What to Wear When You’re Expecting

Ahh, pregnancy. Such a magical, mystical, amazing time, right? Well, yes…and also a very emphatic NO. Some lucky women seem to channel Angelina Jolie and become life-giving, earth-mother goddesses, proclaiming their undying love for being pregnant. These are probably the same women who notice nary a labor contraction until they accidentally sneeze the baby out.

I am not one of those women.


When I am pregnant, I am more like a beached whale moaning its pleas for rescue or a giant tortoise that has been flipped onto its back, waving its stumpy legs around in a herculean effort to turn over. For approximately 2.5 days in the middle, I feel pretty good. Otherwise, I’m either desperately keeping my nausea at bay or waddling my way into positions that are ever so slightly less crushing to my internal organs.

If you are anything like me, you probably appreciate anything and everything that can make you more comfortable and help you look halfway decent while you cook up your little miracle. You still want to look cute and feel like yourself, but your body is constantly changing, and you may not have the money or energy to spend on figuring out how to flatter your growing belly. With my second (and likely last) pregnancy coming to a close, I’ve compiled my favorite tips that helped my wardrobe survive 18 months of bouncing babies in my belly.

It may be tempting to try to (literally) stretch your pre-pregnancy wardrobe out over the whole nine months, but resist the urge if you can! It doesn’t actually save money in the long run, since you end up ruining your clothes, and it will only highlight your increasing size. Instead, I suggest using the following:

  • Several inexpensive maternity basicsOld Navy and Target both have great maternity sections for basics like tees, tank tops, and simple cotton dresses. These can be worn alone in the warmer months or layered when it’s cold. Old Navy also has the best, most comfortable maternity leggings. Be sure to stock up on these – I have practically lived in them!
  • 2 or 3 investment maternity pieces – If it’s cold when you’re in the second or third trimesters, be sure to splurge on a good maternity coat to get you through the Iowa winter. And no matter the season, invest in a great pair of maternity jeans that feel good and flatter your shape. I tried to get by with a cheap pair of jeans during my first pregnancy, but I was always tugging at them and hated wearing them. The second time around, I shelled out the hundred bucks to get a pair that were well made and fit great, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. A well-made pair of jeans will last throughout your entire pregnancy – and all your subsequent pregnancies as well – so the cost per wear ends up being very reasonable. For these types of investment pieces, check out Isabella Oliver, Séraphine, Asos Maternity, and Gap. Better yet, shop online consignment stores to find these brands for much less, or sell them to these stores when you’re done with them to get some of your money back.
  • Items that will fit both during and after pregnancy – Once you have some foundational maternity pieces, you can just add items that you already have (or go shopping!) that fit well whether you’re pregnant or not. Open cardigans or casual blazers left unbuttoned can be dressed up or down and will fit over your maternity tees. Plus, they add vertical lines over your rounded torso, creating a slimming effect. Loose, flowing blouses are also great for the 1st and 2nd trimesters and postpartum period. Just be sure to give them a break if they start making you resemble a tent. (I’m lookin’ at you, 3rd trimester.) Maxi dresses are super comfortable, and can even work in the colder months (how cute is this?). I have used Stitch Fix throughout my second pregnancy and requested these kinds of pieces. It’s been a great way to keep my wardrobe fresh without having to waste money on clothes that I could only wear for a few months.

    This was practically my pregnancy uniform. Lots of black, maternity tank, maternity leggings, open cardigans, and booties.
    This was practically my pregnancy uniform. Lots of black with a pop of color, maternity leggings, open tops layered over a maternity tank, and booties.
  • Accessories to add your personality – Although maternity clothing has come a LONG way in recent years, it’s still pretty basic. You’ll mostly find neutral solid colors, stripes, and possibly a polka-dot here or there. Accessories are a great way to jazz up your outfit and inject some of your personal style back into the mix. Scarves and jewelry will fit on any body type, and belts are a cute way to accentuate your baby bump.
  • Comfortable shoes – Pregnancy is certainly not the time to be rocking stilettos, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear frumpy footwear. During the warmer months, sandals and ballet flats can accommodate swelling feet. In the winter, go for booties with good traction and plenty of tread. Bonus points if they zip on the side, letting you leave the zipper partially open when your ankles start to swell (I have loved these). Triple bonus points if they also lace up, letting you loosen them up in multiple ways (like these).
  • If you’ve got it, flaunt it – Just because you’re pregnant, that doesn’t mean you can’t show some skin! Maybe you want to take the opportunity to highlight some of your new pregnancy (ahem) assets. But even if you’re on the modest side, some strategic skin exposure can be flattering to any figure by drawing attention to the thinner areas of your body. For example, your forearms are unlikely to change much during pregnancy, and that is a thinner area on most women. The same goes for your lower legs and ankles, at least before the swelling starts. Use that to your advantage by wearing ¾-length sleeves or cropped pants with ballet flats or sandals to create a slimming effect. Likewise, highlight your collarbone and upper chest with boatnecks, scoopnecks, or v-necks. You can also channel your inner Kim Kardashian (no judgment!) and flatter your face by highlighting and contouring with your makeup.

Whatever you’re wearing during pregnancy, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable and feel as good as you can. Consider what you like wearing and what you can afford, and then wear it loud and proud! Even if you feel like a beached whale, you are making a brand new human with your own body, so just get on with your bad self.

Kristin Flanary
Kristin met her husband in college at Texas Tech University, and they later moved to New Hampshire, where they earned his-and-hers advanced degrees (complete with matching towels) at Dartmouth. They had their first date on Valentine's Day, got engaged on Valentine's Day three years later, welcomed their first daughter (Charlotte) on Valentine's Day three years after that, and their second daughter (Claire) on Valentine's Day three years after that! Kristin and her family moved to Iowa City in 2014 so her husband could begin his residency at UIHC. She is currently laugh-crying her way through raising a threenager and an infant while simultaneously working full-time at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and juggling the crazy schedule of a resident's wife. Kristin has been a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, and work-outside-the-home mom, so she can officially judge that each scenario is hard and equally wonderful. In her free time, you can find Kristin either taking pictures and learning about photography, reading about how not to screw up her daughters, on her soapbox about women's rights, enjoying a hard-earned glass of wine, or collapsed from exhaustion. Her life is ridiculous and her heart is full.


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