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When You Should Buy Maternity Clothes

When Should I Buy Maternity Clothes?

by Joy O'Renick | Updated December 29, 2023 | News


It's normal to have a lot of questions about when to buy maternity clothes, and how many you really need.

The simple answer is that your body and your pregnancy are unique to you, and nothing is absolute. That said, here are a few recommendations from experienced pregnancy survivors that will give you a good idea of what to wear - and when to wear it - on your maternity journey. 

Related: 7 Maternity Wardrobe Must-Haves

When to Start Wearing Maternity Clothes

Trimester 1: get a bigger bra, maternity pants and/or maternity band, and some looser tops. Buy these when your old ones stop fitting comfortably.

Trimester 2: make the bulk of your maternity purchases (see our list of 7 Must-Have Items)

Trimester 3 & Beyond: supplement anything you need more of. Pro Tip: selecting nursing-friendly maternity clothes during pregnancy will mean you have to buy a lot less in the 4th trimester. 

Read on for tips about selecting the most flattering and comfortable maternity wardrobe possible. 

Start With Your Pre-Pregnancy Wardrobe

Before you break out your credit card, remember that being pregnant doesn’t mean non-pregnancy styles are suddenly unwearable. Quite the opposite - with a little sorting, you’ll be surprised by how many of your “regular” clothes you can still wear through most - or all - of your pregnancy.

A little inventory session works wonders. Go through your closet and remove anything tight, stiff, or waist-hugging. Stick these items in a storage box for later. Keep your favorite loose-fitting tops, open-front blazers, and empire waist dresses front and center. Next, choose a small, versatile maternity capsule wardrobe that pairs well with what you already own.

Related: Why Quality Maternity Clothes are a Surprisingly Good Investment


Dressing for Different Stages of Pregnancy

First Trimester: select looser-fitting styles that offer stretch to accommodate bloating. Chances are that your tummy still looks more like a big lunch than a baby bump at this point, so opt for flowy, forgiving tops. If your pants are already getting uncomfortable, add a stretch band or make maternity bottoms your first pregnancy purchase. 

Second Trimester: you’ll start needing more maternity items by this stage. As you need them, start investing in styles that look great now, while offering room to grow through month 9 (see below for our recommendations on the 8 essential maternity items). 

Third Trimester: prioritize comfort and give yourself some extra pampering during this time. If you still need more clothing, choose quality styles that breathe, stretch without being see-through, and are easy to get on and off. 

8 Essential Maternity Clothing Items:

  1. A couple of quality maternity/nursing bras. We recommend a more supportive bra for work and outings, and a very relaxed style at home. 
  2. Two pairs of go-to maternity pants, such as black maternity leggings and blue jeans. 
  3. A solid colored maternity dress in a timeless cut that can be dressed up or down. Bonus if it has hidden nursing access so you don’t have to buy twice. 
  4. A classic, nursing-friendly white maternity button down.
  5. A couple of pregnancy and nursing tank tops and t-shirts for layering. 
  6. A maternity pencil skirt or dress pants for meetings. 
  7. A roomy cardigan or jacket. 
  8. Comfortable, flat shoes you can slip on and off without bending over. 

 Blue Maternity Dress | Maternity Fashion & Workwear | MARION White Maternity Button Down Blouse and Black Maternity Pencil Skirt | MARION

Into the Blue Maternity/Nursing Dress.   White Maternity Blouse & Pencil Skirt

Selecting a Capsule Wardrobe

If you want to make your pregnancy more sustainable or affordable (or both), a capsule wardrobe is a fantastic way to maximize your investment and minimize your footprint. Here’s how to do it. 

  1. First, decide on a couple of neutral, complimentary colors that pair well with the pregnancy friendly clothes in your closet (beige and black, navy and gray, or etc.).
  2. Select your foundational pieces, such as dresses and pants in these colors.
  3. Stick with solid colors for the most part (an occasional pattern or color pop should be chosen carefully). 
  4. Opt for styles with nursing access to extend the life of your capsule. 
  5. Choose styles made from quality, breathable fabrics that will still look great after 20 washes. 

Putting together a beautiful maternity wardrobe doesn’t have to be painful. A bit of planning will leave you with nearly endless outfit options using just a few well-chosen pieces. Bottom line: embrace the changes in your body and enjoy the journey of dressing stylishly for motherhood. 


What are your best maternity style tricks and tips? What do you wish the maternity work wear market offered that it doesn't yet? We'd love to hear your comments below. 


Author BioJoy O’Renick lives with her husband and young sons on a mini farm in Oregon where she and her family grow food and host board game nights. Joy is a longtime teacher, principal, and education executive. In 2022, she launched MARION out of 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 Bailamos, a Latin Dance nonprofit, a member of the Emerge Oregon Board of Directors, and a former foster parent and mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Education & Educational Leadership. 

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