flats throughout all my pregnancies, but booties sometimes offer more support/stability.

    • Beth says:

      I second the recommendations of Japanese Weekend and Seraphine. I bought several pieces for a capsule with my second pregnancy and it was a much better experience (I was mostly professional dress and traveling 2-3X a week). Also they wash/care well.

      I ended up selling my workwear pieces via Poshmark – they went quickly so I felt like the upfront cost was worth it.

  12. Aam says:

    This tie-waist dress from Gap has been my favorite thing I’ve bought. https://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=815490002&cid=11437&pcid=11437&vid=1&cpos=130&cexp=2711&kcid=CategoryIDs%3D11437&ctype=Listing&cpid=res22042813916713161355216
    I would usually be a medium, and I bought the maternity large. I’ve gotten through 27 weeks with it working, but it’s starting to strain at the belly. May have to buy the XL next.
    I also purchased four different styles of leggings from old navy in maternity large, when I’d have ordinarily taken a medium. They basically covered me from about 20 weeks until now, but they’re also getting a little tight.
    For Bras, I’m just at a loss. Also factoring In outerwear was a huge pain, as my winter coat has a cinched waist.

  13. Kristen says:

    I ended up going for a uniform while pregnant last year. For work, wrap dresses (non-maternity) in the early months and a few carefully-chosen, basic Seraphine dresses in the later months, most of which I purchased from Poshmark and later re-poshed. I would pair these with either a blazer (worn open) or a cardigan. I did not attempt work pants at all.

    For casual wear, I bought a few loose and stretchy dresses, worn with either a cardigan or denim jacket. Boyfriend jeans or leggings with a maternity tank (Target had great ones) and a cardigan were other options.

    These were not the most fashionable months of my life by any means, but I still felt professional on work days, overall put together and (mostly) comfortable.

    Good luck!

  14. Kate says:

    Seraphine was 100% worth the money for me. Ripe was also a great brand as was C’est Moi (Canadian brand) for base layers like tanks. My experience was to go to a boutique in my city and use their expertise of dressing lots of women to create a capsule (from the ‘beer and perogies’ stage to ‘I need to look good for my 40 week OB appt’. It was worth the money to spend more on a few good pieces where I could look halfway presentable (until Mar 2020 where I worked from home for the last 3 months of my pregnancy). My Aritzia buttonless blazers also stood the test of time. This group should crowdsource a wardrobe because this is the best advice I’ve read.

  15. Cass says:

    Seraphine is a good one, but I also had great success with Pea in a Pod, Beyond Yoga Maternity (their tees in particular), some of the Motherhood pieces and oddly AG maternity jeans. I’m not normally one to splurge for a small amount of time, but everything I got from those places was great. Even to the point I was 39wks and wearing my jeans still.

    Shoes were a bit harder, by the end there was only one pair of sandals that fit (thankfully it was summer). But for the most part they have returned to the same size (maybe 1/2 size up). Good luck!

  16. irmck says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I couldn’t figure where the good, soft pregnancy clothes were hiding (because the last thing I needed while swollen everywhere was scratchy fabric). It feels like suck a racket, where everything is ridiculously expensive, doesn’t fit ever, but you still need clothes so you throw money at the problem.

    Don’t miss Gap Maternity. Their leggings were the absolute best, and even now post-partum, i just keep buying more Old Navy nursing tank tops. I’m sure some of those fancy designer $40+ tank tops are lovely, but I need 12 of them, minimum. Now, if I can figure out pumping friendly shirts/ dresses that don’t require complete disrobing in my office, I’ll be a happy Mama.

  17. M says:

    It is so hard! I’m a few weeks behind you, at about 19 weeks pregnant. I’m also on the taller side, 5’7″, so a lot of regular but larger than normal sized clothing already doesn’t work for me. I have bit the bullet and bought maternity pieces, mostly from H&M and GAP. My goal is comfort and not feeling frumpy. I think it’s fine to have a few tops and jeans as the seasons change that make me feel good, pregnancy is long.

    I have done a lot of experimenting. H&M maternity is actually the best. The H&M over-the-belly jeans have the softest panel. (I also tried Madewell, my usual jeans go-to, and GAP. Did not like them.) For work pants, I like BOOB designs. I found a pair on sale for about $60, which is fine because I’ll only buy one pair of work pants total (still not going in very much). https://www.boobdesign.com/shop/i-am-looking-for/maternity-pants-maternity-leggings I pair those with a tunic top from Amazon daily ritual (https://www.target.com/p/women-s-2pk-seamless-bralette-auden/-/A-82150614?preselect=82109399#lnk=sametab) and a LOFT cardigan and call it a day. That’s the work uniform. I’ve also given up on any bras with wires and have found a $10 bra from Target (https://www.target.com/p/women-s-2pk-seamless-bralette-auden/-/A-82150614?preselect=82109399#lnk=sametab). I have DD+ boobs and it’s enough support for me. I am mostly still teleworking, so sneakers are what I wear for walks and errands. I figure I’ll wear roomy/tiered dresses later in the summer when I’m further along.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your painful swelling and the nurse’s reaction is shocking! Pregnancy is so tough. I thought I knew, but every day there’s a new ache or pain, it seems like. Thank you for posting this!

  18. Catherine says:

    My sister-in-law wore compression socks throughout the length of her pregnancy because of terrible swelling. She really liked the socks from Vim&Vigr as they were cute and comfortable. They are also a women owned business based here in Missoula.

    https://vimvigr.com/

  19. Jo says:

    Late in the day, but does anyone know of companies that sell maternity exercise *shorts* that AREN’T bike shorts? I hate doing cardio in leggings, but that seems to be all that brands sell these days.

  20. Kate says:

    Putting in my 2 cents for STORQ. Their basics are such high quality, they were washed and worn over 200 x and never pilled. I got my first pieces from Thredup and was so impressed that I bought more from Storq during a sale. I still wear the flattering T shirt dress and a silk slip dress and they are oversized on me now but drape beautifully because the fabrics are lush.

    I had a lot of luck with Pea in the Pod (beautifully tailored shift dresses that didn’t rely on ruching, great over the bump suit pants that got me through all 9 months) and Serephine. Maybe Pea in the Pod has suffered since the company’s bankruptcy in 2020, but they were such wonderful places to shop, with warm, educated staff that helped you find the right size and pieces for your work/life needs. They even had toys in the dressing rooms so that expecting moms with little kids in tow could browse and try on in peace. I mourn that newer generations of pregnant women won’t get this warm, welcoming experience.

  21. Jane says:

    I feel very seen by your posts today! I was nodding along throughout. The amount of effort it takes to try multiple maternity brands and styles and choose the best of the mediocre, in the hopes of finding six months of peace with your changing body, is not something modern women have time for. I have been working from home during most of my pregnancy but was planning for a return to the office in February, which got pushed to May, so I bought things that could do double duty. At a certain point, sizing up didn’t work for me, and I embraced maternity pants and tops just to be comfortable.

    I hope that Seraphine is as good to you as it has been to me for jeans and trousers. I scored some on Poshmark once I knew my size. For casual wear, Gap leggings have been solid. The maternity tops I’ve tried have not been good quality; Pea in the Pod pilled, Ingrid & Isabel necklines don’t lay flat (but I have high hopes for the one you featured this week). I gave up on finding a bigger bra on my own and went to my favorite bra shop to get fitted (Trousseau for anyone in the DMV), and I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. At 31 weeks, I’m looking at picking up a few Karina dresses for late pregnancy. And I’m really sorry about the swelling (and the shitty nurse!); if you have the bandwidth, don’t be afraid to consult with another provider.

  22. Heather says:

    I actually had a tailor make me three pregnancy work outfits (three-piece suit, skirt and button-down, dress and jacket) for the last trimester. I rotated through. The last two weeks I wore the same two leggings and same two tunics. To work. As a lawyer. No one cared, because everyone understood I was very, very pregnant. And I was comfortable. And not trying to fit in my old regular-people pants and shirts.

  23. Anna says:

    I feel you on the swelling. I’m only 16 weeks in and have some gnarly looking varicose veins with bruising on one leg. I’m going to Portugal in a month and trying to figure out how I can wear cute, summery outfits while still wearing compression stockings.

  24. Coco says:

    Yes! Yes! Beware the mommy influencers. For whatever reason, it is so easy to forget that glamorizing pregnancy and parenthood is literally their job, and sadly my job requires an entirely different style of dressing and parenting.

    Agree with everything that has already been said here about a capsule pregnancy work wardrobe and/or uniform. My work wardrobe spans mostly smart casual through business casual, so I had 3 go-to uniforms (I was a fall/winter pregnancy so ymmv):

    1) Flowy blouse over a stretchy ruched pencil skirt (this only worked through month 5 or so)
    2) Stretchy or flowy dress with black maternity tights and booties or clogs
    3) Flowy blouse over maternity slacks from Ann Taylor/LOFT

    +1 to maternity hand-me-downs. I also liked Gap Maternity, H&M, Seraphine.

    Two brands I haven’t seen mentioned yet that I want to put a plug in for:

    1) Pinkblush – cost-conscious maternity styles. I bought 2 dresses from here that served me well

    2) Mitera Collection – I didn’t discover them until postpartum and they are on the pricier side, but they have some really beautiful dresses that could lean more on the formal side of business casual that are nursing, pumping, and bump friendly. I own and still wear the Elif, Sahar, and Sakura when I go into the office even though I am not nursing, pumping, or rocking a bump!

    I’m sorry about the horrific edema. I don’t have any shoe recommendations but highly recommend a foot hammock to elevate your feet under a desk if don’t already have some other footrest or ottoman under there. Mine helped a lot with foot/calf aching and lower back soreness.

  25. Melissa says:

    It was a few years ago, but I used a LeTote subscription for maternity wear. It’s like a clothing rental service (less expensive than Rent the Runway). I don’t think I’d use it now, but for maternity wear, it gave me some variety in sizes and styles as I was growing. I think I even came across a few items that I ended up purchasing because I felt they’d work for the duration.

  26. MeredIth says:

    I have an 8-week-old. I feel your pain!! (Also I’m on the end of straight sizing/small end of plus size which was REALLY tough.) For future reference/for anyone reading with a cooler-weather pregnancy, I found that your favorite Free People sweater in my regular size got me all the way through my delivery date in March. Otherwise in late pregnancy, I bought black pants from Target maternity and wore them with plain maternity tops/baby doll style tops and a blazer.

  27. Katie says:

    Wow I’m so glad I found this site. I came here to email you about your quote in the NYTimes article ‘
    The Rise of the ‘Power Casual’ Wardrobe’ but found this- I am just under 21 weeks pregnant and struggling with clothes. My size-up Loft slacks (from before Covid, when they still had the Marissa Skinny fit [RIP!]) are on their last weeks of working, and I cannot find maternity pants that truly fit. And all of them must be purchased online and then returned, because stores don’t have maternity clothes for trying on. It’s been a nightmare slog.

  28. Marg says:

    100% with you on all of this, it’s been way hit or miss, ever changing. Considering doing rent the runway to just let the changes roll

  29. Allison says:

    These are cute, cheap, well-padded, reasonable well-made and come in a wide that’s actually wide enough to accommodate some swelling. Amazon Essentials Women’s Belice Ballet Flat https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088K981RC/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_i_VMNCMF67W909WSTT5HYB?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

  30. JTM says:

    Now imagine if you’re plus size and you get pregnant – there are absolutely NO nice maternity clothes for plus size women! It’s like brands assume that plus size women don’t get pregnant *eye roll*

    With both of my pregnancies I worked for a company with a casual dress code, so I could get away with clothes from Motherhood Maternity and Old Navy. But both of them top out at a 3X/size 22 – what are women who are bigger than that supposed to do? It’s so maddening!

    If I ever hit the Powerball, I’m investing my winnings to create an actual maternity line for plus size women – it’s so needed!

  31. Liadan Donnelly says:

    Just FYI I find Seraphine fits small; good for mid-pregnancy but not great for late pregnancy! I’m 5’2″ and end up with a pretty large bump due to being so short, so your mileage may vary depending on your height.

    I got some good pregnancy work pants from Stitch Fix and a pregnancy blazer from Ingrid and Isabel (I stuck with my normal blazers/ suit jackets for as long as I could but the increased boob size eventually necessitated the pregnancy blazer!). We just started going back in person for court and I’m 33 weeks pregnant so shoe-wise I’m just wearing my black naturalizer slip on leather sneakers and everyone can deal with it. I’m not buying new shoes at 33 weeks pregnant! 😀

  32. Olivia says:

    I just read this and your Hatch post (which… agree!!! The company is ludicrous and the clothes are ridiculous). I’m 28 weeks so adding my 2 cents here for anyone looking for maternity clothes.

    Favorite MATERNITY purchases:
    1. Zella maternity leggings – so comfortable, worth every penny. I only have one pair and I am going to get another, I think. Incredible.
    2. Isabella Oliver – I bought the Kelsey Dress in Tencel Navy and I LOVE it!!! I had more of an hourglass shape pre-pregnancy which makes it so hard because a lot of “maternity” clothes seems built for women with big bumps and no butts. But this is amazing quality, I love it and can dress it up and down. Plus they are a B corp!
    3. Nom maternity jumpsuit – I got the nursing jumpsuit that has a wrap top that ties. SO comfortable. I sized up and regret it but still love the jumpsuit. That said, I can’t believe so many pregnant women recommend jumpsuits so much. It’s so annoying to take it off to pee all the time.
    4. Old Navy Pixie Pants – I wore the non-maternity version before so new I would like these. I bought a navy and a black pair, and they are SO comfortable like leggings but look like pants so work for a wide range of occasions. Pretty much my only maternity pants.
    5. Skims maternity body suit and shorts – WORTH EVERY PENNY! Use your measurements. I wear these under nicer clothes, etc, but they are incredible. I think skims are superior to spanx, honestly. Incredibly comfortable and supportive.

    Favorite NON-MATERNITY purchases:
    1. Spanx Perfect Length Top – I have both the tank and the short sleeve. I sized up one size but since the length is a little longer it’s perfect. They are the perfect weight for on their own or layering with a sweater/jacket if you need, and even the white is not see through. I love love love these and am looking forward to wearing them post partum as well.
    2. Eileen Fisher – I already had some pieces and LOVE how they have transitioned to maternity. The quality is just so great. I had some of the jersey tunic tops and one oversized knit sweater and they have worked perfectly when other tops are now too short.
    3. Empire Waist/Swing dresses – I have a variety I bought from mall stores – Free People and Abercrombie in particular. I’m looking forward to warmer weather and living in dresses. I’m looking to get some bike shorts just for extra coverage below but really excited.
    4. Hokas – not pregnancy specific, I wore them before, but the support is amazing. Keeps me walking every day.

  33. Lily says:

    My biggest problem with maternity wear? 80% of it is objectively UGLY. So, so ugly. Especially U.S. brands. It’s like American retailers think the only places pregnant women need to dress for are Applebee’s or the playground. Seraphine, Asos and H&M are the only retailers I have been able to find office-appropriate, somewhat chic things from.

  34. nel says:

    Here to solve your troubles, potentially.

    Nuuly (the Anthro / Free People rental service) saved me so much money and actually has a dedicated maternity selection. Many times I just sized up for non-maternity clothes and it worked just fine. It’s like $88 a month and you get 6 pieces. I used sweaters, dusters, flowy summer dresses and so on. Plus anthro stuff never fits well (i find it oversized generally … but that was perfect for maternity wear).

    I also like renting because … well, buying maternity wear outside of bras and stuff just didn’t feel like an investment. I’d rather have clothes for the rest of my life. I ended up only buying 1 maternity dress and a maternity swimsuit. I saved so much money, don’t have to store maternity stuff, and had legit cute clothes throughout my pregnancy and postpartum.

    One last thing – pregnancy and postpartum are messy, lots of fluids, stains, etc. With rentals, THEY do the dry cleaning. Not you : )

    In summary, check out Nuuly!

  35. Amanda says:

    The French Mauve shawl collar blazer was a lifesaver during my pregnancy. It worked well over more straight and fitted t-shirt dresses, so I got a few in different colors and then dressed them up for meetings with the blazer. The cut on that blazer hid my stomach for months so that even right months pregnant I didn’t immediately look pregnant at work.

  36. Heather Edwards says:

    Pregnancy capsule for the win! It’s the only time I ever stuck to a capsule, but it worked beautifully in a professional office and at Federal Government client meetings. I splurged on a good maternity suit, skirt/pants/jacket, then did the lower end stores for tops to make many outfits. Gap and Target maternity had some surprisingly cute pieces that didn’t scream maternity. I was pregnant in winter, so black maternity tights, stretchy pencil skirts and sweaters were my everyday uniform. I had good luck with non- maternity wrap dresses in a size up too. Sorry about the swelling. That is miserable. I agree that most influencers aren’t helpful in a professional office. CorporetteMoms is a great resource.

  37. Whitney says:

    I’ve never been pregnant, but I do have lymphedema. I’m also a size 11 in shoes, so my feet are about as big as they come. The Bella Vita Mireya flats come in extra wide and are the only flats I can comfortably wear to work. You might even be able to fit a pair of insoles for added comfort. You may have posted them as a Rothy’s look-alike before? Can’t remember.

    https://www.dsw.com/en/us/product/bella-vita-mireya-flat/524125?activeColor=102&cm_mmc=CSE-_-GPS-_-G_Shopping_Flats-_-New_Flats&cadevice=m&gclid=Cj0KCQjwma6TBhDIARIsAOKuANz3GN2TkJyMJFyUJ5-Ak2nvZMcLydjusCM75u-DZ_llH5HdbIvjGIEaAp6HEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

  38. Erin says:

    I had two pairs of these Isabella and Oliver over the bump ponte maternity pants and I would dress them up with a tunic/blazer or long sweater. They’re very thick and high quality. Two pregnancies, many many washes, minimal pilling. I’d honestly wear a non maternity version if they made them. https://editorialist.com/p/caviar-black-over-the-bump-maternity-ponte-knit-pants-isabella-oliver/

  39. Kim says:

    I feel you. It sucks that dressing for pregnancy often means committing to completely different clothing shapes, regardless of style preference, in order to find something comfortable. And since every person has their own different symptoms and your shape changes so much, it is a moving target.

    I found that swing shaped blouses in a stretchy fabric could be worn through most if not all of my pregnancy and often after. I committed to just wearing my pre pregnancy blazers open over pregnancy t shirts for 3 months. I found that my preference in pregnancy pants changed between 2nd and third trimester, but solid coloured, a line or empire preganacy dresses did most of my heavy lifting under blazers and cardigans I already had. I shopped consignment and bought two pairs of acceptable maternity pants from Old Navy and tried not to over-think it. The surprise winner was a couple pairs of non-preganacy, stretchy, cropped wide leg pants that could be worn low under the bump. I thought I hated them. It has been a few years and I still haven’t purged them from my wardrobe. They may even be more in style now.

    Just hang in there and accessorize your basics for everything you are worth. And I want to rain down hellfire on all the maternity clothing companies who refuse to create styles that are appropriate for a more formal office. So much rage in trying to find what I did.

  40. Elizabeth says:

    My first pregnancy I made it through with many stretchy dresses from old navy maternity and an open blazer from before I was pregnant.

    My second pregnancy I was speaking at a conference and felt I needed a real suit – not sure that I did but it made me feel confident. I remember wandering through A Pea in the Pod and asking if the suit was included in the sale. The woman laughed at me lol. But I purchased the pants and blazer and it was probably the most used in my wardrobe AND sold it for .90 on the dollar. Definitely in the before times but worth it then.

  41. Amy says:

    To be honest, I found it hardest to dress myself when I was still trying to hide the pregnancy. As soon as I “popped” and had made the necessary announcements, I began leaning in to comfort over anything else.

    I found that wearing nearly whatever and “assuming the pregnancy pose” (leaning back with my hand on my belly) prevented any question about my clothing choices, even in courts where I would typically be incredibly formal. I mostly went with non-maternity swing dresses a size up and a sweater rather than a full blazer.

    (and in my male-dominated office? I dared one of them to say something to me while in my maternity leggings and comfortable shoes…)

    • Amy says:

      OH! and the one thing I didn’t learn until too late was that if you’re planning to pump/nurse, make sure any maternity clothing you’re buying is also nursing/pump friendly. No sense in having to purchase a whole second wardrobe after the baby is out of you.

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