Ask the Editor: The Biggest Pregnancy Fashion Surprises

Jun 22, 2022

It was inevitable that my body would change with pregnancy.  But every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different, so preparing was more of a challenge than I anticipated.  Many of you on this road, or considering a trip down this path, have asked for advice on the clothing side of things.  And as I crest my third trimester, I finally feel qualified to give it.

So if you’re planning on having a baby, are pregnant, or just want a laugh, join me while I talk about the biggest fashion surprises that came from being with child (with some non-maternity content sprinkled in).

????Whose Feet Are These?????Swollen feet are common in pregnancy.  They just don’t usually start in month three and go the whole distance.  So my bony, narrow feet and my slender ankles have been replaced by something that looks like a Hobbit learned to shave.

First, I tried foot compression socks (meant to combat Plantar Fasciitis) with black loafers.  This worked for a minute.  Then, summer came, and with it the third trimester.

Several of you recommended Birkenstocks.  Now, I have no hatred for the shoe.  I understand many people love them, and they’re even in Vogue (literally).  But I grew up in Montana, where the only people who wore them were grandmas and hippies, so I never warmed to them.

Yet, I could not resist the ability to put my feet into a shoe that didn’t hurt.  So I cried, “uncle.”  (Somewhere my Grandma is laughing at me.)

Luckily, Birks made kind of a cool “big buckle” pair of their signature Arizona.  So I grabbed them in brown (a collab with hot bag brand Staud) and black for summer.

???? Why Is the Quality So Bad? ???? $150+ dollars for a dress, and I could read a newspaper through the thin material.  $120+ for a blouse, and the threads came out after one wear.  One dress from Isabella Oliver was so thin that when stretched across my abdomen, you could see the scar from an ill-considered early-2000s navel piercing.

Frankly, since I was getting H&M quality from the bulk of the maternity-wear sellers, I just started shopping there.  At least the price is commensurate with the quality.  I also like the Express maternity section and the sale section at Seraphine (their pieces are J.Crew quality, but the prices are quite high, so 40% off really helps).

???? Everything Grows, Everything ???? There comes a moment in every pregnancy when you realize that you have no underwear that fit.  Then, you solve that issue, and three weeks later, you run out of underwear that fit again.  And you repeat this cycle until the baby comes out of you, and you switch to disposable mesh underwear.

Also, pregnancy is kind of a messy business, so you don’t get to just grab a 3-pk of whatever underwear Target has on special, oh no.  You need to plonk down cash for the absorbent underwear that prevent leaks and just pray that the stretchy fabric can take a punch.

This also goes for pajamas.  I woke up last Sunday to discover my top completely unbuttoned by my expanding abdomen and my drawstring waist stretched to its limits.  I sized up one size in these Nordstrom Easy Pajamas, and they can go the distance.  (They’re also super soft.)

For the remainder of my pajama wardrobe, Target is the place to shop.  My Sister Made Me Buy It recommends these gauze pjs.  I bought two sets.  That woman is never wrong.

????Just Buy the Nursing Bra ???? Maybe I’ll breastfeed. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll do some hybrid.  Regardless, as my breasts have grown, I’ve realized that it makes no financial sense to buy new bras when I can just buy the probably necessary nursing bras.

And let me just tell you, the competition among bra manufacturers to make the “best” nursing bra is fierce.  I’ve seen political races with less tension.

After sorting through a lot of chaff, I purchased this Cake bra without underwire and this On Gossamer bra with underwire.  I like both.  Neither pinches or binds.  And neither makes me feel trapped inside a coffin by the end of a long work day.

????Prepare, But Don’t Stock Up???? It’s easy to say, “I’m not going to need that” or “I would never wear that” when you’re in your first trimester.  But (God willing), your first trimester will end, and all best after that are off.

You don’t know what you will need.  It may not be what your friend needed or your sister needed.  It may not be what the Internet said you needed (those posts are usually written by childless 24-year olds, so no shock here).

It may be that you strain a muscle in your pelvic girdle during a 1-mile walk in week 27 and you need this contraption.  It may be that you develop a serious allergy to wool that never appeared before and sweaters get locked up for the duration.  You may move halfway through your third trimester to Montana and need clothes for all four seasons just to accommodate a single day in June.

This is all to say, don’t pre-plan too much.  Make a budget and take it as it comes.  Something that worked last week, may not work this week.  But while you’re being flexible, you do still need to be prepared because you can go from not needing maternity wear to being unable to live without it in a matter of one Amazon Prime-shipping window.

Looking back, I would recommend having one pair of maternity pants, one thick maternity tee, one maternity dress, and one pair of maternity leggings in reserve.  As well as two pairs of bigger underwear (nobody wants to get pinched all day while waiting for a delivery).  That’s all you need to be ready for whatever comes.

If you have tips to share, the comments section is open.  But please be cognizant that there are no absolutes, what worked for you may not work for someone else.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}


share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. alice says:

    The Bodily “Do Everything” bra was my holy grail of post-partum life. It was a nursing/pumping bra that wasn’t really ugly under clothing, was comfy enough to sleep in, and it was able to hold up pump flanges.

  2. Siri says:

    I think the last point is key! It is so hard to know how you will carry until you are there. I got through both pregnancies with an extremely minimal number of true “maternity” clothes, but I am also tall and favor oversized shirts and forgiving dresses anyway – I am so glad I only bought things as-needed. I hated the feeling of maternity pants so never wore them. (I also spent so much time throwing up in the third trimester I lost weight, which was very not fun but probably contributed.)

    Lululemon Align leggings and Hill House nap dresses (or the equivalent silhouette from other brands) also worked my whole pregnancy and I still wear today, which made me feel better about spending the money.

  3. Allison says:

    The “don’t plan” tip is so true. My two cents, it’s a great plan for baby/toddler clothes too. My son was very small, and fell off the growth chart because of it, and then rocketed to the other side and is in the 97th percentile for height by 2 years old. He basically skipped a size.

  4. Mrs. Jones says:

    True: it’s impossible to predict exactly what a pregnant mom OR a baby will need, besides diapers. I was able to borrow some maternity clothes, which was awesome.

  5. Eliz says:

    I second Lululemon Align leggings! I wore the same pair through two pregnancies and still wear them today a few years later. They were the more comfortable than any maternity leggings for me, and didn’t stretch out. Well worth the expense.

  6. Meg says:

    Seriously- do not think you’re doing yourself a favor by “preparing.” I had everything ready for postpartum recovery: the tucks pads, ice, etc. etc. then I had an emergency C section. That stuff was completely useless. What I tell friends now is to do the research, and make lists of things you would need if xyz happens. That way, you have the notes stashed away and can execute quickly. A good rule of thumb: if you aren’t planning on using something within two weeks, don’t buy it.

    Also, friends put together a meal train for us after the baby, it was great until we were drowning in food. Then someone got us a Hello Fresh gift card. SO MUCH BETTER. We could order that ahead of time, but it was only three meals a week so nothing went to waste.

    Also, Old Navy was good for maternity. Everything is junk, might as well save money.

  7. Diane says:

    I wore nursing tanks most of my third trimester (May through July), and every single day for an entire year postpartum (with reusable pad inserts for leaking) for nursing/pumping . I liked having a layer cover my stomach, and found them cooler, more comfortable, and just as supportive (34D pre-pregnancy). It also enabled me to wear more regular tops instead of nursing tops, because I could just lift them up without feeling exposed.It also meant I didn’t have to wear another layer under wrap dresses, etc. which made everything feel more streamlined.

    • Diane says:

      Also, even though I’m very, very tall, I needed maternity pants (good luck if you need tall maternity pants, that’s another post) by 4 months because the button extenders did not work for me at all. I thought I was doing myself a favor by making do with just a few pairs of maternity pants until I went back to work and still needed to wear maternity pants. I finally broke down and bought comfortable stylish pants in my new size, which I wore for a year. I wish I would have bought nice pants sooner postpartum, I would have been so much more comfortable.

    • Molly says:

      Nursing tanks were the best! They make pumping at work or breastfeeding in public so much easier. My youngest is 7 now but I bought a bunch of the Bravada for Target ones and they were great.

    • Sarah says:

      Nursing tanks are the absolute best. I lived in the Target ones while I was nursing.

  8. jules says:

    I have been wearing these nursing bras everyday for 1.5 years. Through nursing my first baby, and now through second pregnancy, still nursing the first baby.
    It’s $27 for a pack of three and I sleep in them and I literally live my life in this bra. Would highly recommend! Amazon, search for HOFISH 3 Pack Seamless Clip Down Deep V Neck Push Up Nursing Bra Maternity Bras 3PACK

  9. Anne says:

    Solidarity! Swollen feet during pregnancy is the worst – I called mine bacon feet (although they would appear even if I hadn’t eaten bacon). Accordingly, I became an expert in compression socks….I still have strong opinions. Sending you good vibes for a smooth pregnancy!

  10. Bridget says:

    I know there are mixed feelings about Rent the Runway in this group but they do have maternity clothes and I got some great pieces during my pregnancy. The rental aspect made dealing with the ever-changing size issue easier and I found two pairs of maternity jeans I liked so much that I bought them (at a majorly discounted price).

  11. Sandy says:

    I justified a bunch of purchases in the early stages of pregnancy thinking, oh, this is cute and I can wear it when everything is back to normal too! But the end of my pregnancy was bumpy and my initial post-partum period was bumpier. When I was finally done with breast feeding, I couldn’t bear the idea of wearing any of the clothes, just bundled everything up and donated it. In other words, just becuase you could wear your maternity clothes normally doesn’t mean you’ll want to!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Extra short sleeve and long sleeve decent quality tees were great for me and I wore them long after I gave birth. I still have the long sleeved ones 5 years later and I wear them around the house.

    My social circle also has a maternity clothing swap. People put their clothes in bags and share them when they are done with them. There is a spreadsheet that keeps track of who has what. This process helps to bring variety in your wardrobe!

  13. TIffany says:

    More postpartum but: Loved the Kindred Bravely soft band underwear.

    Also take all the paper underwear you can from the hospital. I lived in that for months, even post c-section.

  14. Emily says:

    Pregnancy was the time in my life I figured out my perfect capsule wardrobe and absolutely loved it. Part of me longs to get back to place where I had such a great, cohesive set of clothes.

    Really though, my biggest piece of pregnancy fashion advice is just to keep a pair of really comfortable underpants and an emergency outfit (I actually used a black v neck t0-shirt dress’ with you at all times. Pregnancy can get weird and having another outfit option saved my comfort, my professionalism, and (let’s be honest) my dignity.

    (A note on that last one – to the coworker who didn’t get that the pregnant lady who had been stuck in a meeting that ran 40 minutes over did NOT have time to chat in the doorway about your ‘quick issue’ while she was running to the restroom… May you step on all the Legos.

  15. GRACE says:

    My non-fashion comment will to go to pelvic floor therapy, if you haven’t already. Leaking is fixable and you don’t want a weak pelvic floor going into labor… ask me how I know. 🙁

    • Belle says:

      I JUST LOOKED THIS UP YESTERDAY. I was like, why am I saddle sore all the time…oh no, gotta fix that.

      • Aria says:

        Pelvic Floor Therapy AND Webster certified Chiropractor. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to walk for my ENTIRE third trimester.

    • Eliza says:

      Yes, Yes, 1000% Yes. While leaking is common during pregnancy, it is not normal and you don’t have to “just wait until you give birth.” Plus there are a ton of other issues that PF PTs can address during pregnancy and they can just generally help you prepare for birth. Unfortunately, most insurances won’t cover it before you give birth (so messed up), but if you can afford and find a cash based PFPT I would definitely recommend!

    • Becky says:

      100% yes! It is unconscionable that pelvic floor health isn’t part of all pre and post natal care in the US. It’s my forever soapbox. I feel so badly for our moms and grandmothers who live their lives with incontinence. I really loved these ladies-

    • Diane says:

      Soooo many things relate to this. After an audible “pop” during delivery and not being able to move with what felt like a bruised tailbone, I assumed I’d just have to wait it out like a normal tailbone injury. I finally got sent to PFPT at my 6 week PP appointment. Turns out the problem was greatly improved by strenthening PF, glutes, and all of the muscles that connect to the tailbone to pull it back into place.

    • Kelly says:

      I’ve spent two years with some symptoms the GI specialist has not been able to resolve, and a lot if not all has been pelvic floor dysfunction. Turns out pelvic floor stuff can present as SO many things.

    • Megan says:

      Yesss to this! I had the opposite problem where my pelvic floor was overly tight. I still tore with giving birth, but I don’t even want to imagine how bad it would have been without the pt!

  16. Melissa says:

    My best advice is to embrace the fact that you will be repeating clothing over and over and over again. And guess what – no one cares! I ended up living in a black tshirt dress from Target about 3x a week. I just changed the necklace. I also wore slides from Target pretty much every day (until my water broke on them and I had to throw them away, lol). I would have loved to look more put together but my body kept changing and I was so uncomfortable I just couldn’t keep up with a wardrobe for such a short period of time. So, fine some simple basics and don’t be afraid to wear it again and again! It’s ok. You’ll forget it all when you are gazing into your baby’s eyes (and they are barfing on your nursing bra).

  17. Mia says:

    I’ve been pretty happy with the price and quality of the ASOS maternity clothes and the Nursing Spacer Bra by Auden at Target.

  18. Sarah says:

    I was so excited the first time I was pregnant I wanted to wear maternity clothes immediately.When I was pregnant the second time I was much more discerning about what I bought and made sure it was something that would also work postpartum. If I were to do it over again I’d make sure to buy more double-duty items and less pregnancy specific items.

  19. Kellie says:

    I just had my third baby last month and just now feel qualified to share my two cents: invest in a gorgeous yet practical bathrobe and slippers (my pick is Lunya’s robe in gray – a dark color is of utmost importance). You will pull for them countless times through pregnancy and postpartum. When your feet and body don’t fit anything the roomy robe and slippers won’t judge you. Plus you can look semi pulled together when people drop food off at your door and want to see the baby. Good luck Abra you’re going to do great!

    • Erin says:

      And a beautiful robe looks so pretty in those early hospital pics with baby! Helped me look so much more put together than I actually was 🙂 And much more photogenic than a hospital gown!

  20. Erin M. says:

    First of all, I’m thrilled to be pregnant at the same time as you, Abra! I’m much earlier in my pregnancy but this is my second. You are 1000% right about not buying the warehouse of baby goods before birth! Just get the basic care essentials to start with. I made this mistake with my first, trusting the well-meaning advice of many friends and family members about what I absolutely “must” buy. But every single baby is different, and so are lifestyles, timelines, developmental processes, etc – so much can affect what you will and won’t use. I live in DC, and I canNOT emphasize my biggest bit of advice: before you buy new, make sure you’re asking friends, neighbors, parent listservs, and even FB marketplace for what you need! We could have gotten virtually ALL of our baby gear for free or very, very inexpensively… but we got hasty and bought everything brand new. Such a waste! The secondhand market is insane in DC, and the quality is generally very good – there are parenting listservs in virtually every single neighborhood and it’s an absolute gold mine of rehomed baby goods. Plus, it’s much better for the environment! So, stock up on the minimum and check your network!

  21. KL says:

    Seriously, what is up with western Montana weather this June?? Hail, snow, thunderstorms, 90F sunny days, and everything in between.

  22. Michelle says:

    I am hopeful to continue running races when I’m pregnant, at slower speeds and adjusting race distances down if necessary.

    Anyone have any good places to keep bookmarked for buying athletic wear for working out (not just lounging)?

  23. Katie says:

    I’m pretty thrifty so I went second-hand for my of my pregnancy clothes. I have had 3 kids and never found a nursing bra or tank that I really liked. I think you may have recommended the Calvin Klein Invisibles Comfort Seamless bra, and that worked really well during pregnancy, nursing, and still for work from home days.

    Best of luck to you and all the other mamas-to-be out there!

  24. KC says:

    No personal advice to offer (though hopefully that will no longer be the case in about three years), but wanted to chime in to say thanks as always for the straight forward, practical advice. I started following your blog back when I was preparing for my first Hill internship over 10 years ago and this space continues to be a invaluable source of knowledge for the present and to file away for later. Thank you.

  25. Carolyn says:

    36 weeks with twins. Literally nothing from my first pregnancy fits, twins are a new ball game. Like even sizing up in maternity doesn’t produce shirts long enough ha.

    Love H&M mama shirts, they are long, wash well, and hold their structure. Old Navy maternity was good in my first pregnancy, I didn’t bother to go get new sizes this time.

    I am LIVING in these leggings – go snap them up for $12 or $15 plus shipping. Seriously. They are so comfy, and when you unroll them, the just nicely hug your belly. I find them a tad see through so I wear them around the house, to the drive-thru, to curbside pickup, or under a tunic/dress (PNW problems, summer started yesterday).

    Pact has some good basic lounge pieces.

    And that’s it. I can’t imagine getting dressed for an office. I’m barely getting dressed for SAHM anymore, it’s more like pajamas 24/7.

    Oh, liking kindred bravely for underwear. I didn’t do maternity undies the first time but definitely needed them this time.

    Good luck out there ladies – 2 weeks till my induction!

  26. Katharine says:

    Big yes to that last point! Have a few things ready to go, but mostly be ready to purchase things as you need them (maternity or not). One thing I learned the hard way: just because you *can* squeeze into your pre-pregnancy clothes doesn’t mean you should. In my first pregnancy, I was determined to wear my regular jeans for as long as possible, and used all the rubber band tricks out there to squeeze into them through month five. Which meant that when I was finally through the postpartum phase, those jeans (which had been favorites)! were completely stretched out and weird and looked terrible. The second time around, I just wore maternity leggings and jeans as soon as they would stay up and never looked back.

Join The List

Stay up to date on the latest from Capitol Hill Style!


The Range: A Suit for Work

Have you ever just forgotten about a brand? Like had a brand completely fade from your memory, only to reappear and make you wonder how you ever forgot? For me, that’s LK Bennett.



Recent Posts

What I’m Really Buying on Prime Day

I will probably not open Instagram for the next two days. The Prime Day madness is just too thick. 90% of the items being promoted are things that I’ll throw away in two months (or less). But there are a handful of things I will use and are grateful to grab at a discount, here […]



The Five Best Things I Bought This Summer

This summer, I’m shopping significantly less than in past seasons. I add things to my cart, walk away, and if I forget about them, (clearly) I didn’t need them. But the flip side of the coin is that the pieces I have purchased are thoughtfully chosen, worn more consistently, and just better.




Features, The Range, Top Posts | July 18, 2024

The Range: A Suit for Work

Have you ever just forgotten about a brand? Like had a brand completely fade from your memory, only to reappear and make you wonder how you ever forgot? For me, that’s LK Bennett.



Features, Posts | July 16, 2024

What I’m Really Buying on Prime Day

I will probably not open Instagram for the next two days. The Prime Day madness is just too thick. 90% of the items being promoted are things that I’ll throw away in two months (or less). But there are a handful of things I will use and are grateful to grab at a discount, here […]



Fantastic Finds, Posts, Style | July 16, 2024

The Five Best Things I Bought This Summer

This summer, I’m shopping significantly less than in past seasons. I add things to my cart, walk away, and if I forget about them, (clearly) I didn’t need them. But the flip side of the coin is that the pieces I have purchased are thoughtfully chosen, worn more consistently, and just better.



Features, Posts | July 15, 2024

Anniversary Sale 2024: The Best of What’s Left

After a week of looting and pillaging by cardholders, influencers, and frequent shoppers, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is finally open to the public. Here are the best pieces chosen from the remaining selection.