Ask any pregnant woman or new mom about their experience with maternity clothes, and you’ll probably hear some combination of the following: frustration, exhaustion, and the sense that, c’mon, it’s (almost) 2017—shouldn’t we be able to do better than this?
To be fair, the selection is certainly better now than it’s ever been before—just check out an old photo of your mom in a pastel muumuu if you need confirmation of that—but anyone who wants to keep their style intact while pregnant still has some challenges ahead. For one, there’s the question of jeans—when do you give up on your old pairs? Should you invest in designer denim knowing you’ll only wear it for a few months?
Where do you need to shop from the maternity department, and where can you get away with just sizing up a bit? And how the heck do you tackle cocktail wear (ah, the irony)?
These are just a few of the questions the five awesome moms-to-be we talked to for this story have been reckoning with the past nine months—and as editors, bloggers, and entrepreneurs in the fashion and fitness worlds, they’ve come up with at least a few answers that don’t sacrifice style. Below, read about their experiences with shopping and getting dressed while pregnant, and pick up tips on where to find maternity clothes that don’t suck.
Where real moms found their favorite maternity clothes | @stylecaster
Founder of LIVELY
34 weeks, second child
"With my first pregnancy, my mindset was more like, OK, I'm pregnant, and this is what you do when you're pregnant—you go buy maternity shirts, dresses, and pants. But I just felt not myself at all, style-wise. So this time I've really embraced just looking at my closet and saying, what can I repurpose as a maternity look? And what do I need to fill in?
The biggest change in my look has been that I can't wear any of the bottoms that I'm used to—whether it's more of the harem-y, baggy look or anything wide-leg or flared or high-waisted. There are no options. So I started buying denim from DL 1961 and Zara and just distressing it myself and trying to make it as relevant as possible. It's funny, because I was so not DIY before this. I also bought these leggings from Hatch. I think they do a good job with bottoms because they don't come all the way up—they sit low, which is nice."
Riley Cutoff Maternity Boyfriend Cropped Jean, $124.60 (was $178); at DL1961
"Hatch also did a collaboration with Bandier on workout gear that I've been loving, because it's supposed to be clothes that you can wear before, during, and after pregnancy. Revolve has a good assortment of brands, whether they're maternity or not, and Net-A-Porter is easy as well. And then I just fill in with basics from Everlane, Zara, and Uniqlo."
The Hatch x Bandier Interlocking Bra/Tank, $78; at Bandier
"In the summer, I was buying a lot of off-the-shoulder dresses and wearing them as shirts. Then I can actually wear them as dresses when I'm not pregnant anymore. I follow this Instagram account @mamaandtata. They're sisters—Mama has daughters and then Tata is the aunt. They're very in tune to style and they're always recommending their looks. There are a lot of flowy things, but they showed how you can get tighter as your belly gets bigger and its more flattering."
Maven West Off-Shoulder Knot Dress, $195; at Revolve
"Activewear I definitely had to reinvest in. Same with bras. I just switched completely to bralettes with no wires. It's just much more comfortable. Both me and [LIVELY's creative director] Sarah are pregnant right now, so we wanted to make sure our bralettes would work for women that are having babies and are nursing and so forth. So we made sure that the coverage and the stretch and the cups could be really flexible. And now we're actually working on a couple of maternity styles."
The Cross-Back Bralette, $35; at LIVELY
"Weddings and dinners are really hard. I took a lot of things that were supposed to be flowier from Helmut Lang and stuff and just wore them tight. The one thing I haven't been able to find at all is a winter coat. If anyone has tips, I'm dying. I've just been wearing this giant pink furry coat and a lot of scarves. But everything that I've seen that's maternity—no. It's not cute.
One thing I learned from this pregnancy is you don't have to give up on yourself. You can still keep the core of who you are. You just have to do a little bit more work and be creative and change what the objective of certain pieces are—like take a dress and make it to a shirt, or take jogger pants and make them part of your look."
Skinny Maternity Jeans, $69.90; at Zara
Celebrity trainer and founder of dance-cardio studio AKT
34 weeks, first child
"It's funny, I look back at things I used to wear, whether it's fitness apparel or my summer clothes, and think to myself, wow, that's really small. It's a weird feeling to see your body transform so much when not much else has changed. I'm eating sometimes less than I normally would, and your body just changes the way it needs to change to support a growing being. It's really amazing. There are recent mornings where I wake up and think, Oh, that's right, I'm still pregnant!
I like wearing stretchy dresses because those are easy. Summer clothes, to me, feel much easier to wear, because nice, flowy dresses transition easily with maternity. But winter clothes are very constraining, so it's getting a little bit harder to maintain the wardrobe that I already have. I've been in all the maternity stores and I really was not a fan of clothes, so I'll buy a beautiful cashmere or wool sweater from One Grey Day in a small instead of an extra small, and wear that with T-shirts and stretchy shirts I already own underneath. Layering is great for the winter because most of the stuff I already have—thermal t-shirts, long sleeves—they'll fit. Monrow has some really nice cashmere stretchy turtleneck dresses that I've made staples and then Bobeau, it's a Nordstrom line, has some airy shirts and sweater dresses and jackets that hang really beautifully, so it feels like I'm elongating my line."
Cashmere Turtleneck, $370; at Monrow
"I mostly order online and try stuff on at home because it's kind of exhausting to walk around for an extended period of time, and you always feel like you have to pee. Buru is a great maternity site. Hatch is another one. The majority of my maternity clothes are actually from my studio—we sell beautiful ready-to-wear, and so I can try it on there, essentially like I was at home, and then decide whether it works or not."
Bobeau Butter High/Low Top, $42; at Nordstrom
"I found that the jeans I like the best are Paige Denim. They don’t feel like or look like maternity jeans—they look like regular jeans, just with two pieces of elastic where the pockets would be, so it's super comfortable and incognito. It was definitely trial-and-error, though—even with Paige, the black jeans didn't fit, the gray jeans, the fabric was different, and I didn't like the boot-cut because I felt like I wanted that long, skinny leg. My Frame jeans actually still fit—Karlie Kloss gave me a pair of her line for them. I don't know what women did before stretch jeans. It's such a miracle for pregnancy."
Verdugo Ankle Maternity Jean, $199; at Paige
"The line that I just did for Target has a pair of maternity pants that give you more room in the waistband so you can pull it up over your bump. But usually if you buy one size up, the waist fits, even if it's not a maternity pant. And then when you're pregnant, you're always heated around your core, so it's nice to keep things airy on top—we have a bunch of sweaters that are easy to put on and have mesh, so they allow for that air circulation so that you can cool down and go right to work from the workout. And with bras, I'm not doing high-impact workouts anymore, so I don't feel like I need a ton of support, but I want to make sure they're comfortable and not too tight. Your rib cage expands, so instead of an extra small, I'm wearing a small. You don't want to spend a lot of energy pulling on a really tight top before you work out."
C9 Champion Limited Edition by Anna Keiser Asymmetrical Sweatshirt (available January 1); at Target
35 weeks, freelance writer and editor
"I feel like I read all of these interviews with women about pregnancy style, and they're like, 'Oh, my style didn't change at all!' And I'm like, dude, OK, maybe if you live in L.A. and you only wear beautiful vintage hippie dresses and you only gain weight in your belly, then OK, your style doesn't change. But my style for sure did. I didn't quite realize how much of the basis of my style having a defined waist is. Before getting pregnant, I'd switched exclusively to high-waist jeans—I love the look of a button-down shirt tucked into them. So it definitely was a big realization that for me, I instantly could not wear any of my jeans.
I ended up just getting one pair of really great AG jeans—they fit amazingly well, and they're actually long enough for me, and I'm a pretty tall person. They're really soft, they're great. I just decided to get one pair of really nice jeans as opposed to getting a bunch of cheaper pairs."
AG Maternity Skinny Jeans, $235; at Macy’s
"I'm not super trendy, but I definitely do enjoy having some fun with what I’m wearing, and you realize pretty quickly when you're really pregnant that you feel best in more basic, streamlined things—at least I did—because your bump is like a style statement on its own. You're very curvy, you feel and look very feminine. It's a lot of gray, a lot of black, which I normally would not be that into, but I wanted to be more streamlined. It's not about being skinny, because that's long gone, but more about letting your shape and your curves be the feature, rather than your clothes. But then that means I just look at my options of what I have to wear and like, yawn. So boring, you know?"
Liz Lange for Target Maternity Striped Swing Dress, $14.98; at Target
"Old Navy was definitely a big thing for me—Old Navy and Target. Normally I wouldn't be that into fast fashion, but I just found it to be necessary. What's funny is that a lot of maternity clothing out there, it's just so not cute. There's this trend that I don't understand where there's ruching on the sides of all shirts and dresses. I know it doesn't bother some women, and it can look flattering, but it's like...'I'm wearing maternity clothes!' You know? You're never gonna wear that when you're not pregnant. But if you buy a regular shirt that's a couple sizes bigger than you'd usually wear, you can probably wear that again. "
Maternity Textured Knit Tunic Sweater, $25 (was $36.94); at Old Navy
"I want to give a shoutout to the Hatch collection, because there are so few brands that do really nice, really chic maternity clothing—I'm really hoping there will be more, but Hatch is kind of the original. It's hard because their stuff is expensive and the ordering process is a pain and I couldn't figure out the sizing, but once I got the pieces from them, I was so impressed. They were so beautiful, and the fabrics were so nice. With maternity clothes, so much of it is so cheap, you feel like it's going to fall apart immediately. But the pieces that I got from them are just gorgeous gorgeous, and I wish that I had the budget to invest in more of them. Rather than doing ruching, they give you more interesting cuts that drape in a beautiful way and really respect a woman's body."
The Slouch Dress, $198; at Hatch
"I got a pair of rose-gold Birkenstocks this summer. They were my commuting shoes, and I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm such a mom.' Like, my Brooklyn mom Birkenstocks. But not only can you not do heels at a certain point, but you need actual foot support—or at least I do. Some women rock their heels to the end of time, but for me, not so much. One side effect of pregnancy is that it loosens your joints, so even in a pair of ankle boots with a one-inch heel you can feel unstable, becuse your ankles are so loosey-goosey. So for the most part I'm in flat black shoes—Adidas, things with padding. "
Birkenstock Gizeh Sandals, $95; at Anthropologie
Stylist and blogger at The Brooklyn Stylist
22 weeks, first child
"I think the best advice I've gotten is don't spend a lot of money on something that you'll only wear for a few months—I'm trying, but it's really hard. Being a clotheshorse and a fashion stylist, I just want to buy so many cute pieces now.
Something that I've actually been using a lot is Rent the Runway Unlimited. I already had a subscription to it before I got pregnant and I just continued with it—at first I wasn't going to, because I thought I wouldn't be able to work with it anymore, but it's actually helped so much. I'm finding a lot of great sweaters and oversized pieces, and being that I can't zip up or button any of my coats for winter, I have so many more options now."
BB Dakota Brandy Turtleneck Sweater Dress, $30-50 rental ($105 retail); at Rent the Runway
"I'm also really into bodycon dresses, and I probably wouldn't have done that before. I went to an event recently and I rented this beautiful Monique Lhuillier lace dress with a cutout in the back—it was still sexy, but it showed off the bump. It's not something I would have gravitated towards pre-pregnancy, but it's fun to show off these new curves that I have."
ML Monique Lhuillier Never Let You Go Sheath, $30-45 rental ($398 retail); at Rent the Runway
"Jeans-wise, I've been trying to work with what I have. I started with the hair-tie-around-the-button trick, and that was great until I started popping the rubber bands while I was at work, and that got kind of embarrassing. So then I purchased a bunch of belly bands, which have been a great deal to resurrect what I already have. I'm getting to the point where I can't even zip the jeans, so they've definitely been helpful."
Maternity Two-Pack Bump Band, $11 (was $22); at Topshop
"I did pick up a couple of maternity jeans from ASOS that I love—they're a black jegging style, and they're $28. They're such a good price that I ended up buying them in my size now and what I think might be my size towards the end of the pregnancy."
New Look Maternity Under-Bump Jegging, $28; at ASOS
Blogger at Lone Star Looking Glass
36 weeks, first child
"I used to live in feminine fit-and-flare dresses and high-waist skirts. Fitted waistlines and pregnant bellies definitely don’t go hand in hand. I now wear jeans more than I ever have before, paired with comfy tunic tops and roomy button-downs.
I’ve loved Citizens of Humanity’s maternity skinny jeans. They were fabulous for the second and beginning of the third trimester, because they had the look and feel of the jeans I wore pre-pregnancy."
Citizens of Humanity Racer Ultra Maternity Skinny Jeans, $248; at Shopbop
"Now that I’m closer to the finish line, I’m loving Seraphine Maternity’s stretchier denim. The over-the-bump waistline is super comfortable, too."
Premium Indigo Over Bump Maternity Jeans, $109; at Seraphine
"I am always reading blogs and I spend way too much time following my favorite fashionistas on Instagram. A few of my favorites were several months ahead of me in their pregnancies, so it was so much fun to read about what did and didn’t work for them beforehand. My favorite tip: avoid too much volume and let clothing skim your bump. This way you can tell where the bump starts and the fabric ends.
From comfy jeans and knit tops, Isabella and Oliver's collection is flattering and feels great to wear at any stage in pregnancy."
Helston Maternity Top, $95; at Isabella Oliver
"ASOS has been great for party dresses and special occasion pieces. I love that their maternity wear doesn’t look like your typical maternity clothing."
Mamalicious Short-Sleeve Knot Front Woven Dress, $76; at ASOS