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13 Weeks: Is Maternity Style an Oxymoron?

Taylor Hengen Newman

Last time I was pregnant, maxi dresses were suddenly the spring thing to wear. (Ballet flats also hit the scene with a bang that season – a lucky break for a pregnant girl living in a city that previously prized only the highest of heels -- I lived in New York at the time). I bought several cute, colorful dresses at Target and wore them throughout my first and second trimesters. How much did I love (and wear) those maxi dresses? Let me count the ways: they didn’t restrict my movements, they adapted perfectly to my growing belly, and they showed off my full pregnant bust without either spilling boobage all over the place or squeezing me uncomfortably. As the weather cooled in the fall, I simply added cardigans to the mix and kept right on going. But then early winter arrived, along with my third trimester, and I was forced to move on to plan B: “real” maternity clothes.

I didn’t want to spend a fortune on clothes I’d only wear for a few months, especially since I was rapidly moving from that cute-pregnant stage to that final, huge-pregnant one, waddling when I walked, preferring bare feet over shoes (even ballet flats), and no longer caring about much beyond getting to delivery day, and stat. Huge-pregnant shopping is definitely not as fun as regular clothes shopping for these reasons, as well as the fact that “real” maternity clothes – as I discovered – are, well, not inspiring. I begrudgingly bought a pair of corduroys with the weird, stretchy high-waist, and a few t-shirts with cinched sides and bump-room. Despite their claims, none of these items fit quite right – the pants were too loose in some places and too tight in others. Same goes for the t-shirts. (Boo hiss, boob-squashers!) And those maternity-tee cinched sides are ugly. I ended up wearing yoga pants pretty much every day during my eighth and ninth month of pregnancy. Yep, even to work. (No one questioned my choice… I guess the perk of the huge-pregnant stage is that you can be barefooted, in yoga pants, in office settings, and no one will mess with you. Because you’re hugely pregnant; people either empathize with your obvious discomfort, or fear you might eat them.) As for tops, I ruined all of my regular t-shirts, stretching them to a point of no return and, in the final weeks, adding ‘pregnant midriff’ to my inadvertent go-to daily ensemble. Classy, right?

I remember salivating over the J. Crew catalogs that persistently arrived at my door, telling myself I’d wear regular clothes again one day soon. Of course, then I had a baby who promptly puked on every clothing item I owned; having only recently cleared the toddler years – Kaspar just turned three -- I started investing in more expensive pieces here and there just this past fall. And now I’m pregnant again; those new, nice clothes are stashed safely in my closet until they become relevant three years from now (yeah), and I’m back to thinking about maternity style, wondering if that’s an oxymoron or if it’s possible to dress my bump – sans cinched-sided T’s – with flair… comfortably so… without breaking the bank.

I definitely plan to purchase some maxi dresses in the immediate future. They’re so versatile, elegant, fun and easy in every way. They marked a strong start to my first pregnancy, for sure. But my late-pregnancy wardrobe was a total fail. So, beyond maxi dresses, I’m kind of at a loss. Most maternity clothes still look super unattractive to me… I plan to steer clear of maternity-specific retailers. (A Pea in the Pod offers some stylish items, but I’m not prepared to spend $100 on a top when it comes to temporary pregnancy clothing.) Instead, I intend to scope out the maternity lines at stores like H&M, and I hope to find a few more winners along the lines of the maxi dress: non-maternity items that convert well into pregnancy-wear.

And who better to hit up for advice than the mamas who’ve gone before me (or who are rocking bump-fashion right now)? Where are the best places to shop for maternity clothes? Are there particular brands that you find fit well and actually look good on growing baby bumps? What are the staple items I should have on hand – i.e. knit skirts, dresses, etc.? How about dressing up a maternity wardrobe – what do you wear to parties? (And just for fun, what were/are some of your worst pregnancy-style faux pas?) I plan to take your tips shopping with me next week, and, in part two of this post series, will share my successes (and failures) via a pregnancy fashion show in photos. Guide me well!

PS. Check out my latest post on my other blog, Alt-Mama: Ten Ways to Celebrate Spring with Your Preschooler!

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