Whether your budget is tight, you’re planning to have only one baby or you otherwise just can’t justify a brand-new maternity wardrobe for just a matter of months, you’re not alone. Figuring out how to accommodate a growing baby bump without spending a fortune or getting stuck in a rotating funk of the same four outfits can be challenging. Factor in the dress code demands of the corporate world and the growing need for comfort, and you might feel downright discouraged. Fret no more. We spoke to industry experts—including style bloggers, fashion stylists and boutique owners—to figure out which pieces are must-haves, which are worth the splurge, and how to maximize your maternity wardrobe.
Good Jeans (and the Must-Have Jean Accessory!)
Nearly all of the experts we spoke to mentioned the necessity of a good pair of jeans. “Even before you’re ‘showing’ to the rest of the world, your waist gets a little thick and something comfortable is a must,” says Jessica Quirk, of the style blog What I Wore. At 4-and-a-half months along and starting to show herself, she’s just getting into it. “I’m wearing my larger jeans with a rubber band at the waist, or going with knit bottoms with longer tops right now.”
Wardrobe stylist Jen Pinkston of The Effortless Chic agrees. In a recent blog post she wrote titled “My Maternity Wardrobe Essentials,” the expecting-any-day-now mama-to-be put maternity jeans as number one on her list. “People love to complain about spending money on jeans you will only wear for six months, but you will wear them almost every day for six months,” she wrote. “For me, the investment has been worth it.” She goes on to point out that there are two types of maternity jeans: low rise with stretchy panels on the sides and those with the full stretch panel that pulls up over your baby bump. “Personally, I find the low-rise ones with the stretch panels to be much more comfortable,” she writes, “but it’s totally a matter of preference.” Her recommendations? J Brand Maternity Jeans from Belly Dance Maternity and Verdugo Full Panel ultra skinny jeans from Paige.
Looking for work-appropriate pants? J. Crew also offers a collection of low-rise pants with stretchy side panels that may just fit the bill. And for that in-between phase where you’re regular bottoms are uncomfortable, but your baby bump can’t quite support maternity pants, Pinkston recommends a Bella Band. (Number nine on her list of essentials!) “There was about a three-week window where I couldn’t have lived without this little gem! This was a lifesaver and totally worth it even if I did only use it for a few weeks,” she writes.
The added bonus? Many moms report using the Bella Band and their maternity jeans for the postpartum transition back into their pre-pregnancy jeans. Double duty makes these worth the investment.
Side Step the Label
Perhaps the most effective way to maximize your maternity wardrobe is to fill it with pieces that aren’t maternity at all.
“Think knits!” says Quirk. “Anything that’s easy and stretchy can work before, during and after pregnancy.” Simple leggings—which you likely already have—can get you through most, if not all, of your pregnancy, but don’t limit yourself to those. New York & Company offers pull-on pants in two of their collections—7th Avenue and Brocade—that offer a coveted balance of stretchy comfort and professional style that may not get you all the way through your pregnancy, but can accommodate a good amount of baby bump growth.
Fern Elliot, owner of Lilac Bijoux in Annapolis, Maryland, says pregnant women this season are in luck—this spring and summer’s trends easily lend themselves to maternity wear. “Right now is all about tunics,” she says. “so it’s the best time to invest in cute ones that you will wear after maternity.”
Opting for pieces like these guarantee an indefinite timeframe for wear, which means you’ll get more bang for your buck.
Dress for the Occasion
Many different dress styles can move flawlessly from maternity to postpartum, and even back again.
And interestingly enough, each of our experts recommended a different style, further proving that you can’t go wrong with a good dress—or better yet, collection of dresses.
Elliot suggests empire waist maxi dresses that can transcend the seasons, paired with a cardigan or blazer in the spring and without in the summer. Not only are they seasonally versatile, but they’ll easily accommodate a growing belly and still be stylishly worn well after your baby is born. Her tips: “Never too much fabric, and keep it simple on the prints—none that are large.”
Pinkston is all about tight, stretchy dresses on her blog post of maternity must-haves. “Pre-pregnancy I thought I would be all about the drapey maternity clothes,” she writes. “However, I feel much better in things that are stretchy and fitted. You feel pregnant, not just bigger than usual.” While she suggests a specific collection of maternity dresses that fit the bill, the style could also be met with a quality non-maternity option.
Alternatively, Quirks advises you “look for shift shapes that don’t have a defined waistband.” Without a defined waist, she says, moms-to-be can belt the dresses at any place on the garment—above your growing belly, or at your waist after the baby—for a full range of versatility.
Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize
With any wardrobe, the key to getting the most of it is simple: accessorize. Changing up the jewelry or jackets can significantly alter the style of any outfit, keeping you from slipping into a boring rotation of the same three or four looks. Stock up on statement necklaces, costume earrings, bangles and cocktail rings, and invest in a cropped jacket or open cardigan—or any outer layer, really—to not only add dimension, but to keep your maternity staples fresh. The best part is, you’ll be able to wear them again long after you’re back to your pre-pregnancy favorites.