I love a little fashion. I’m not a hard-core label collector or someone who really considers myself at the cutting edge of clothing, but I’ve been pregnant enough times now to know what works for me and what doesn’t. In fact, I think I’ve been pregnant so many times that I can say with some confidence that it’s a look a really enjoy!! There’s something refreshing about enjoying your womanliness and curves that I find even more satisfying with a large tummy bump.
I also enjoy tracking down a bargain and putting together maternity outfits which combine vintage/ secondhand and high-street items with more expensive investment pieces from my non-maternity wardrobe and accessory collection. The importance of buying ethically produced garments has recently been drawn to my attention and is a challenge I am embracing wholeheartedly. Where possible, I have provided links to brands whose public statements of ethics include: no sweatshop labour, no child labour and if possible have some eco-credentials such as using organic cotton.
Last but not least, I love a bit of how-to, ie detailed information that enables people to share their wisdom… so here it is: How to create a maternity wardrobe that works. It includes ideas on what to buy, reusing and recycling clothing as well as where to source ethically produced maternity garments. Let me know what you think.
1. STOCKTAKE: The first step to putting together any kind of new wardrobe is to look at what you already have. Search through your non-pregnancy clothing for items that you will be able to wear during pregnancy. These are:
- Basics: Things like leggings and stretchy t-shirts or vest tops form the basis of my wardrobe and are often versatile enough to be worn around your bump during pregnancy.
- Cardigans, waistcoats, gilets and jackets are also worth considering as they too can be worn before, during and after pregnancy.
- And then the super-stretchy stuff you already have, such as jersey tops and dresses or jumpers that have enough va-va-voom to get around your bump. A word of warning here though: check the view from the back. Non-pregnancy garments that stretch snugly over your lovely round tummy may also be stretched snugly over your VPL, displaying a little muffin top at the back where your tights finish, and clinging to the squidgy bits where your bra is ever so slightly cutting in, as it tends to do in pregnancy!
- Last but not least, what accessories do you have? Bags, scarves, jewellery, shoes etc…
Get it all out and have a look.
2. CONSIDER COLOUR: Once you know what you already have that you can keep wearing, have a think about colour. What colours do you have a lot of? What colours work with what you have? Maybe consider your bold new shape and consider some bold new colours! Is there a colour that whenever you wear it, people say it suits you? What colours make you feel happy? What colours do you love? What colours have you never really worn but would be willing to give a try? Is there a hot colour of the season that might suit you?
3. COMMIT TO A NEUTRAL COLOUR: If you go through everything and find you already have lots of wearable black items, it probably makes sense to keep black as your neutral colour, around which you build the rest of your wardrobe. Years ago, I taught grooming, deportment and etiquette classes and under the grooming heading came “How to Put Together a Wardrobe That Works!” One of the pieces of advice we gave was to stick to one neutral colour and buy all your basics and accessories in that colour. (Over the years, you might build collections of basics and accessories in lots of different neutrals, but we’re talking about a starting point here…) Neutral colours to think about include tan, navy, olive green, cream, white, grey and of course black.
4. WRITE A SHOPPING LIST: Now, my style is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’d describe it as smart casual and involves mainly dresses or jeans+tshirts. If you’re more into trackies or have a serious suits-only corporate wardrobe it won’t be for you… If I had absolutely no maternity clothing, this is what I would start with:
- 4 x t-shirts/ vests/ singlet tops, two in my neutral colour and two other
- 2-4 x leggings or three-quarter leggings in my neutral colour
- 1 x white maternity trousers/ jeans
Summer accessories – these are not specialised maternity garments, but try stylish ethical brands such as People Tree, Neon, Komodo, Boden, or try one of the brilliant ethical-only online shops who have done all the searching and checking for you: Think Boutique, Style with Heart and Fashion Conscience. I’ve also recently discovered Tom’s shoes and am loving their style and ethics.
- sandals in neutral colour
- ballet flats in neutral colour
- handbag in neutral colour
- scarves/ jewellery in lots of different colours (that go with my neutral colour!)
Summer garments – I absolutely adore all the floaty fabulousness of Minna‘s tops and dresses – they’re not maternity, but many items would work perfectly over even the largest of bumps. Also try Boob, Verry Kerry, The Birthing Shirt Company, and Babes With Babies.
- 2-4 floaty/ slouchy maternity tops in different colours
- 2-4 maternity dresses in different colours
- At least one maternity shirt
Here are some combinations I put together from my maternity wardrobe. All I’ve done is use the same basics and accessories in my neutral colour (tan) with garments I bought second hand, for cost and eco-friendliness. I like adding scarves and waistcoats for interest and texture. With the exception of handbag and shoes, none of these outfits cost more than £15!
- 4 x long sleeved t-shirts, polo-necks, two in neutral colour, two other
- 4 x leggings/ thick tights in neutral colour
- 2 x jeans – one skinny, one flared, both overbumpers for me, but try on both underbump and overbump styles to see what works for you
- boots in neutral colour
- ballet flats in neutral colour
- scarves, hats and gloves in different colours
Winter garments – as styles and fashions change each year, it’s hard to say exactly where to buy what, but try the following brands for a reliable combination of ethics and style: Boob, Verry Kerry and Boden; Casha for ponchos; Nancy Dee and ETC often have luxurious, ethical kimono dresses in their ranges which work well with a bump. I loved shopping from Babes With Babies during my pregnancies and although they don’t mention their ethical policy on their website, they have confirmed to me in writing that none of their garments are made in sweatshops.
- 2 colourful maternity jumpers/ ponchos
- 2-4 colourful maternity dresses
- A bright and fabulous, warm and waterproof maternity jacket
- At least one maternity shirt – These are great shirts and not just for birthing! The Birthing Shirt Company
Here are just a few examples of how this works for the Winter items I’ve suggested. I’ve layered basics under specialised maternity garments and non-maternity items that I already had and spent more on accessories (shoes and bag) as I know I’ll be able to wear them post-pregnancy.
Sleepwear and underwear
- Bras: Ladies, invest in 2-4 x maternity bras, whatever the best you can afford is! Get fitted if you possibly can around 8-10 weeks or earlier if you feel your normal bras no longer fit. Remember, maternity bras can double as breast-feeding bras so you may end up wearing them for quite a while! If you grow out of your first maternity bra during pregnancy, put it aside as it will probably fit you again when you are feeding. I discovered a number of beautiful lingerie brands during my sixth pregnancy, but sadly, most of them have been unable to confirm that their garments are not made in sweatshops! One brand that did give me this assurance was Amoralia. I loved their matching bra and knickers sets and the fact that some of their range even has an underwire. I am still wearing pieces from their Cupcake Collection for nursing and have found it practical, long lasting and stylish. Boob also do matching sets of simple, soft lingerie with ethical provenance.
- Knickers: Maternity knickers can be a godsend too! I’d buy at least 4-6 pairs. Sometimes normal ones really cut across the pelvic bone and can be very uncomfortable. Try on overbump and underbump to see which you prefer. After your baby arrives, you’ll need to wear a maternity pad for up to six weeks, and big, comfy maternity knickers are just the thing for this purpose. (Boob’s range is perfect for this: big, soft and comfy!)
- Sleepwear: I love beautiful sleepwear and have recently discovered Luva Huva. They don’t do a maternity range, but their Jersey nightie is super soft and stretchy and I challenge anyone to produce a bump that it won’t fit over! Their Babydoll and knicker/ short sets are also brilliant, and very easy for feeding after baby arrives. Amoralia also do maternity nighties and pyjama sets, which I haven’t personally tried but if I were pregnant again, I would. If you don’t normally wear anything to bed, don’t forget you’ll need something for hospital, so why not stock up before 40 weeks and then you can get a bit more wear from whatever you purchase.
5. SHOPPING!: This is the fun bit, right? Here are a few tips for when it comes to actually parting with your cash.
- Save a lot of money by buying ahead – most people know they’re going to need maternity clothing well before they actually need it, so buy ahead from end of season sales.
- You can also buy a lot of the more expensive brands listed above second hand on eBay.
- Search online for recycled maternity clothing stores in your area.
- Consider maternity hire stores if you have an important event but don’t want to buy something specifically.
- Lots of maternity clothing is designed to double as nursing clothing, so if you’re planning to breast feed, look for tops and dresses with specially designed openings – you’ll get even more wear out of things that way.
- Even if you don’t breast feed, you won’t have your before-baby body back for many months, so maternity clothing really is an investment for quite a long period of time.
- I sold the entirety of my maternity wardrobe on eBay: Look for maternity bundles and step into someone else’s ready-made style!
- Don’t just go out and buy items six sizes bigger than your usual size. I’ve done this before, buying size 18 jumpers and shirts though I normally wear a 10. All that happens is they constantly fall off your shoulders or plunge way too far at the neckline… your tummy may have gone up several sizes, but your shoulders, arms, legs etc won’t have (not that much, anyway!)
- Swap and share with friends. If you have a great maternity wardrobe in safe keeping for your next pregnancy, share it with a deserving and trustworthy friend. She’ll probably do the same for you and you’ll end up with twice as much choice.
- Mix up bargains with investment pieces.
- If you have a little more in your budget and want to invest in things you can keep beyond your pregnancy, consider shoes, bags, scarves and other accessories. They’ll lift your bargain finds and maybe even be a happy reminder of your pregnancy later on!
If you know of any great, ethical brands who make maternity clothing PLEASE let me know! I would love to include more recommendations in the article and am always looking to explore great products with happy, healthy provenance!
**The basis of this article originally appeared in my pregnancy blog on Sept 6, 2012 and included the images I have reused here. Some images include brands which I no longer buy as they are unable or unwilling to detail the provenance of their goods. I have used these images to illustrate how I would put a wardrobe together, but do encourage readers to consider ethical alternatives and have made every attempt to provide at least one ethical supplier for each item I suggest you will need. Since July 2013 I have personally undertaken to buy exclusively from ethical brands both for myself and my children.