First-time pregnancy is really one of the most educational experiences a woman can have. I had initially thought that I could continue to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes (well, the stretchable ones at least) throughout my pregnancy, as long as I did consistent exercise. Money saved, right?
Fast forward to the cusp of my third trimester. My “maternity wardrobe” had begun to get tight. Because despite what this ignorant first-time mom had thought, your belly will balloon to dimensions way beyond what your pre-pregnancy threads can handle, no matter how stretchy they are. Invest in a few select maternity pieces to see you through pregnancy. You’ll be much more comfortable, and you’ll still be able to use them during the postpartum transition period!
(See also: 8 Handy Wardrobe Essentials for New Mums-To-Be)
Buying Maternity Clothes: How to Begin
If the time has come for you to start shopping for maternity clothes, it’s likely you’ll find it daunting too. After all, this is a whole new category of clothes we’re talking about! Here’s our practical guide for first-time moms: When to shop, what to shop for, it’s maternity wear deconstructed!
Maternity Tops and Dresses
The most important criteria for maternity wear is that it must accommodate a growing belly. Since a lot of clothing for the non-pregnant crowd allows for mid-section roominess, you may be able to improvise using existing pieces in your wardrobe during the initial months.
You can make use of your pre-pregnancy clothing in the early stages of pregnancy when the belly is not yet visible, as long as the dress style is a good fit for your needs, says Sharon Ho-Norton, Founder and Managing Director of maternity and nursing wear specialist MEV (Mothers en Vogue). “The babydoll top or a flared A-line dress are great pieces to work with.”
Maternity bottoms, however, are tricky to upsize. “Maternity bottoms are designed with proper technical proportions that cater to the growing bump. For example, measurements for front and back rise are critical considerations in allowing for a good fit while catering for a growing belly,” she says. The solution? Invest in a few good pairs of maternity bottoms to last through your pregnancy.
When to shop: In the second trimester, when your belly starts to become more visible. You’ll know how much stretch you need from your clothes too.
Left: The Basic Ankle Leggings in Black have a wide tummy band to hug the pregnant belly. Right: These Foldover Yoga Pants in Heather Grey feature a foldover waistband to accommodate a growing belly, and can be worn above or below the belly for comfort.
When it comes to bottoms, elastic waistbands are your best friend. During the early stages of pregnancy, you might be able to get by with simple hacks such as using rubber bands around pant buttons. But as you progress into your pregnancy, like Sharon said, it’s a good idea to invest in quality maternity bottoms as they provide more room for your belly to grow.
According to Sharon, sizing is a common problem pregnant women face when shopping for maternity bottoms. Your body undergoes rapid growth during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you need to upsize your clothes from S to XL! “The truth is, you would only go up by a size or two over the course of your pregnancy. Use that as a gauge when shopping for maternity bottoms, and get assistance from a sales advisor who knows her products very well,” Sharon advises.
When to shop: “Start shopping for maternity bottoms once your regular pants or jeans can no longer button up,” says Sharon. “This is typically in the fourth to fifth month of your pregnancy.”
Now there are many waistband construction types in maternity clothing. Which should you choose and how do you even tell them apart? If you are a first-time mum-to-be, Sharon recommends the Foldover Knitted Waistband type. “The Foldover Knitted offers the largest degree of flexibility. Not only will it fit regardless of the size of your belly, it is suitable even after you have given birth. You can adjust the height of the waistband and wear it at the hip once you return to your pre-pregnancy shape.” Personally, I also like how it ‘wraps’ the belly, giving the illusion of extra support!
“Pregnant women have different needs in terms of sportswear,” says Deborah Ng, Founder and Director of Maternity Exchange. “Maternity sportswear offer extra support and comfort. Bottoms would have wider waistbands that sit comfortably either under or over the belly, with some even providing support for the belly and the back. As many women’s breasts increase in size during pregnancy, they will also need a comfortable sports bra with good support.”
Can you simply make do with regular sportswear in a larger size, or use your existing sportswear? That’s not a good idea, says Deborah. “The main problem with regular sportswear (especially bottoms) is that the elastic waistband is too tight and narrow, with a tendency to bite into the underbelly area. This can be uncomfortable for the expectant mum.”
“Getting larger sizes of regular sportswear would only result in a very sloppy look as the hips and butt area will be way too big for the mum, whose main area of growth is the belly. Wearing your pre-pregnancy clothes could also make your shirt look too small. Instead, maternity fitness tops have ruching and a longer length to cater to the growth of the belly, flattering the mum’s new body shape.”
This applies to swimwear too. “Maternity swimwear tankini tops are longer in front to cater for belly growth. One-piece styles may have ruching at the belly area for the same reason. Besides having wider, more comfortable and supportive waistbands, maternity swimwear also have lots more stretch in them!”
(See also: Diaper Bags for Fashionista Mums!)
Like sports bras, it is important to wear bras that provide ample support for your growing bosom during pregnancy. Maternity bras will have the following features:
• Wider shoulder straps
• Soft cotton lining
• Wider band
• Extra hooks and eyes on the band
• Underwire bands instead of underwire cups
All these are to offer the pregnant mum extra comfort and support. According to Mothercare, “Maternity bras are non-wired so that they won’t dig into the sensitive breast tissue. A fully supportive non-wired bra will also help your breasts to retain their shape after your pregnancy and far beyond.”
It is not advisable to continue wearing your pre-pregnancy bras, as they’ll start getting tight and uncomfortable. Again, it is crucial to go for a fitting so that you get bras in the correct cup size. You’ll also be able to pick out the pieces that you’re most comfortable in!
Now that you know what to look for, unleash the shopping monster. Not sure where to find stylish options? Try these online maternity and nursing fashion retailers. Happy shopping!