Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
To some, maternity clothes say, I'm not a cool person anymore — I'm a mom. Some pregnant women veer towards the Kate Middleton look: a floral wrap dress and a pair of comfy flats. Others strive to be in clothing as close to pajamas as possible. If neither of those are for you (and if you're not into bodycon, either), traditional "maternity" wear can be a pain. Most expectant mothers, like me, want to be able to dress as close to normal as possible — only with more comfort and without having to shell out too much on items that'll only be in your wardrobe temporarily. Considering the cost-per-wear here, should we just ditch the category altogether?
To that question, some fashion insiders say: Yes. "I didn’t buy any specific maternity wear, apart from a pair of Topshop jeans because they have a soft waistband for that last trimester bulge," blogger Susie Lau, a.k.a. Susie Bubble, told me. "I just adapted what I would normally wear to my new size. I was never one for bodycon dresses and super-tight clothes, anyway, so the loose trapeze shapes and empire lines were fine by me. I had to stick to elasticated waistband trousers and skirts for the entire pregnancy but you could easily find them in non-maternity clothes."
One of the main reasons for steering clear of clothing tagged for maternity is that the fast-fashion and high-street selection tends to me limited, expensive, and/or only available online. Many designers don't even bother with pregnancy dressing: If you type in "maternity" into Net-A-Porter's search bar, you get a few items from the label Hatch, the odd beauty product, and that's about it. In addition to a perceived lack of glamour, many brands are reluctant to invest in these ranges, since they know full well that most women won't spend much on clothes they will only wear for a short period of time. Instead, brands like Séraphine and JoJo Maman Bébé dominate the market.
Instead of succumbing to a maternity label, clever expectant shoppers simply revisit certain versatile silhouettes. Lau, for one, suggested buying a good pair of pants with a comfortable, stretch waist. "I loved my J Brand leather trousers that had a really forgiving elasticated waistband," she explained. There are also "fun and OTT dresses" (a Susie Bubble signature) that can easily be taken on and off a bump, and "remind you of the times when you went out partying and were allowed to drink," Lau noted. "I wore a lot of Molly Goddard dresses because they were bump-friendly and weren't necessarily typical maternity wear."
Some may resort to wearing their favorite pants half-unzipped simply to avoid buying maternity wear, but there's a way to embrace your body's changes without completely altering your look, according to industry experts. "It's all about oversized and voluminous proportions looking sexy and feminine," Tara Allison, head of design at ASOS, told Refinery29. She recommended investing in a versatile dress that can be worn over jeans or with your go-to sneakers. "The oversized trapeze dress or [T-shirt] is great when worn over the bump. Key asymmetrical details, cut-outs, and ruffle placements all make this look new."
Holly Wright, Topshop's head of design, had a similar approach — though she did succumb to a few key maternity-specific garments: "Being pregnant myself, I've avoided trying to adapt my wardrobe to fit with current trends," Wright said. "Instead, I've invested in pieces that are a more pregnancy-friendly version of my usual style, choosing classic and comfortable shapes to fit with my changing body shape." Her go-to formula? Topshop Maternity's Jamie skinny jeans, worn with an oversized white shirt or Breton jersey top.
Jennie Wright, a dance teacher and mother of one, agreed with Wright's expectant-dressing philosophy. She didn't want to change her look too much when she was pregnant, so she tried to stick with what she already had: "I bought a few bits, but because most of my clothes are stretchy, they went with me," Wright said. "Some maternity stuff is alright, but I didn't want to waste money on clothes I would never wear again, so I put it off for as long as possible."
Certain trends may be off the table momentarily (sorry, high-waisted jeans), but pregnancy gives you a new sense of appreciation for your old clothes. For Lau, this meant looking at her everyday zipped-and-buttoned trousers and skirts in a different light. "It took me longer than I thought to get back into my old clothes," she noted. "The bump didn't magically shrink immediately after giving birth. I also missed heels; my feet expanded a bit in the last trimester, and it was too precarious [to wear heels] once I couldn't see my feet."
But the dressing-related headaches don't end once the baby arrives — for some, there's nursing to consider, too. "Breastfeeding clothes are even worse, really nannyish, like Mrs. Doubtfire!" Emily James, a mother of two, pointed out. "Many of the brands are overpriced, Kate Middleton-style clothes: wrap dresses, cardigans that cross over and button up down one side, funny old T-shirts that have a panel underneath — things like that. On the front, you’re wearing two or three layers of material." Some of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe pieces can work just fine in these scenarios, she argued.
Ultimately, though, these fashion inconveniences are just a minor hiccup. Quite rightly, Lau pointed out one maternity clothing trend that we can do away with: "I have nothing against stripes per se, but I do wonder why the majority of maternity wear revolves around stretchy striped tops and dresses," she observed. "It's very unimaginative. I just think women don't necessarily need to blandify their dress sense when they're pregnant." True that.