Maternity fashion is a bumpy ride – here’s how to navigate it

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Maternity fashion can be a bumpy ride – especially if you want to a) keep things as eco-friendly as possible and b) keep new purchases to a minimum. Here’s what you need to know, according to Shaz Muradova. 

We found out we were pregnant right at the beginning of 2021, just months after I started my new business in the middle of the pandemic. Ideal.

As I wasn’t milking cash left and right yet, I knew we had to be sensible with our budget, especially when it came to pregnancy and baby-related purchases. And, after researching the essentials for newborns, making a list, and setting up online price alerts, our minds became a lot calmer.

But then my bump started growing, and I realised there are other expenses that I forgot to factor in. Expenses like, say, maternity clothes. 

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Knowing that unplanned shopping instances can accumulate into a sizable sum of money, I got to planning as much as possible. And, along the way, I picked up some tips on how to create a sustainable and minimalist maternity wardrobe.

Wardrobe mise en place

My main objective was to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe that consisted of bump-friendly clothes I already own, plus a few purchases that would serve me well during pregnancy and beyond.

Also, to prevent myself having any nagging thoughts about upcoming body changes, I packed away everything that was clearly not going to fit or be used during pregnancy, giving me a great chance to resell some items along the way.

Maternity fashion: make your regular jeans work longer by threading an elastic band partway through the buttonhole and back through its tail. Pull to tighten and wrap the loop around the button.

I kept this trend up, packing away items throughout my pregnancy as and when they stopped fitting. This gave plenty of space to keep my capsule wardrobe on a constant display, which encouraged me to rotate outfits instead of sticking to one or two looks.

Borrows and steals

When starting to build your maternity wardrobe, speak to friends and family and even colleagues before you buy anything new; someone might have a collection of jumpers that aren’t getting enough attention, or your friend that was recently pregnant might be looking to declutter their wardrobe and house. It was in this way that I inherited my partner’s unused raincoat and my friend’s bump support belt, as well as a pregnancy balance ball and some maternity jeans.

Pre-loved maternity fashion

You’re almost guaranteed to come across some unexpected gems on pre-loved fashion websites like Loopster, By Rotation, eBay, PreLoved, or your local charity shops.

Fun fact: most secondhand maternity clothes have hardly been worn. Just be sure to look for any stains and fades – especially under armpits and around necklines – and check the fit (some items may have stretched or shrunk in the wash) before you buy.

If you need extra guidance, check out this insider’s guide to finding great clothes in charity shops; it’s packed to the brim with advice and tips.

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First trimester – silence before the storm

Most people will find that the clothes they already own fit quite well for the first trimester. It wasn’t until the third month, in fact, that I started noticing my high-waisted jeans were starting to get uncomfortable – but only then if I was seated for longer than two hours. 

Essentially, no calls for new purchases just yet (and make friends with your loose-fitting dresses).

Second trimester – it’s all about comfort, baby

Maternity jeans

The first maternity fashion category that I had to invest in, like so many others, was jeans. I’m a high-waist person when it comes to denim, so almost all of my jeans stopped being comfortable around the fourth month. 

As comfort is the first must-have in all of my purchases, I tried both underbump and overbump maternity jeans to figure out what works best. And the verdict? Well, underbump jeans come with elastic side slits and are great for the first and second trimesters, while overbump jeans – and denim dungarees – are more comfortable for the second and the third trimesters. (Trust me; you’ll feel the difference when you sit down for over an hour, as the pressure around your bladder is quite noticeable). 

Maternity fashion: try to look for maternity jeans that will serve you after your pregnancy.

I can absolutely see myself wearing my underbump maternity jeans well after my pregnancy, as they are basically a more comfortable version of my regular high-waist jeans. So, in my mind, that’s an eco-friendly purchase, too.

Item recommendations: ASOS Design maternity jeans and Topshop maternity overbump jeans.

Soft trousers

Soft trousers tend to fit for a little longer than jeans do. I found the rule of thumb to be this; the tighter you like them, the earlier you have to quit them. For example, I had to pack away slim trousers around month four, but my stretchy trousers fit comfortably until month six.

Item recommendations: Petit Pli Adult Beta Bottoms, Uniqlo stretch trousers, and Seraphine overbump chinos.

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Bras

I was not expecting much growth during pregnancy, but by month five almost all my bras stopped fitting well (wired and soft bralettes), so I had to upsize by at least one cup size. From what I’m told, though, they will grow more if and when you start breastfeeding, so it’s a good idea to avoid stocking up on too many in the early stages of pregnancy.

Do buy new, though, and do get measured; it’s an important investment, as you’ll be doing your back and your breasts a favour by wearing well-fitting underwear. It’s also worth considering wearing a non-wired bra to bed if you’re feeling really uncomfortable, but don’t feel you have to ditch the underwire all together; as long as the wire doesn’t dig in and as long as it still fits, you are completely fine.

Item recommendations: Bravado ballet bra, H&M Mama 2-pack bras, and Curvy Kate’s unwind bralette.

Maternity fashion: some women notice their boobs start to get bigger as early as week six of pregnancy, while others say their breasts don’t start to grow until the third trimester. Everyone is different.

Sportswear 

The NHS advises that pregnant women keep up their normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as they feel comfortable, and they’ve said there’s even some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour (anything to keep me thinking positively, eh?). 

The rule for maternity sportswear bottoms is this; it’s got to have tummy support, especially for activities like jogging, moderate tennis or brisk walks. Without it, you might get muscle cramps during your exercise.

It’s also important to note that leggings have various material rigidity depending on what type of activity they’re aimed for (e.g. high-pressure supportive material for running and lower pressure, softer fits for yoga). 

Maternity fashion: your maternity activewear should feel like a supportive second skin.

With this in mind, high-intensity activity leggings (usually labelled as ‘running’ or ‘gym’ leggings) provide excellent tummy support for an hour or two, but they stop feeling comfortable or even fitting overall from month four or five. Softer leggings tend to fit comfortably during all activities for longer, as well as all-day lounging.

You also need to look out for breathability (you don’t want to get too hot when you’re pregnant, believe me) and opaque fabrics that wash well, as you will most likely have one or two pairs on rotation.

Item recommendations: Lululemon Align yoga pants, Nike One maternity leggings, and JoJo Maman Bébé’s active support cropped maternity leggings.

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Third Trimester – for the love of high waist

Dresses 

If you have a wardrobe filled with loose-fitting dresses (not to mention anything pleated or shirred with a high waist), then you probably won’t need much else; these items should see you through safely until at least the seventh month of your pregnancy. After that, you might need to double-check things still look presentable; you may find that, due to the aforementioned changes to your bra size, some front buttons might start stretching apart.

A-line and high-waisted summer dresses are great for the whole pregnancy as they don’t constrain the bump. Knitted and relaxed fit jumper dresses, meanwhile, are excellent for colder months.

Item recommendations: Sleeper Atlanta dress, & Daughter Dawn Dress, and the Ganni knit dress.

Maternity fashion: loose-fitting dresses will serve you well all the way through your pregnancy.

Shirts 

Being a big fan of relaxed fit shirts in general, I already had a good number of items that could accommodate the bump. They are very easy to style and look elegant on every occasion.

Item recommendations: Arket linen shirt, Mint Velvet blue oversized shirt, and the French Connection Reta over shirt.

Coats and jackets 

When the cold strikes, you can rely on the cape, wrap and poncho-style items. They are quite generous with their fit and can be thrown over to match most of your outfits.

Item recommendations: IRO wool coat via Vestiaire Collective, and the Jigsaw wool cape.

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No-fuss extras

Bags 

I found that, from around month five, my back started complaining about any unnecessary weight that I carried for too long, so I tended to opt for smaller bags. Remember, though, that dehydration is your first enemy during pregnancy, so you will most likely want one with room to stash a bottle of water at all times.

Shoes

Keep it flat, keep it comfortable, and go with something you can rely on all day every day.

For example:

  • White trainers (they go with everything)
  • Colourful trainers (a nice way of juicing up your otherwise neutral looks)
  • Espadrilles (show me it’s summer without saying that it’s summer)
  • Supportive flat sandals (Birkenstocks, anyone?)
  • Elegant mules (genuinely amazing when you can’t keep up with frequent pedicures anymore)
  • Flat boots (ideal for wetter, wintry months)

Occasionwear 

Ever since apps like By Rotation (a peer-to-peer fashion rental platform) launched, I stopped worrying about being outfit-ready for any occasion without blowing the budget. Whether you’re packing for a holiday or attending a wedding, they have so many bump-friendly options for most price points. Rental sites like these, too, make sustainable fashion more accessible and prolong the life cycle of quality items already in circulation, which helps to avoid the £140 million worth of textile waste that goes to landfill every year. Win.

A few other bits and bobs

Any additional accessories can make a big difference in your looks. For me, those were statement earrings or headbands, as they instantly elevated any look and made me feel a little extra.

Maternity fashion: you can transform outfits with a few well-chosen accessories.

Summary: it’s a bumpy ride

That initial wardrobe prep I mentioned was really helpful, as it meant that I didn’t have to think too long about my OOTD (outfit of the day) each morning. It also helped me to feel stylish and put together, which is a big plus when your body is going through so many changes, and encouraged me to wear all my maternity items on a regular basis.

Of course, everybody will have their own wardrobe preferences based on their comfort needs, budget, and occasions that require a specific outfit. My personal capsule wardrobe, however, ended up consisting of:

  • Three or four boyfriend fit shirts
  • Two pairs of maternity jeans
  • Five dresses
  • Two pairs of sports bottoms (joggers and a pair of soft yoga pants)
  • Two bras for everyday
  • One non-maternity skirt (a pleated Uniqlo number that didn’t need ironing!)
  • Five tops
  • Two pairs of trainers 
  • One pair of classic Toms

Remember, you really don’t need to go overboard on a wardrobe filled with new maternity clothes, as you will only wear them for a few months. Borrow what you can, shop around on secondhand sites, or rent the odd special outfit – and, if you do end up buying new, be sure to stick to the key things and consider whether or not these items will serve you after pregnancy.

Good luck!

Images: Getty

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