Many women struggle with self-image and confidence during pregnancy. Our bodies are changing rapidly, and bloating and major shifts in weight can create both anxiety and real fashion challenges. If you're a mama-to-be who wants to stay chic and maintain the style you had before pregnancy, these 10 tips will ensure you continue to look (and feel) beautiful at every stage of maternity. Take heart — being a pregnant woman is hard, but remaining fashionable while you're expecting really is possible!
Dress for Your Figure:
No two pregnant women have the same shape. Embrace your individual body proportions and only invest in the cuts that are most flattering for you personally. Most women keep a lot of their former shape during pregnancy, and tend to put on weight where they always have - plus weight in the middle, of course! If you've always had thin legs, you will probably still have thinner legs during pregnancy. If you've always had full hips, this will likely still be true. Rather than trying to mimic other pregnant women you know or rock that maternity dress just because a celebrity wore it well, stick with what you already know about how to dress yourself, and keep doing it. A caveat: if you always had a small waist before pregnancy, you may want to look into dressing as an "apple-shaped" woman, as this will give you an idea of what cuts tend to suit a broader mid-section. This post by Nikki Whittle is a great starting point. Otherwise, the best rule of thumb is: keep wearing what makes you feel stylish and comfortable.
Start with the Little Black Dress:
Classic, elegant, flattering, and wearable on almost any occasion - the magic of a little black dress is undeniable whether you're pregnant or not. For a stylish maternity, all you need is two: an elegant LBD for work and occasions, and a more casual maternity sweater dress for everything else.
Go for Skinny:
Were skinny jeans or slim work trousers some of your best looks before you were pregnant? Are you more than a little annoyed that they've been less trendy recently? Good news, you can absolutely keep (or start) wearing leg-hugging pants as an expecting mom. Pregnant women can get away with skinny pants during even the most wide-leg obsessed fashion eras because skinny jeans and pants are universally accepted maternity staples. What else could so perfectly balance out your swelling tummy with a slim silhouette on your bottom half? Of course, you'll want to buy maternity jeans and maternity dress pants with room for your growing belly. (Under belly styles are favored by many mamas for early pregnancy and postpartum because they are often adjustable and wear most like "regular" pants. Over-belly styles tend to become favorites in mid to late pregnancy because they are often the most comfortable option for large baby bumps.) In addition to maternity jeans and maternity dress pants, maternity leggings are also a great "skinny" option for showing off your new pregnancy curves, and possibly the most comfortable pregnancy fashion item on the planet.
Show Some Skin:
Being pregnant doesn't mean you need to hide your body - quite the opposite! Pregnancy tends to come with lots of new curves, including a likely (major) cleavage boost, just sayin'. Show off your glowing skin and your assets with some arm-baring maternity dresses, booty-hugging maternity skirts, or a simple maternity tank top. Truly, pregnancy is not a time to hide behind your clothes. It's a time to celebrate your amazing body - and show it off as much as you're comfortable.
Splurge on Your Foundation Pieces:
While it can feel strange to invest a lot of money in a pregnancy wardrobe that feels "temporary," keep in mind that the maternity stage can last 9 months to nearly 3 years, depending on recovery time and if or how long you choose to breastfeed (the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends nursing for 2 years). And that's just for 1 baby - go for 2, and you're looking at up to 6 years in maternity and nursing clothes! For this reason, it makes sense to think about your maternity wardrobe in the same way you think about your regular wardrobe. After all, how many of your "regular" wardrobe items do you wear for more than 6 years? Look your most stylish during pregnancy by purchasing a few high-quality basics like black leggings, jeans, a couple of button down blouses, a few tank tops, a little black dress, a pencil skirt, a pair of work pants, and maternity to nursing bras. Bonus tip: purchase these key wardrobe items in designs you can use even after pregnancy, and they will be well worth the premium investment.
Be Picky with Patterns:
A well-chosen pattern or print in your maternity wardrobe can be beautiful and flattering. But choose your patterns carefully. Unless a print is truly stunning, it isn't typically a great investment. Uninteresting and unattractive patterns muddy the rest of your garment choices, and lend a "careless" effect to your look - kind of like a bad necktie paired with an otherwise decent suit. Long story short: a truly phenomenal pattern is well worth adding to your wardrobe, but be picky when you buy prints, and don't buy too many.
If you want to look taller and leaner while you're pregnant, solid neutral maternity styles are queen. By and large, solid colored garments read as more elegant and put-together than prints. Solids also mix-and-match easily, making them a more versatile choice if you're buying just a few pregnancy pieces for a capsule wardrobe. The darker the tone, the more slimming and versatile (think black, navy blue, dark gray, and brown). If you aren't feeling creative with your color matching, pull the ultimate fashion power move and dress in one solid color from head to toe. There's a reason celebrities do this constantly.
Try Things On - If You Can:
Sadly, most brick and mortar maternity stores have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years. However, a few fantastic locations are still standing across the US, offering mamas-to-be the opportunity to actually try on maternity pieces before they buy. On the West Coast, Nest Maternity in San Fransisco, CA offers an excellent range of pregnancy options, including maternity workwear, activewear, and basics. They also offer Petite maternity styles in-store. Amma Maternity in South Pasadena doesn't offer much in the way of maternity workwear, but does sell well-chosen maternity basics, undergarments, and dresses. On the East Coast, OHM Maternity in Charlotte North Carolina carries a variety of maternity dresses, tops, and jeans. OHM is happily beginning to offer maternity workwear for working mamas, as they cater to working pregnant mamas from Washington DC to NYC. If your Google search for "maternity store near me" sadly doesn't yield the results you need, look for online maternity stores that offer free shipping and exchanges so you can find pregnancy clothes that fit without buying stock in UPS.
Maxi Your Fashion Potential:
Maxi dresses are a must-have item for your stylish pregnancy wardrobe. Regardless of your body type or shape, these comfortable, empire waist dresses tend to be flattering and chic. The timeless look of a well-chosen maxi will keep you looking glamorous and stylish throughout your pregnancy while giving you lots of room to breathe.
Accessorize to Keep it Fresh:
Lastly, keep your beautifully-chosen maternity clothes looking fresh with vibrant, colorful accessories. Pair your pregnancy pieces with your favorite bags, jewelry, scarves, and shoes. Accessories can take your favorite black maternity dress from work (think blazer and pumps) to date night (think gorgeous jewelry and strappy shoes). Timeless maternity pieces bring the elegance, but accessories bring the fun and sense of individual style. The combination is sure to be magic!
About the Author:
Joy O’Renick is bio mama to two beautiful toddler boys, and adopted mama to an amazing 24-year-old son. She, her husband Miles, and their youngest sons live on a mini farm in Oregon where they grow food, play in the woods, and host board game nights. Joy is a teacher, educational leader, and businesswoman. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Education and is a frequent contributing writer for Mother.ly.