Maternity work clothes Canada, striped knit maternity sweater dress by MARION.

Styling Your Baby Bump, Trimester to Trimester

Are you in your first weeks of pregnancy and wondering when you should start wearing maternity clothes? Do you worry about whether your maternity clothes will look good during all 3 (or 4) trimesters? Do you need guidance on what styles will look best during your first few "bloaty" weeks, or what to wear to work during your third trimester? In this guide, we'll share expert tips and tricks to help you navigate the world of maternity style with confidence and ease - trimester by trimester.

First Trimester: Embracing the Small Bump

During the initial stages of pregnancy, your bump may not be very pronounced. However, you may experience bloating and subtle changes in your overall body shape. Here are some tips to help you dress comfortably and stylishly during this phase:

  1. Wear Stretchy Pants: While you may not need full-fledged maternity pants just yet, opt for comfortable bottoms like leggings or jeggings that offer flexibility and accommodate any bloating or expansion. Consider investing in a pair or two of stretch maternity jeans for added comfort.

    1822 Straight Leg Maternity Jeans    |    Accouchee Skinny Maternity Jeans

  1. Opt for Loose-Fitting Clothing: Choose tops and dresses with loose silhouettes that provide comfort and accommodate any early pregnancy bloat. We typically recommend restraint when it comes to patterns, but a nice busy pattern can help divert attention from the bloat at this stage. Check your pre-pregnancy wardrobe for any forgiving, patterned tops you already own.  

  2. Pick up a Bigger Bra: while you may not experience many visible changes to your body during your first trimester, it is very likely that your breasts will become more tender and quite a bit heavier. When that happens, you will need some good quality, comfortable maternity bras. We recommend choosing maternity bras with nursing straps so your pregnancy lingerie can stick around for breastfeeding duty down the road. 

Second Trimester: Highlighting the Baby Bump

As your pregnancy progresses into the second trimester, your bump will become more pronounced. This is a great time to flesh out your maternity wardrobe and enjoy the experience of being visibly pregnant. Here are some tips for styling your growing bump during this stage:

  1. Get More Pants: if you cruised through your first trimester without buying actual maternity pants, the party is about to end. In your second trimester, your bump will almost certainly grow enough that non-maternity pants will be out of the question. In addition to the maternity jeans you picked up during trimester one, purchase some maternity leggings, and a pair of nicely tailored maternity dress pants if you're a professional mama-to-be.

Black maternity work pants | sustainable maternity dress pants | petite friendly

Wear Everywhere Eco Maternity Leggings | Favorite Maternity Work Pants

  1. Invest in Maternity Tops: Maternity-specific tops are designed to showcase your bump while providing a flattering silhouette. For fitted pieces, your two choices are stretch tops or ruched styles. Stretch tops tend to look more polished (and less early 2000s preggo), and they're now just as comfortable as ruched tops, thanks to amazing progress in stretch fabric technology. Flowy maternity blouses are also great options. Keep the 4th trimester in mind and invest in tops with fully hidden nursing access. Either way, your bump will be getting real during your second trimester, and you will need maternity shirts with room to grow.

Elizabeth TENCEL Maternity & Nursing Blouse | Ashley Bamboo Maternity & Nursing Tank 

  1. Embrace the Empire Waist: Empire waist tops and dresses are incredibly flattering during pregnancy. They provide ample room for your bump while creating a defined waistline just under your breasts, where you will look most trim. If you have a loose fitting top or dress, adding a belt just below your bust line will create an instant empire waist (one belt, twice the 'fits). 


Maternity Suit Top paired with maternity pencil skirt. Professional maternity & nursing work outfit with invisible breastfeeding zippers. Sustainable, petite and standard sizes, navy blue.Nude maternity dress, fancy maternity & nursing dresses for work and occasion, TENCEL with empire waist, zipper breastfeeding access, and full skirt with pockets. Sustainable. Beige.

  Sloan Maternity & Nursing Suit Top  |  Sarah Empire Maternity & Nursing Dress 

Third Trimester: Prioritizing Comfort

In the final stretch of your pregnancy, comfort becomes paramount. Your baby bump will be at its largest, and finding clothing that allows for ease of movement and breathability is crucial.  Stay comfortable and stylish in your third trimester with these tips:

    1. Love Your Maternity Leggings: As your bump continues to grow, you may find that most of your maternity pants begin to pinch, especially around your belly and thighs. Weather permitting, maternity leggings will become your go-to during this stage, thanks to the unrivaled comfort and support they offer your heavy, heavy bump.

    2. Opt for Over-Belly Pants: If you loved your under-belly maternity work pants or jeans early in pregnancy, you may be disappointed to find that they've become unwearable when the elastic under-belly band reaches the end of its stretch. We recommend over-bump styles for trimesters 2 and 3 for this reason. The soft, supportive fabric of an over belly band is made to grow with you to the end, and is much less likely ever to pinch or chafe. 

    3. Wear Flowy, Forgiving Dresses: no matter the weather, there is nothing better for the third trimester than a flowy dress in a forgiving fabric (read: breathable and substantial enough to conceal extra bloating, sweating, or leaking). Loose-fitting styles allow you to move and breathe as easily as possible during a time when both are increasingly difficult. If you want a bit more shape to your look, a well-chosen empire dress can provide fantastic movement and comfort while providing a flattering waistline.

    4. Wear Slip On Shoes: It's amazing how important this will become as your toes get farther out of reach! Put away your lace-ups and fully commit to the slides, flip flops, and flats in your life. 

Remember, these tips are meant to serve as guidelines, and it's important to find what works best for your individual style and body. Embrace the journey of styling your bump and have fun experimenting. By selecting versatile pieces that will grow with you, and considering both comfort and style, you can confidently navigate the world of maternity fashion. Look fabulous at every stage and free fully enjoy the wonder of what your amazing body can do. 
What is the hardest trimester to dress for? What is your best maternity style tip? 
Author Bio: Joy O’Renick is mama to 3 sons and wife to a wonderful husband accurately described as an "adorable Pixar dad". She gets to live on a mini farm in Oregon where she and her family grow food and host board game nights. Joy is a longtime teacher and educational leader. In 2022, she launched MARION from a desire to empower working moms and limit pregnancy discrimination in the professional world. Joy is a frequent contributing author at Motherly. Joy is a  founding member of a local Latin Dance nonprofit, and a former foster parent and mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Educational & Educational Leadership. 

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