Pregnancy Advice II: Money-Saving Maternity Style

Q. What basics were a staple of your wardrobe? What are key pieces to splurge on?

I wrote a post over on Mommyish about this a couple of months ago, but now that I’m at the end of the pregnancy it seems worth revisiting. First, let me re-state what I wrote in my intro post to this mini-series: pregnancy is an enormously individual experience and there is no one way to “do” pregnancy (style or otherwise) “right”; this is just what worked for me and helped me to save money while having fun with my changing shape.

When I found out I was pregnant, I have to tell you: I was a little nervous about the expense associated with buying lots of new pieces that I’d never wear again. But while I certainly picked up a few fun items here and there, I can’t tell you how much money I saved by being creative with accessories and layering.

Splurge: The truth is that I didn’t splurge on any major items while pregnant, simply because my style tends towards being flowy anyway, so I already had a lot of pieces that I could just re-imagine a bit to work into a maternity wardrobe. That said, I can imagine that if I had been pregnant in the wintertime I probably would have picked up a 60’s-style swing coat (which could be worn post-pregnancy as well), a great pair of maternity jeans, and a pair of black maternity pants.

Steal: One of the most fun parts of the past few months was experimenting with different looks than I would ordinarily wear, so I’d definitely encourage you to indulge yourself a little by picking up things like inexpensive dresses and tunics. You’ll definitely have to buy a couple of new bras (go to Daffy’s), and if you want to keep wearing your non-pregnancy pants for awhile, a maternity belt is a must.

Shop Your Closet: I saved buckets of money by working in as much of my non-pregnancy wardrobe as possible. Sift through your closet for longer tops and tunics, tanks to layer under them if they’re too short/sheer, any and all pants with elastic waists, and every accessory you can find (hats, scarves, jewelry). And be creative, bringing back into rotation older pieces that you may not tend to wear in your “regular” life but that are fun to try out on your new shape (for example, you may usually feel uncomfortable in body-conscious tank dresses, but find that you enjoy wearing them when pregnant to show off your curves).

Of course, what you’ll end up wearing will have a ton to do with your personal style, your body type, your job, and the season (I personally found a summertime pregnancy wardrobe to be way easier and less expensive than I imagine a wintertime one would be, since I didn’t have to purchase bigger-ticket items like holiday cocktail dresses or coats…and because those light summer dresses are so comfortable and cheap), but there were definitely some pieces that I kept in constant rotation right through to the very end.

After the jump, what I wore the most over the past nine months, complete with a little photo retrospective (each image links through to the original post).

Tank/trapeze dresses in light fabrics. I picked up a bunch of short-ish, loose racerback dresses (like the one pictured above) at H&M early on, and wore them so much that I’m going to have to trash them soon, because they’re starting to look like kitchen rags. Fine by me; they were something like ten bucks each.

What I love about this style is how versatile it is: you can add a belt above your stomach if you prefer a little more shape, wear them loose around the house, top them with cardigans, sweaters, or scarves, add tights and boots, dress them up, dress them down…whatever you like. If you have trouble finding versions that don’t ride up too high in the front, try hemming some inexpensive maxi dresses so that the front is longer than the back (or have a tailor do it for you).

(Often improvisational) belts. I called into action everything from vintage silk scarves to pieces of rope (above) and wide elastic belts that I bought for a couple of bucks at Forever 21, and wore them over t-shirts, dresses, and thin sweater vests. One note: adding both a pregnant belly and a belt to a dress may cause the hemline to change significantly (the front may ride up beyond your comfort zone), so proceed with a bit of caution or try the maxi dress-hemming trick above.

Jeans and shorts with short zippers and a ton of stretch. The lower-rise and stretchier the pants, the longer you’ll be able to wear them. Add a maternity belt to the mix (a must-buy, although sturdy rubber bands hooked through your buttonhole will work in a pinch), and you’ll go even further. It’s important to note that your stomach may push the pants into uncomfortably low territory, though, so be sure to wear a top that’s long enough to cover any patches of skin that you don’t want exposed.

Truly excellent underthings. I’ve never understood the importance of a fantastically supportive bra until now. It is life-changing, and I’m not going back. This isn’t to say that you have to spend a fortune on this stuff: I made do with a convertible nude bra from Victoria’s Secret and a lacy black one from Daffy’s (plus a thick cotton one to sleep in), and just hand-washed them each night before bed to keep them in good shape.

Cardigans, cardigans, cardigans. They’ll add polish to those aforementioned tank dresses, and provide a little extra coverage in case your newfound cleavage makes you feel over-exposed.

Leggings and wide-legged pants with elastic waists…but not the kind you wear to the gym. Tight leggings look great with knee-high boots and loose, flowy tunics, while wider-legged styles (like the ones above) should be paired with decidedly non-pajama-y tops and beautiful accessories (so as to avoid looking like you just rolled out of bed). There’s no need to stick exclusively to black; keep an eye out for fun takes on the look like denim leggings, studded styles, and interesting patterns.

Stylish flats. I am a huge flip-flop fetishist – I love my Havianas to pieces – but you know how they say when you’re pregnant to always keep your nails looking nice, because if you’re feeling otherwise sort of unwieldy and not-so-hot those little pulled-together touches can make all the difference? I found that really beautiful metallic sandals were a big mood-lifter on days when I was feeling sluggish – and as a bonus, they transition easily from day to night.

For dressing up, ’60s-style minis. This was my favorite look while pregnant: retro minis worn with an updo and mod makeup. On the left is an H&M style that Natalie Portman also wore while pregnant; on the right is a $30 cocktail dress that I found in Canada.

Lots and lots and lots of accessories. Because I leaned towards simpler cuts and lighter (and thus more casual) fabrics, I tended to dress up everything I wore with hats, sunglasses, big jewelry, and beautiful, roomy bags (or at least ones that were roomy enough to hold a water bottle…because man, was I ever thirsty). While I loved the style challenges associated with pregnancy and had far more fun getting myself dressed in the mornings than I did in my pre-pregnancy life, it’s unavoidable: there will be some days when you just feel tired, or awkward, or uncomfortable…and on those days, you’d be surprised what a little lipstick and some big old sunglasses can do.

Click here to read all Pregnancy Style posts.

Pregnancy Advice I: Fears & Insecurities

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