Maternity wear guide

T-shirts on pregnancy mannequinIn the olden days, when our mothers were pregnant, it was acceptable to spend your entire pregnancy in sensible flat shoes and trousers with an elasticated waist. But, sadly, pregnancy is no longer an excuse to put away your skinny jeans and be a slattern for six months - every high street store and mail order company has its own on-trend maternity range.

Fret not, our maternity wear guide is on hand to help you navigate your way through the options.

The in-between stage can be the hardest - when you feel more fat than pregnant. Your favourite jeans feel like an instrument of torture, yet it would take two of you to fill maternity clothes. How do all those celebrities do it? Answer: they have a team of stylists, unlimited funds and a bump the size of a lychee.

So what do the mavens of the Mumsnet Talk boards recommend? Well, there are a few tricks that might see you through that awkward stage as you get a feel for the shape of your tummy.

"I used to thread a thick elastic band or hair bobble through my trouser button hole, double it over and hoop it over the button, then wear long tops to hide the gape." catsmother

Bump bands, which sit under a regular T-shirt but stop your belly peeking out, are an alternative. But unless you are very lucky, your bump won't be the only part of your body that expands during your pregnancy. Your bum and thighs will want to join in, too.

You can often get away with buying normal clothes in a size bigger than you would normally wear. Elastic and drawstring waists - think Gypsy skirts rather than Saga slacks - might also give you a few months reprieve before heading to the maternity section.

Alternatively, borrow from your partner's wardrobe: "Rather than spend a lot of money on maternity nightwear, I pinched my partner's old shirts - the bigger and baggier the better."

Wearing clothes that hug your bump - showing it off rather than shrouding it - usually look better and avoid you looking like a fat person dressing nicely.

Avoid at all costs the crop-top with belly-button exposure; not only does it scream Britney but it can be hazardous near a hot stove.

Flattering not fattening maternity wear

Mumsnetters say that empire line is your friend, as it makes you look pregnant rather than just looking like you've eaten all the pies.

And it's definitely the way forward if you're a) getting married sporting your bump or b) are a bridesmaid or wedding guest sporting your bump.

Some annoying lucky women need very little maternity wear. But for most of us, there will come a time when we eventually outgrow even our child's playtent.

"I lived in clothes a size bigger when I was pregnant with my daughter and looked a mess most of the time, plus I wasn't really comfortable, as they don't always sit properly. This time I splashed out on a couple of pairs of trousers and a pair of dungarees from Mothercare. It was expensive but worth it. I feel more comfy this time round." Mummyhill

You need a black belt in origami just to get some maternity clothes to stay on - all that folding, wrapping, swathing, and tying. So shopping by mail order is best delayed until you have a proper grasp of what styles best work for you.

Set aside a morning or an afternoon to spend at a shop that sells a large range of maternity wear and try on as many outfits as you can bear.

Think about how well your clothes are going to fit in a month's time, not just how you look; you want to feel comfortable as well as covered. What might look OK in front of the mirror won't always work when you start to move. 

"A lot depends on the size and shape of your bump. In my first and second pregnancies I had a bump like a football and nothing elsewhere. I had to wear trousers over my bump as nothing else felt comfortable or fell down. In my last pregnancy, I was a different shape - not as football-like and I even got a yummy bum. Under-the-bump gear was fab; I felt like I was being strangled if I wore my over-the-bump clothes." Gigglewitchyouamerrychristmas

Bargain maternity wear

The leap from busting out of your regular clothes to investing in a maternity wardrobe can be costly, particularly when you want to spend money on dinky baby things instead. Try these tips for low-cost maternity dressing:

  • Freecycle ( can be a good source of secondhand maternity wear and given that maternity clothes aren't worn for years on end (no, really, we promise) you can often get clothes in great condition
  • Maternity hire shops/websites - particularly useful if you have formal functions or parties and want something a bit special without forking out too much cash
  • Secondhand maternity wear dress agencies 
  • Nearly new sales - see your Mumsnet Local for listings
  • Mumsnet's For Sale/Wanted Talk boards are another good source of secondhand gear
  • Friends and family - if you know anyone who has recently has a baby, chances are they have cast-offs that they haven't already set fire to - you can always give them back once you have finished with them

Capsule pregnancy wardrobe

What do you really want your T-shirt to say?

'Don't touch the bump, I don't know where you've been'
'Yes, it was planned'
'No, it's not twins'
'Sponsored by Gaviscon'
'In my next life I'm going to be a man'
'Bring me biscuits'
'Step away from the mad pregnant lady'
'No, I haven't had it yet'
'Baby due. Give up your seat.'

If you are only going to splash out on a few things, what you hope to create is a 'capsule' pregnancy wardrobe:

  • Trousers
  • Jeans
  • Wrap dress
  • Wrap top
  • Two smart tops
  • Two casual tops
  • Tracksuit bottoms

But most of us will end up slumped on the sofa in our dad's cardigan. Moby Dick wasn't known for his dapper dress sense.

"Your first baby, you begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as it's confirmed you're pregnant. Your second baby, you wear your regular clothes as long as possible. Your third baby, your maternity clothes are your regular clothes." Kitti

If you've got any great finds in the maternity wear department, shout about 'em on the Style & Beauty Talk board. 

Last updated: almost 3 years ago