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Maternity clothes: Tips to look great and feel comfortable

It may not have happened yet, but soon the time will come when your regular clothes won't fit your growing bump. Lucky for you, mom-to-be, modern style has progressed to make maternity wear both flattering and fashion-forward.

So while there are some ways to make your current clothing work during your pregnancy, eventually those pieces may not fit or feel right on your changing body. Let's explore some of the pieces you'll want to stock up on and go through some tips to get them on a budget. 

When should you start wearing maternity clothes?

There's no right or wrong answer to that question. It all depends on how your body responds to being pregnant. Some women may need maternity clothes during their first trimester, and others may be able to postpone the transition until midway through their second. 

Here are some signs you may want to transition to maternity clothes:

  • You constantly feel bloated.
  • Your bump is peeking out from under your shirt.
  • Keeping your pants buttoned is uncomfortable.
  • You can no longer button the bottom of your button-down shirts.

But if this is your first pregnancy and you aren't showing yet, don't buy your maternity wardrobe right away. It's helpful to wait until you have a better idea of how your body is going to carry your pregnancy. Factors like how high your bump is and what shape it takes will inform what feels comfortable and what looks good.

A note about sizing

Generally speaking, your clothing size pre-pregnancy should correspond to your maternity size. So if you were a size 10 pre-pregnancy, you may be a maternity size 10. 

But every pregnant body is different, and every clothing brand is different. The key is to buy what feels good and not get hung up on sizing. 

Features you should look for

The first is obvious—stretch. Your maternity clothes need to grow with your bump, so good stretchy material is key. 

Just be sure those pieces you're buying don't get sheer as they stretch further. Ask a friend or your partner if a dress, skirt or pair of pants becomes see-through as you do tasks other than walking, like bending down to pick something up.

Another key tip is to look for tops and dresses with ruching around your bump. Ruching looks great on every pregnant body type, and it flexes as your bump continues to grow.

5 basics you should buy

How much you choose to invest in your maternity wardrobe is totally up to you, mom-to-be. But no matter how much you choose to buy, there are some essentials that you'll probably want to have on hand. Let's talk through those. 

  1. Maxi dresses. These will come in handy at work or on occasions when you need to look more polished. A form-fitting silhouette with ruching will wear comfortably and look great. 
  2. Lots of leggings. You already know they're going to be comfortable, and, so long as you have an arsenal of tunics and dresses that you can wear over them, you'll practically be able to live in them.
  3. Maternity jeans. The wide elastic bands on maternity jeans mean you can still don denim if want to. Bonus point: The wide belly bands built into some maternity jeans can help support the extra weight of your bump—which can provide some much-needed relief to your lower back. 
  4. T-shirts and tanks. Invest in some good stretchy maternity t-shirts and tank tops. Keeping the colors simple—white, gray and black—makes it easy for you to throw on your pre-pregnancy cardigans and blazers over the top. 
  5. New bras. You don't need to jump to nursing bras yet, but as your breasts get bigger, you'll want to change to a size that provides you a comfortable level of support. 

Of course, you may need additional pieces depending on the season. Summer babies may necessitate a maternity swimsuit, while winter babies will let you get away with chunky sweaters. 

Looking great on a budget

Not every item in your pregnancy wardrobe needs to be brand-new or maternity clothing. There are lots of ways to borrow or make your current clothes work a while longer. Here are some great tips: 

  • Invest in a belly band. This may end up being your favorite pregnancy item. Belly bands help you make your pre-pregnancy pants fit a while longer by disguising the fact that you can't fully button or zip them anymore. 
  • Borrow your partner's clothes. Sometimes the cheapest—and equally comfy—option is reaching into your partner's side of the dresser for a cozy sweater or pair of sweats. Make these your at-home cozy clothes.
  • Swap with a sister or friend. This is an especially smart tip if you intend to be pregnant more than once. Discuss saving your maternity items with your sister or friends. You can pass the items back and forth as needed. It will save you money and expand your options. 

Something else you might enjoy

We all know that alcohol is a big no-no during pregnancy, but mocktails are another tasty way to quench your thirst. Check out these recipes you can make tonight

Reviewed 12/13/2023

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