After I got pregnant with my first daughter, I felt self-conscious. My whole life up until that point, I’d worried about my pant size and my weight and whether my belly pooch was too…poochy.
I’d graduated from teen magazines to women’s magazines. From high school friends who were a size zero lamenting how they felt “fat” to adult female friends complaining that they needed to lose 5 pounds, or 10, or 20. From believing with every fiber of my teenage heart that if I could just look like Alyssa Milano, a boy would finally ask me out on a date—to believing if I could just look like Jennifer Aniston, I’d find the love of my life.
I’m average height and average-ish weight, but when I got pregnant, the sight of my growing belly made me uncomfortable.
So I hid it.
Under baggy shirts. Under even baggier sweaters. Under maternity jeans that didn’t fit right and kept falling down, giving me a super fashionable saggy bottom look. The complete opposite of cute maternity clothes.
It wasn’t just that I felt frumpy. I looked it, too.
When I got pregnant with my second daughter, I decided I didn’t want to feel frumpy again.
So in my first trimester, I watched other pregnant women. At the grocery store. At the bank. At drop-off and pick-up at my eldest daughter’s school.
When I saw a pregnant lady who looked sharp and put together, I took mental notes on what she wore and how she wore it. (Actually, if I’m being completely truthful with you, you should know that most of the time, I took actual written notes in the Evernote app on my phone.)
Nowadays, you can just search Instagram for #StyleTheBump, but back then I became a devoted—albeit creepy—student of maternity fashion.
And then I had an epiphany.
Here’s the Thing, My Pregnant Friend
You are working hard, mama.
All day, your body is splitting cells. Growing an actual HUMAN.
I don’t care if you started your pregnancy 5 pounds over your target weight or 30.
Pregnancy is a whole other ball game. The shame you felt about your belly pooch, the loathing of your thighs. Let it all go.
Because now your body is serving a greater purpose. And that is just plain beautiful.
Own it. Be proud of your belly and everything it means.
6 Tips for Cute Maternity Clothes That Won’t Cost a Fortune
Part of being proud of your belly is being happy with how you dress. Borrowing your husband’s XL t-shirt to cover your belly won’t make you feel better about yourself, I promise.
And I can tell you that nine months of feeling frumpy is no fun. Especially when you tack on the months of wearing postpartum clothes while your body is working its way back to a new normal.
You are a badass, and you deserve to walk with your head held high and flaunt your pregnant badassness to the world.
Here are the best tips and tricks I learned for cute maternity clothes. Don’t worry—I’m not going to suggest that you borrow against your baby’s college fund to fund an entirely new wardrobe.
Following these tips will help you spend money wisely to build a stylish but inexpensive wardrobe for your pregnancy.
1. Don’t Go Big
It’s natural to feel uncomfortable about your growing midsection. Your first instinct may be to buy some cheap tops at Target that are one or two sizes bigger than your regular size. Big enough to cover your belly.
But big, baggy clothes on the biggest part of your body will only make you look…well, big. I’m not sure why so many style gurus recommend that pregnant ladies just wear a bunch of oversized shirts because it’s generally not a good look unless you’re a six-foot model with 2% body fat.
So if you haven’t yet embraced your inner “I am pregnant, hear me roar,” know that by wearing baggy clothes, you’re not fooling anyone. In fact, you’re actually making yourself look larger than you really are, which I’m assuming is not the effect you’re going for.
This tip is straightforward but also the hardest habit to break: Just say no to big, baggy clothes.
2. Raid Your Closet
Take a quick swing through your closet and look for the following pieces. If you find them, set them aside in a new section of your closet where you’ll keep all your maternity wear. This is so that you don’t have to keep looking through your pre-pregnancy clothes for nine months and feel bad that they won’t fit quite right—or at all.
- Any tops that have always felt like they were a little too long for you. They’ll be perfect to cover up your belly.
- Any tops containing Spandex or Lycra. They’ll stretch to accommodate your belly.
- Bottoms with a stretchy waistband that you can pair with cute tops. Skirts, yoga pants, and leggings will all work here. Especially if they have a low-rise waist.
- Cardigans, jackets, blazers, and vests. Grab them all for now.
Now, try them all on and make sure they’re good candidates. Some pieces might work for the first and second trimesters and not the third, but at least you have a good starting point.
3. Splurge on Jeans
When you grow out of the hair-tie-through-your-buttonhole trick with a belly band, you’re going to need some maternity jeans.
But maternity jeans are so difficult to get right. Some fit great at first but after an hour or two, the crotch feels like it’s sagging down to your knees.
You can get under-belly jeans or full belly panel jeans, or an awkward in between version that’s never fit right on me. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I happen to prefer the full belly panel jeans. They stay up better for me. Some women prefer under-belly.
But remember how I said I’m not going to suggest you spend a fortune? And how I said to raid your closet? Well, the truth is you raided your closet to finance this one single purchase.
Because awesome maternity jeans will make you look and feel divine. But mediocre maternity jeans will have you feeling like a hippopotamus that’s evolved to walk upright.
Splurge on one amazing pair of maternity jeans, and it will be so worth it. Fair warning: You’ll end up spending between $100-300, but you can wear your fancy jeans just about every day. Example:
- For my last pregnancy, I bought one awesome pair for $175 and wore them constantly. I just matched them with different tops every day, and no one was the wiser. In fact, I wore them so often they got a whole in the butt in my last week of pregnancy!
- For my current pregnancy, I bought another just like my previous pair. And even though I don’t have a day job and we’re cutting our spending left and right to make up for it, I have absolutely zero regrets.
My favorite places to find high-quality maternity jeans are Nordstrom and A Pea in the Pod. If those first two stores aren’t in your area, I recommend buying a few pairs online, trying them on, and returning what doesn’t work.
As far as brands, I’ve had the best luck with Citizens of Humanity and Hudson. But other great brands include: Joe’s Jeans, Paige, and 7 for All Mankind.
If you’re patient, you can even look for a cheap pair of used jeans on Craigslist or eBay.
4. Find Your Staples
I’m not going to recommend you buy a lot of maternity tops. For each of my last two pregnancies, I’ve gone to A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity and tried on every halfway decent-looking top—and walked out empty-handed.
Maternity blouses tend to have a hint of a muumuu about them. I think they’re designed by people who think women should be shameful of their growing bellies, like we’ve been groomed to believe our whole lives. But now that you and I know they’re flat-out wrong, we don’t have to waste our time on those silly-looking tops.
Instead, you’re going to look for a few flattering staples you can mix and match with statement pieces from your existing wardrobe. Don’t be afraid to go for form-fitting stretchy tops, either! Honor your belly, don’t hide it. Remember: In general, loose tops will just make you look even bigger.
Here’s what I suggest:
- A few t-shirts and tanks in different colors, maybe with ruching on the sides. I have two black t-shirts (one scoop neck, one v-neck), one black tank, one red t-shirt, and one white t-shirt. (If you’re pregnant in the winter, you can also look for some stretchy turtlenecks.)
- A simple black knee-length maternity skirt. If you’re big into skirts, go ahead and get a couple more skirts or a dress or two. I also own a gray maxi maternity skirt.
The best place I’ve found for stocking up on these staples is Gap. I haven’t had good luck with Target’s maternity staples. They don’t last long, and they stretch out and look frumpy after the first hour of wear. But Gap has sales all the time, so sign up for their email alerts and wait until they have a 30% (or more) sale to order your staples. You can also try H&M and Loft, which both have maternity clothing lines.
5. Make a Statement
Now you have your mix and match staples, plus one super amazingly gorgeous pair of maternity jeans.
It’s time to add some pizzazz to your pregnancy wardrobe. Put on a simple black t-shirt and your new jeans, and start trying on all those cardigans, jackets, blazers, and vests you set aside from your existing wardrobe. These pieces will add color and pattern to your look.
This is the secret of saving money on your pregnancy clothes, right here. Instead of getting 10-12 different maternity tops, you’re using a few basic staples and adding color and style with layers from your existing pre-pregnancy wardrobe.
- 10-12 maternity tops at $30-60 a pop = $300-720
- 4-5 maternity staples at $20-30 each = $80-150
One day, you might pair a black t-shirt with your jeans and a cute red blazer. The next day, maybe you go for a pre-pregnancy stretchy top in a fun pattern with your simple black skirt and a jean jacket. After that, it’s back to your staple white t-shirt, jeans, and a flowy cardigan.
A quick note on jackets and cardigans: I’ve found that cropped versions tend to make me look short and squat when I’m pregnant, even though I’m average height. I haven’t had good luck pulling those off, so you may want to stick with regular length or longer for these layers.
6. Add a Little Bling
It’s a fact: When you accessorize, you look approximately 500% more put together.
Even if you don’t normally wear jewelry, now’s a great time to start. I find that when I add even the simplest necklace to my maternity look, my confidence shoots up, and I feel much more at ease flaunting my badass pregnant self.
Bust out those leopard-print flats from the back of your closet, or that hot pink handbag. Have fun going a little crazy on accessories!
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
Don’t forget to have some clothes on hand for after baby’s born! Check out 7 Tips for Postpartum Clothes That Won’t Make You Look Pregnant.
What’s your favorite pregnancy look? Share in a comment below!