I wasn’t sure how to categorize this post. It’s about growing a minimalist wardrobe, for sure. But it’s also about getting dressed while growing a baby. And a belly. There’s just a whole lotta growth going on is really what I’m trying to say.
What the heck do you do about maternity wear when your hope is for a long-lasting, beautiful, and sustainable wardrobe?
Writer bares all: During my last pregnancy, somewhere in the middle of my last trimester, I called James crying from my desk at work. I made him meet me at the 34th Street H&M. I pawed at racks of mostly ugly maternity clothes trying to find something that would suit my taste. I felt desperate, but mostly I felt weird. And so, I figured, new clothes would make me feel less weird. I had a need for therapeutic shopping like I’d never really had before. I finished by trying not to feel too terrible about buying three shirts and a pair of pants from their Conscious Collection. Pregnancy is nutty, man. Your body does things it’s never done and looks different than it ever has. Most of the clothes that you deemed “baggy” enough to fit into your final months are laughably tight and in all the wrong places long before you’re anywhere near your due date. And all the while, every other person walking down the street is offering unsolicited commentary on your ever-changing body. “Why no, I didn’t swallow a watermelon. Many thanks for your concern, madam.”
In tackling the conundrum of how to dress myself while pregnant, I’ve largely made an effort to wear my regular clothes for as long as possible and to introduce a few key maternity items to help me feel normal when the regular clothes fail. No doubt, the specifics of what’s worked for me might not work for everyone, but I do think there’s a lot of opportunity to use what you already own while adding only a few maternity specific things to help out along the way.
Here’s what’s worked for me:
Maternity jeans and leggings: I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with maternity jeans. On one hand: Yes! Give me something to wear that makes me feel like myself! On the other hand: I find that no matter the pair there are seams on the hips—between the stretchy elastic parts and the denim parts—that literally rub me the wrong way. Worse, on even the most discreet pair, the elastic “pockets” are still something you’re going to want to at least try to cover up, which can have the maddening effect of actually expanding the need for maternity specific tops to go with the maternity specific bottoms. Foiled! Maternity leggings on the other hand are always such a relief, especially during a long winter pregnancy. Sure, you’re gonna wanna cover your bum while wearing them, but god bless being able get comfy. And the dress that’s gotten a bit too short when draped over a round belly? Wear it with some leggings and call it a tunic.
What’s in my closet: My mom gave me pair of black J. Crew maternity jeans when I was pregnant with Faye. This time around I also found a pair of Made-in-the-USA maternityjeans from Paige Denim. I stretched out my regular denim beyond repair during my last pregnancy by wearing them for too long and I’ve grown faster and larger this time around so I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. (If you’re experiencing sticker shock looking at brand-new items, check out second-hand retailers online or in person. Maternity jeans are regulars in those kinds of places.) The Storq leggings are thick and cozy and the portion that comes up and over the belly can also be folded down. Praise hands.
Maternity dresses and skirts: I’m a super-fan of dresses (and more recently) skirts while pregnant. They tend to be more comfortable than pants on their best day and while your bum and belly are busy settling into their new shape, I also think they’re more forgiving. No one wants to take a microscope to the ways their body is morphing over nine months and for me dresses are the answer.
What’s in my closet: The Storq dress was far and away my favorite purchase of my last pregnancy and this time around I also invested in the Storq skirt. (Yes, I should have just gone for the bundle.) The very best thing about both is that they extend well above my belly and not with the help of an awkward “skin-colored” belly band. This means I can wear a regular shirt pulled up over my stomach and still look cute and there’s no fussing about whether I’m properly covered and no need (at least for a long while) to invest in maternity tops.
Non-maternity maternity wear: Beyond the maternity specific items, there’s the whole range of things that might still be wearable while pregnant—for a while at least.
What’s in my closet:
Button up shirts: You can leave them unbuttoned over a longer tee, or unbutton just the bottom few buttons over a high-waisted skirt or a dress, or you can get a little wild and tie the two ends below your sternum to make them work over a growing belly.
Cardigans: Anything that can be left open is a godsend for a pregnant belly. For a winter pregnancy in particular, a roomy cardigan is an easy way to stay warm without either feeling frumpy or stifled. I got this Everlane cardigan when I was pregnant with Faye. No doubt it will keep me cozy this time around, too.
Cropped blouses or shirts: With the right crop, a loose blouse or shirt can be an elegant complement to a high-waisted skirt or a dress. The Georgia Tee from Elizabeth Suzann has been a perfect thing for me to pair with my maternity skirt. Alternately, I like to “crop” slimmer and tighter shirts or sweaters by pulling them above my belly (which stays covered by a skirt or dress.) This is especially easy to do once the belly has actually grown significantly enough that the shirt stays in place above it.
Elastic-waist pants: It sounds like I’m talking about sweatpants (and three cheers for those), but I promise there exist elastic-waist pants that aren’t sweatpants. I’ve been wearing this pair from Steven Alan since the summer and have been relieved by the chance to sling them lower on my hips as my belly grows. They probably won’t work in the third-trimester, but they’ve been super comfy so far and will be forgiving and comfy again post-delivery.
Oversized tees: For a while at least, size up a t-shirt (or borrow from someone in your life who might be a little bigger than you) and you’ve got a shirt that fits over your belly (and covers the elastic on those pregnancy jeans). Tradlands just came out with t-shirts that are super soft and beautifully draped (more on these tomorrow). I sized up and can still wear mine comfortably over my belly.
Overalls and rompers: They might not last through an entire pregnancy—and I know they’re not everyone’s favorite look—but I love a good pair of loose overalls or a romper while pregnant. I wore my Olina Jumpsuit from Elizabeth Suzann to two different weddings this summer and felt so comfortable (and pretty!). My Andie Overalls from Hackwith Design House have been on regular rotation. I’ve had to adjust the straps to fit in comfortably, but they’re still going strong at week 23.
Shift dresses: Depending on the dress and the belly, a roomy shift dress can have an extended life as maternity wear. My Georgia Dress from Elizabeth Suzann has had plenty of growing room for my belly, without yet starting to ride up on my legs.
Vintage maternity: If you’re feeling brave, a fun and sustainable option is dipping into vintage maternity options. (Though I’m not going to make any claims to them being hugely versatile in the long run.) My mom saved a few of her favorite maternity shirts and dresses from the ’80s in hopes that one of her four daughters would be into the ruffles and plaid. And while I’ll admit it takes some guts to wear a v. roomy high-throated calico print dress with puffed sleeves, it’s still a favorite. (Pictured!)
What about you guys? What’s worked for you? Any tried and true favorite things to wear while pregnant?
More (non-maternity) minimalist wardrobe posts RIGHT HERE.