A Womb of One's Own

A Womb of One’s Own: Fashion for the Fecund

While there are dozens of different “serious” topics relating to pregnancy, one is rarely discussed: pregnant fashion.  Are you doomed to a life of sweatpants and muumuus?  Or can you continue your pre-gestation style through your pregnancy?  The answers are (for the most part) no, and yes.  Maternity fashion is one of those subjects I simply never contemplated in my over-planned approach to pregnancy.  In the whirlwind of everything else, I never considered that I’d have to wear something during those nine months.

The first piece of maternity wear you’ll probably purchase is a nursing bra.  Don’t pay a ton for these, your boobs will grow a little while pregnant, and then a lot while nursing.  The best part about maternity/nursing bras is that they don’t all have rigid underwires, allowing my tender rack more comfort than my $20 Fredericks of Hollywood push-ups did.  Mine were $20 at Motherhood Maternity, and have felt wonderful.  I’ve also come to greatly appreciate the $15 Champion sports bra at Target for days when I see no reason to dirty up a perfectly good bra if I’m not leaving the house.

The second piece of maternity wear I bought was a pair of jeans.  There are three basic styles of maternity pant waistbands: full-panel (a wide, stretchy elastic panel that covers the entire bump), elastic-waist, and no-panel, which is essentially a standard pants waist that’s cut very low in front to accommodate the bump.  I found a full-panel pair at Motherhood Maternity when I was 11 weeks along and have never looked back at my non-pregnant pants since.  I’ve since also invested in a pair of Gap elastic-panel jeans that (I think) look better on me, but the panel tends to fold over when I sit, which makes me very conscious of the kid’s movements within me.

When it comes to maternity shirts, you have a little more room to wiggle with regards to your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.  At about 13 weeks, I packed away most of my non-maternity clothes, but left out some basics: yoga pants, all my cheap Old Navy tanks, cardigans, and any shirt or sweater that was longer than normal.  This helped me extend my non-pregnant wardrobe into the pregnant wardrobe, and gave me basic pieces I was comfortable in to work with.  As you slowly assemble your maternity wardrobe, think about the seasons it will span.  I feel fairly lucky, as October-June in Seattle are fairly “safe” months, and I can get by with a couple pairs of jeans and a lot of long-sleeved T-shirts (for the most part).  But if you’re in a climate that swings from 80F to 5F over the course of your gestation, you may need to vary your choices more.

Good places to start your wardrobe:

  • Old Navy:  while definitely the cheapest, they’re also sometimes the ugliest.  Use their store-finder feature online to find a store near you with a maternity section to try clothes on before you buy them–Old Navy jeans are notorious for fitting differently from pair to pair in the same size, and many of their maternity shirts just fit badly.  However, they do have the cheapest and most comfortable maternity yoga pants in existence.
  • The Gap:  this is towards the high end of my price range, but use the store finder to find a maternity section and go crazy on their sale/clearance rack.  I got a great black wrap dress that was $70 online for $25 in-store.  The clothes fit better and are higher quality than Old Navy’s, making you look more professional.
  • Target:  while Target has a wide selection of maternity online, it’s still worth checking out what’s in-store, especially when it comes to basic black professional pants or t-shirts.  They also carry nursing bras, nursing tops, and nursing nightgowns.
  • Destination Maternity (Motherhood Maternity and Pea in the Pod):  I have yet to set foot in Pea in the Pod, Motherhood Maternity’s high-priced sister store.  The good thing about MM is that their sizes are consistent across styles–I have purchased a variety of tops in large in-store that have all fit well, and when I ordered a dress from them online in a large, it fit just as well.  The downside of Motherhood Maternity is their awful return policy: store credit only on in-store purchases, but you can return items purchased online for a refund (minus shipping).

I also highly suggest checking local children/infant consignment shops, as many of them carry well-cared for maternity wear as well.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

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