With your body continually changing size for the length of pregnancy and months after, finding maternity clothing to dress the bump without breaking the bank is important.
I learned a lot while going through pregnancy more than once. I now feel I finally have the wardrobe for maternity and post-partum that I really wish I had from the very beginning.
With how expensive changing your whole wardrobe over can be, you really want to get it right the first time. I could have spent my money better. I would have been so much more comfortable. I also would have chosen different items and felt so much more put together.
Use this guide as a resource to finding awesome options every trimester and post-partum.
Disclaimer: this post contains Affiliate Links. Read about what affiliate links are and how we use them here.
The Essential Maternity Clothing
- Long tank tops
- Belly Wrap
You will find yourself most likely shopping for a bra very soon after finding out you are pregnant. Your boobs in the first trimester usually become sore and grow. Finding a good, supportive pregnancy bra in that first trimester that has room to grow is a must.
Once you are in your third trimester, you will most likely need to upsize again. If you plan on nursing, you should invest in one or two high quality nursing bras instead of a maternity bra. This way the bra will work for the third trimester and post-partum. I am a big fan of Bravado Design Bras. Remember to get one without wires as that can cause clogged ducts.
Long tank tops
While you can of course not buy tank tops, I found them to be an essential part of my wardrobe. I would look for super comfy, super stretchy tank tops that are long. You want them to be long so that as your bump grows, they still cover your belly. This allows you to use them throughout your full pregnancy. When your belly is smaller, they will cover the maternity band on jeans which is a plus.
I think you have two options here depending on what you want. You can go with the inexpensive route and just size up regular tank tops from Target or grab 2-3 nursing tank tops. Nursing tank tops are more expensive but are fantastic to have if you plan on nursing. If you invest while pregnant, you get more use out of them as they work for maternity too.
Nursing tank tops allow you to wear normal shirts (not nursing shirts) and keep your belly covered. You might also find you just want to wear the nursing tank if it’s summer when you have your baby.
This is different than just a belly band. Belly bands aren’t designed to help support. A belly wrap is sewn in a specific fashion, so it will pull up and support your growing belly. I would invest in one sometime during your first trimester. If you are further along, I would say it is still worth it to invest. I found that this not only helped me get through work as I stand a lot during the day but also REALLY helped with the need to pee all the time. It essentially lifts just enough that there isn’t an insane amount of pressure on my bladder.
During the first and second trimester, you can probably get away with sizing up underwear sizes. However, if you invest right away in maternity underwear, you will probably spend less money in the long run. Also, if you get the right ones, you will be so COMFY. A quick search will show you that finding a good pair is hard. Most have terrible reviews. However, these from Motherhood Maternity were amazing. I would wear them even if I wasn’t pregnant. 😊
Invest in a good pair of maternity jeans and maternity leggings so you are comfortable. I would buy maternity leggings during your first trimester since morning sickness and feeling bloated means you want to be as comfortable as possible. You can fold the belly part down until you want it. Maternity leggings are great because they stretch so you can wear them for the full duration and they pair great with baggy sweaters, long comfy shirts or tunics.
When looking for maternity jeans, make sure the material has stretch. I was able to wear my jeans throughout pregnancy. It took me a while to find a good pair. I ended up using Stitch Fix.
If you get maternity jeans but don’t want people to know you are pregnant yet, remember to invest in some of those long tank tops, which will hide the maternity band. If you can’t wear your regular jeans anymore but your maternity jeans won’t stay up, utilize a belly wrap.
Another great option, which is super cute, is to buy maternity overalls or short overalls depending on the season. They are so comfortable as they can stay up without squeezing the belly. I got mine from Maternity Motherhood and love them. Maternity Motherhood is like the Target of maternity clothing. You can truly find everything there.
- Short sleeve shirts
- Long sleeve shirts
- Tank tops
When shopping for tops, remember that you are buying specifically for second and third trimester. Try to find tops that would work for both such as plain comfortable staples. You can always layer with sweaters that you already own. Think about what season you will be for which trimester.
I wanted to buy some tops that I could wear both during early (first and second trimester) pregnancy and post-partum when my body was still changing a lot. Therefore, I didn’t want the top to be maternity specific. Maternity specific tops accentuate the bump and I didn’t really want to do that post-partum.
I ended up utilizing Stitch Fix again here because I could request this from the stylist. I specifically asked for tops that weren’t maternity tops but would work as maternity tops. Another excellent Stitch Fix request to make is to ask for clothing items that you can wear during pregnancy but also work for nursing (aka easy boob access).
For those of you new to Stitch Fix, you make an account that tells them all about your style preferences. You can even link to a Pinterest board so make one on maternity or post-partum fashion. You then pay a $25 styling fee and receive a box of 5 or 6 items. If you keep at least $25 worth of items, then the styling fee is deducted from your total. I also found that using Stitch Fix for maternity items was cheaper than maternity specific stores.
Work-Appropriate Maternity Clothing
Depending on how fancy you need to dress for work, you could be looking at a very expensive clothing bill. I would consider looking into Le Tote. You “rent” maternity clothing. Similar to Stitch Fix but you don’t buy the items. When you want new ones, simply send yours back and get a new set.
If weather permits and you can’t wear shorts to work, utilize maxi skirts and dresses, which can easily be layered to achieve a certain level of professional. If you invest in high quality maternity tee shirts in solid colors, you can dress them up with cardigans, jewelry and fashion scarves you already have. Along with the shirts, grab two maternity dress pants that are versatile.
Alli’s go-to work pants (here and here) are both from Maternity Motherhood and lasted throughout pregnancy. It is okay if they are on the big size when you first get them. Use the belly wrap to keep them up. The belly wrap will also make a big difference if you stand all day.
- Shower Dress
- Maternity Photoshoot Dress
While you might start planning your shower early in pregnancy, most showers take place some time in the third trimester. Additionally, baby showers are a fantastic way to not only celebrate baby’s upcoming arrival but also get some fantastic bump shots with family. You will want to make sure you have a good option that shows off your bump.
Speaking of photos, another time in pregnancy that you will want something fancy is if you get maternity photos done. A lot of photographers offer packages that include maternity, hospital and newborn shoots.
A dress that comes in under your boobs is a good choice for both a shower and a photo shoot. Invest in one you love so that years later you will still love those photos. Pick one you can dress up in case you have any events such as a wedding to attend while pregnant and dress down. Dresses are a good choice for summer to stay comfortable and cool.
My favorite place to find maternity dresses is Figure 8. They have a wide selection and they are so pretty. The dress in the photo is from Figure 8 and it photographs so well due to the colors and pattern. It is comfortable which is a must in the third trimester. I also feel I can wear it to an evening event and to the park. By getting a dress that pulls in under your boobs, you can also wear it post-partum without it looking like a maternity dress.
Think Seasonal with Maternity Clothing
- Dresses/maxi skirts
Depending on your due date, you will either be desperately trying to get jackets to zip or dying of heat in the hot sun.
For those of you looking for jackets, you can get just an insert that you zip into your jackets instead of having to purchase a maternity jacket.
If you are going to have a summer or fall baby, I would get a swim suit. Swimming is not only a great way to stay cool but is also good exercise while pregnant. It will take the pressure off and help with any back or hip pain. Before forking out money and buying a maternity swimsuit, try sizing up and buying a regular tankini swim suit. It will be less expensive, and you will have a lot more to pick from. Another plus is you can wear it post-partum.
Instead of buying maternity pajamas, get ones that will work post-partum also. If you plan to breastfeed, you may want to consider buying a nursing pajama set. These sets typically include the comfiest pants you will ever wear, a nursing tank top and a robe-styled top. Figure 8 has a good selection, and some include a matching baby outfit! The outfit in the photo is one of my new favorites!
You will spend those first few weeks with baby living in nothing but this. You will be recovering and breastfeeding essentially 24/7. Breastfeeding often and on demand will ensure a good supply so make it easier by having clothing that supports breastfeeding.
At the Hospital
While you can find a detailed list of everything including clothing that you need to bring to the hospital. I want to emphasize how important it is to have an outfit that works for nursing and to get photos.
You should take so many photos during those first few days at the hospital. You might even want to consider having a photographer come while you are still there. Looking back, I wish I took more pictures at the hospital when I had L because it is such a precious time. It is the beginning of your life as a family with this new member.
Therefore, you want to pack an outfit but remember you just gave birth. Don’t try to do a fancy outfit but instead go for comfort and get some candid shots. A nursing top and robe with comfy pants is a great alternative to a hospital gown. You also don’t know what will fit you as you might still have a lot of swelling. I am excited for this outfit specifically because it has a matching baby outfit <3
Buying maternity clothing can be tough since you are only pregnant for a short time. Additionally, during that time and after, your body is continually changing. Start by investing in good essentials so you can be comfortable during pregnancy. Build your wardrobe by trying to find options that work both during pregnancy and post-partum. Remember to consider the seasons when looking at clothing items.
If you can’t find any good options near you consider online, like Figure 8 or other maternity stores, or try Stitch Fix. If you need a lot of work clothing, you might be better off with using a service like Le Tote.
Remember to get one or two dresses for your shower or maternity photos that show off your beautiful bump. You will look back on those photos for years to come! Your hospital bag should also include an option that will work for photos but instead of going dressy, go for a robe set that will fit perfectly with the scene and result in fantastic candid photos.
If you are looking for more ways to prepare in addition to maternity clothing, be sure to sign up for our FREE Bump Smart Course and get a weekly how to prepare email specific to your due date.
Near the end of your pregnancy? Take a FREE Nest Smart Course, which is a 7-day crash course to ensure you are ready for baby’s arrival.
If you found this post helpful, please share it on Facebook or Pinterest
Dr. Trina Fitzpatrick is a wife, mom, blogger, and a breastfeeding advocate. She is the co-author of the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook. She attributes her success at breastfeeding her own children into toddlerhood with working with lactation consultants in the hospital in the early stages and on a weekly basis afterwards. By writing at MomSmartNotHard, she educates mamas-to-be on all things pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Read more about Trina.