I wanted to be one of those adorable pregnant ladies. The ones who love the way they feel when pregnant. The ones who dress fashionably and always look put together just with an adorable bump in front… turns out I was more in the category of- what is the bare minimum amount of maternity clothing I need to purchase to get by? Why doesn’t anything fit or look cute? And what the heck am I supposed to wear to that holiday party 30 weeks pregnant? Is beached whale in style?
I TRIED HARD WITH MY FIRST PREGNANCY
Like many-a-first-time pregnant momma, I tried lots of cute maternity clothes. (I was also working as a teacher, so I couldn’t just wear leggings & a t-shirt all day like I can now. #SAHMperks)
But I still felt meh about my fashion/ style most of that pregnancy. Jeans didn’t fit, dress clothes were awkward, leggings weren’t really in style at the time. Eventually, I reached beached whale status and all of the sudden, the pregnancy was over. And I couldn’t believe I’d spent money & energy on maternity clothes.
Plus, that’s when things really got awkward.
I WAS SHOCKED BY MY POSTPARTUM BODY
True story: I brought pre pregnancy clothes TO THE HOSPITAL. (Turns out, ignorance is NOT bliss.) When nothing fit, I had to send my husband on an emergency Target run for XL sweatpants please!!!
For 6-8 months postpartum, I went through several different sizes of clothes… My pre pregnancy shirts were too tight and clung in all the wrong places. And obviously, my pre pregnancy pants weren’t even close to getting over one thigh, let alone buttoning at the waste.
Every time I finally found something that fit decently well, it didn’t fit again 3 weeks later.
Even when the number on the scale finally got kind of close to what it was before baby, all my skin was rearranged and out of place.
I finally started to feel normal again around the 7-8 month mark, and BAM. Pregnant again. Surprise! Another baby. Except this time, I was a stay at home mom (cue the leggings + tees), and the seasons were opposite. Most of my first pregnancy maternity clothes were wintery, and my second baby was due in the summer.
Ay ay ay.
SO MANY BABIES
We went on to have 4 kiddos really close in age. I’ve been pregnant or nursing for 54 months out of the past 68.
My body has changed crazy amounts during the past 5.5 years, and looking back, I would have purchased maternity clothes very differently if I knew what I know now.
SO… WHAT DO YOU BUY? AND WHERE? AND FOR HOW MUCH?
Obviously, a lot of this will vary from momma to momma… your style, budget, lifestyle, etc… But I’ll cover all the maternity wardrobe staples for each trimester as well as postpartum clothing tips.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- How much can I afford to spend on clothing this pregnancy?
- How many different types of clothing do I need? Casual, professional, exercise, etc… (I’ve survived with a lot less variety during the pregnancies I was staying home compared to when I was working a professional job.)
- How in style do I want to be? Styles will change! All my pregnancies were within less than 6 years of each other, and the styles were already different…
MINIMALIST MATERNITY WARDROBE
Why minimalist? You can get through a pregnancy with a LOT less clothing than maternity clothing stores would have you think. You don’t need maternity versions of your entire wardrobe.
We’re talking a few months of each pregnancy that you need maternity clothes, and some in between months postpartum where neither maternity nor pre-pregnancy clothes fit.
In general, I personally prefer to spend more money on long-lasting wardrobe staples and pregnancy is so short (though it feels like a freakin’ eternity).
MATERNITY CLOTHING BASICS & FAVORITES
Here are the bare minimum maternity clothing basics I needed/ wanted by the time our 4th baby came around.
(Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission off purchases from customers I refer, at no additional cost to you of course. You can read what I do and don’t promote here.)
1. H&M skinny jeans. I didn’t discover these until my 4th pregnancy. They are AMAZING! Only $35 and they fit so well. You can fold the panel down pretty easily, but it’s not itchy at all either! The size that fit me well at 20 weeks was pretty tight by 30 weeks, so you might consider 2 different sizes. I assume I’ll wear the smaller size ones for a while postpartum. They have a lot of different styles & price points. I tried on one of each in my local store and these were my favorite fit.
2. Long tanks. I live in my black bodycon tank dresses from Forever 21 during pregnancy. They’re not maternity. They cover your butt in leggings and are a layering staple for me…. I wear a black one most days. You can find long maternity ones too if you prefer.
3. Tee-shirts. My preference is non-rouched for as long as possible, then rouched for the very end. Target’s new Isabel & Ingrid tee’s are super comfortable. I wore this non-rouched grey one for most of my second trimester. They have rouched (aka: shirred) too. In general, I find Target to have a decent quality for the price for maternity basics, plus some fun extras like all these fun tees! Target’s maternity clothes fit me well and it’s one of my first go-tos.
4. 1-2 tight dresses. If your lifestyle is pretty casual, you probably only need one. You can dress it up or down with accessories & shoes. I own one like pictured, and a friend lent me a second just for fun. I generally felt like flowy dresses made me look HUGE after 20-25 weeks… you’ll notice the model is always holding her bump to make those floral maxi dresses look cute. Since I don’t walk around with my hand there, I never pulled that look off well. But maybe you can!? To each her own 😉Here are a couple cute tight-fitting striped ones for ideas: Old Navy; BCBG; Target
5. Leggings. These were my absolute favorite. They’re over-the-bump but the band isn’t itchy at all. I wore them most days after about 20 weeks. They’re on the thicker side…. Which is nice, because they’re not see-through. But they’re probably too warm if you’re due during the summer. I liked these cheap under-the-bump ones as backups if my faves were dirty, and they’re thinner too!
6. Yoga pants. I wore my regular comfy pants up until 3rd trimester. When they got too tight, I bought one pair of maternity yoga pants on sale at Motherhood & liked them fine. Not amazing, but they’ll get the job done for 12 weeks. I only really wear them around the house. I like my mom life sweats from Ezra +Eli too.
7. New NON nursing bras. Ugh. Your boobs will go crazy during pregnancy and postpartum, so purchase wisely, my friend. I liked stretchy, non-underwire ones because they had more give for my ever fluctuating ladies. (More bang for your buck, if you will.) This 4th pregnancy, I wore 2 wireless bras from Victoria Secret for my 1st & 2nd trimesters: lightly lined wireless t-shirt bra; pink lightly lined wireless bra (That second one worked as a sports bra too!)
Another budget friendly option is to buy a nursing bra during your second trimester because it will likely fit you at some point during your nursing career. The ladies tend to change sizes a lot those first few months postpartum.
8. Nursing bras. Eventually, whatever your wearing will get too tight. In my 3rd trimester, I purchased these cheap highly rated nursing bras on Amazon. I’m surprised at the quality & comfort! I highly recommend them. They’ll work for most of nursing too. Except the first couple weeks… I always need about 2-4 weeks for my nursing boobs to become the size they’ll be for the duration of nursing. During that engorged-milk-coming-in time, I live in these sleep bras + nursing tanks because anything tighter is super uncomfortable.
9. Nursing Tanks. I live in these for a long time post baby. I usually had 2 sizes… a larger size for the first couple months postpartum, and a smaller size for the rest of nursing. I just wore the Target Gilligan O’Malley ones in neutral colors in grey, black, or white.
LAYERS & ACCESSORIES
Layering is a great way to add something trendy to your basic look. If you purchase maternity clothes that won’t go out of style (a few tanks, tees, and a good pair of jeans), then you can layer with whatever sweaters, jackets, button-downs, shoes, and accessories you want without spending a fortune on trendy maternity looks.
What about Exercise stuff?
I just wore maternity leggings + old tee shirts. But, some pelvic floor issues prevented me from exercising past 25 weeks. If you’re going to exercise regularly through your 3rd trimester (which you should if you can!), then it might be worth having 1 or 2 extra maternity workout tanks. Old Navy and Target have a lot of options.
1st trimester & postpartum
During the first trimester and for several months postpartum, neither maternity clothes nor regular clothes really fit. (With each pregnancy, I needed maternity clothes sooner and sooner because your tummy ‘pops’ sooner.)
The best suggestion I have is to buy the bare minimum because your size is changing so much. In general, I liked having 1 or 2 sizes of “in between” jeans, a few flowy tops, and stretchy pants galore. Leggings, jeggings, whatever floats your boat. Also, the rubberband/ hair tie trick makes my regular jeans last until about 15-20 weeks.
I have a whole other post on pelvic floor pregnancy issues. That post details compression gear options. These two items were a MUST HAVE LIFE CHANGER for me my 4th pregnancy, but I didn’t wear them before then. (v2 support | compression leggings)
Basically, if you’re in pain down there, there might be something you can wear to help. If you’re not in pain, you don’t need it.
Your body will change a zillion times. Purchase a few staples from cheaper mid quality brands (Target and H&M are my faves) to get you buy. Save the rest of your money for investing in long-term wardrobe staples when you’re at your new normal… 6-12 months (ish) postpartum.