Before I was pregnant, my idea of maternity wear fell in to two camps:
The first: big billowy Laura Ashley dresses – awash with chintzy floral and worn with pride in the 80s and 90s by my Mother when she was pregnant with me and my sisters.
The second: the more modern take on antenatal attire – leggings and a baggy shirt teamed with ballet pumps.
Both looks I salute and I’ve quickly learned that when you’re ‘with child’, comfort is paramount. However, I can’t help but feel that expectant mothers are at risk of losing something of their own personality in the search for ways to cover up the fact that you look like you have a variety of ever-growing fruit stuck to your middle – from mango to watermelon – as the nine months tick by.
For this reason I am on a constant search for ways to hold on to my old things, buy some new things and, if at all possible, avoid resembling a tent that could house a family of five on a long weekend in Wales.
Here are six things I’ve learned five months in…
1. The shops
It’s no surprise that the female-focussed fashion stores on the High Street are jumping on the bandwagon of maternity wear, given that the majority of their customers are women and that (at the time of writing) women are still the only ones able to biologically carry a child. However only a handful have a designated Mat-Wear line, including Topshop, Next, H&M, New Look and ASOS. Zara have also recently launched their “Mum/Mom” range – but this mostly consists of a website edit of their general clothing, worn by a model with a stuck-on bump (and some rather fetching bright lipstick). JoJo Maman Bebe and Seraphin have good quality clothes too, but are a bit more spenny.
Mostly it’s the bottom half that needs specially tailored pregnancy clothing – with handy elasticated bellybands – so the likes of Topshop jeans and ASOS skirts are pretty essential. When you take your normal size it should fit you great around the hips and legs whilst giving room for a bigger belly… they’re worth spending the money on.
If you want more diversity, places like Cos and Monki are very good for looser, shapeless tops and dresses. Zara and Mango are good for more bodycon items with streeeeeetch. I just opt for a size or two up from my usual.
I have also become slightly obsessed with trawling eBay and charity shops for hidden treasures – like a Dorothy Perkins matching cream and navy check “Maternity” two-piece from the 1980s, consisting of skirt and shirt for a bargainous £14. The nice thing about looking for maternity wear on eBay is that more often than not it has been barely worn even though it’s second-hand.
2. Elasticated waistbands are your friends
I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding elasticated waistbands over the years, mostly because they never really seemed to fit me properly – they’d ride up on my waist too high, pinch my skin, or slip down too loose. Now I am on the constant hunt for these gems, and happily the ‘regular’ shops seem to be full of them (along with drawstring trews) which means they can expand with you and take you through the “fourth trimester” too. There’s a huge volume of pleated skirts around at the moment, that look nice with knitted woollens and looser cut shirts.
3. Fabrics take on a new importance
As mentioned above, comfort is paramount, and I have started to really think about the fabrics I’m wearing. If your back is aching, or your morning sickness hasn’t relented, or your surging hormones have covered your face in angry spots, feeling nice fabric against your skin is a small but appreciated condolence. As it’s Winter I’ve invested in a warm angora sweater, which is a lot less itchy than lambswool. I’ve also become a fan of silk and satin, as well as your bog standard 100% cotton. A lot of the maternity clothing on offer seem to use pretty cheap materials which don’t wash well, don’t have a brilliant finish and have loose threads hanging down like an unwanted fringe that won’t be cut. Plus they are sometimes so synthetic they feel like they might set alight if you walked too fast in them (not that speed-walking is a much of a possibility right now…).
Shoes, bags, earrings, lipstick – basically it’s the chance to adorn all those bits of your body that aren’t going to change shape too much (that said, apparently swelling feet is a joy that still awaits me…). I’m seeing this as a chance to be a bit experimental – a go big or go home approach – with lots of bright colours and shiny oversized gold, particularly in the earring department.
Big sleeves and kick flares are two new favourites and give a bit of peripheral volume to balance out your growing middle.
6. Think ahead to postnatal
A friend of mine, who is far more pragmatic than me, gave me a good bit of advice: if you’re buying new things during the pregnancy, think about how practical they are going to be after the baby arrives. Can you easily breastfeed in them if you need to in public, without flashing the rest of your body to everyone in the vicinity? (Some might be more sensitive to this than others)
Also, breastfeeding or not, chances are you are going to be covered in baby sick for much of the first year (and beyond) – how well does the fabric conceal milk splodges? From holding my sister’s and friends’ babies, denim and white cotton shirts soak it right up with little to no real evidence. Navy canvas/thick cottons, however, seem to magnify it.