Though I had absolutely no control over the timing, having a fall baby has provided a fantastic gestational fashion calendar. It was still cold out when I needed to hide my bump in the nascent pregnancy days, and with the help of belly bands, I cruised into the second trimester still wearing my favorite jeans. As soon as we went public with the news and the temperature promised not to go below 75 for a while, I ditched pants entirely and have spent the summer in dresses and skirts.
Initially, I was intimidated by maternity fashion. It’s a drop in the bucket, time-wise, which makes it difficult to figure out how to spend your clothing budget. But it’s also a really important time, during which your body becomes a science experiment and feeling pretty is both impossible and crucial for your mental health—so you’ve got to make something work.
Late in my first trimester, I tried on almost every dress I own, and with very little exception, I realized I’d spent the past few years accidentally padding my wardrobe with bump-friendly options. My clothes were loose and flowy to begin with, or had enough stretch to both accommodate and accentuate my growing midsection. It’s only in the past week or so that I’ve had to retire a few of my favorite non-maternity options, which is incredible considering I’m due next month and I’ve gained every bit of the recommended weight. I highly recommend taking inventory of what you’ve got; I realize not everyone will find that they’ve been walking around for years dressed like a pregnant person, but I promise you’ll see a few of your outfits in a new light.
Once you’ve assessed your closet situation, invest in a few basics. I purchased the “bundle” from Storq, and it has been become integral to my maternity wardrobe. They send leggings, a tank, a short sleeve dress, and a high-waisted skirt and I’ve been able to style each piece with components of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. The skirt has become my favorite option because somehow, almost every shirt I own still looks good with it. Button downs get tied off above my waistline, flowier tops are a little snug but hang nicely over my bump, and adding a jean or leather jacket to the look makes me feel more like an adult and less like a baby-stuffed parade float.
For shoppers willing to stalk a good deal, Asos is a pregnant lady’s shopping mecca. Their maternity selection is massive and on-trend, and while overall I think they are reasonably-priced, their site-wide sales are worth waiting for. I’m being as patient as possible to for the next sale to see the prices on this sweater, this swing dress, and this coat, which will all carry nicely into my post-birth clothing collection.
For those of you who don’t love online shopping, try your luck at the Free People and Anthropologie sale racks. Their clothes tend toward the looser, more ethereal end of the fashion spectrum, which is perfect for your expanding torso. I snatched up a few flowy dresses (all for under $40) and, now that my bump has lifted the front hems a little too high for bare leg comfort, I’m excited to transition them into fall with tights and boots. Look for dresses that either have an empire waist or no waist (like a shift dress) or go a size up and purchase something formfitting but with a forgiving spandex-to-regular-fabric ratio.
Pregnancy has also taught me to embrace accessorizing. I spent seven years at an all-girls, Catholic school that adhered to a strict uniform code, and the experience left me wary of sparkly self-expression. (On my first day of college, I remember waiting for the professor to give detention to the girl next to me wearing huge hoop earrings and chewing gum.) Pregnancy has released those fears, however, and now I am super appreciative of the mileage a good necklace can give a simple dress or pair of jeans. Accessories have the added bonus of being just as effective and useful during pregnancy as after, so I deeply encourage using that rationalization while you’re shopping. Try Becket Hitch for clutches, South Moon Under for bold necklaces, and ForRent for comfortable but cool lady sneakers.
And finally, don’t be afraid to borrow. Pregnant people and new moms have so much stuff, and giving second lives to clothes and outgrown baby items is a relief. Take lunch over to your fashionable mom friend and let her reminisce about her pregnancy while you raid her closet. It’ll be good for your wallet and her new mama soul.