This week I finally had to accept that I can’t wear my leather trousers for the rest of my pregnancy. They still fit me, but after a day at work with them cutting into what is now a distinctly protruding, rock hard, pregnant stomach, I’ve decided they need to go on the back bench. I had started to buy a few bits of clothing pre-Christmas in the acceptance this was going to happen, but this marked in some ways the beginning of the end…or does it?
I think the concept of maternity wear has got a pretty bad rap over time – deservedly so if you do a quick search for it online – your feed is filled up pretty quickly with wrap dress upon wrap dress. Now, I have nothing against these items (DVF, I salute you..), but they’re just not my kind of thing these days, and I’m determined not to lose all semblance of my own style because I’m going to rapidly expand in one direction.
So, there’s a plan in place…to on the whole not buy maternity wear. With the exception of some basic items that I’ve come to accept need to have severe waist elastic (maternity jeans I’m talking about you), and that I wear all the time, for the rest of it I’m either (a) trying to re-style clothes I already have (I love a dressing up challenge), (b) buying things that I love and I think will stretch with me, but survive post pregnancy, or (c) buying things that will make what might become a uniform of quite basic items a bit more fun and interesting.
I’ve done a fair bit of research, so here’s the plan, and some good resources. I’m not necessarily going for value in terms of cheapest items here – I don’t mind spending a bit of money, as long as I think that the clothes will last over the long term.
In the name of that, one of the best of resources I found is http://www.nineinthemirror.com . Think of it as the Netaporter for pregnant women – it stocks both maternity and non-maternity wear, but they’ve curated and road tested everything for you, and each item has commentary as to why it will be good for maternity, how long it will last you through the pregnancy, and how to style it. I wish I’d invented it myself, and it’s a great resource to keep you excited about your clothing options whilst your body is doing crazy things. Having said that, it stocks items up to the level of Lanvin prices, so that part isn't for everyone! It does have some good price stuff too though, so it’s worth checking out.
Likewise, COS is brilliant for tops that have a bit of give at the front, a structured shape, and will carry you through the first and second trimester nicely, and still be good to go for when the baby has arrived. I already had a few of their tops that are suiting me nicely, and when I’ve worn them most people haven’t even guessed I’m pregnant at all (which is nice when you’re at the part when you just look a bit fatter, rather than being able to embrace the bump properly!).
So, onto my maternity style rules (all the photos link to where you can buy the items):
(1) Get the maternity jeans sorted
As far as I’m concerned, this is the bit that comes first. I was still fitting into my own jeans pre-christmas (and no, it’s not just that I indulged in one too many bits of Christmas pudding), but they were leaving me with that delightful line across my stomach, and just genuinely were not comfortable by the end of the day. Comfort (as well as style) is definitely the name of the game in pregnancy, so out they went.
There are a ton of brands that have spied the pregnancy pound opportunity and developed product in this area (so if you’re normally a JBrand or Paige fan when it comes to denim, there’s something for you), but I’m a big believer in Topshop when it comes to maternity denim. They do all the same styles, and then either provide elasticated side waist panels, a small elasticated panel at the front, or for later on down the line, the full belly coverage. At less than £40 a pop, you can afford to buy a few, and you’ve got your basics covered. I’ve always loved their Lucas boyfriend jeans, and the maternity ones are just as good, and their Jamie skinny jeans have a slightly higher waist, so the elasticated part is great for bump coverage.
[Topshop Jamie Black Jeans above - I got these in black, grey & dark blue - bingo - tons of outfits sorted]
[Topshop Lucas Jeans - Lots of people say skinny jeans are the only way forward during pregnancy, but I love these - and I think they go with the whole theory of larger clothing actually making you look more skinny - it's all about the proportions!]
(2) Get some longer length, good quality stretchy tops
Finding good basic t-shirts & longer sleeve tops is always something I’m on the look out for – and American vintage has shown me the way (COS can be pretty good too). They’re thin, great to layer, and longer line. This part is still to be tested, but they feel like the kind of material that will stretch, but not lose it’s shape. Both the vest tops and the long sleeve tops are great.
[American Vintage Vest-top]
[American Vintage Long Sleeved Top]
Zoe Karssen also does great statement T-shirts. They’re made from beautiful, slightly woollen material, are longer line, and more skimming than fitted. Her signature symbol is a bat and features on quite a few of the items.
[Zoe Karssen's Tops above - there's quite a few on sale on NineinTheMirror at the moment, so check out the full selection!]
(3) Shorter, A line dresses are your best friend
This one obviously depends on your figure, and I guess the rule applies that if you work out what bit of your body your most happy with, finding a way to accentuate that whilst your stomach grows to the size of a house is good for the soul.
For me, that’s my legs, which so far (and fingers crossed here) haven’t swelled yet – so for now, I’m still going to get them out. I already had a couple of good denim A line dresses that I’m still wearing (and denim is great because of the stiffness of material), both of which are a few years old now - one from Topshop; and one from See by Chloe in the sale - which works really well as it's looser, yet has structured shape, with black lace detail on the front, so as you push against the material more as your belly grows, it's less obvious. I had a look online for some good equivalents that are available now - obviously steer clear of anything with too defined a waist that you're going to grow out of quickly. Topshop always does great denim dresses, but it's worth checking out The Outnet for brands that have some great detail on them, but at reduced prices.
[Topshop Raw Edge Denim Boutique Dress]
[COS printed denim dress]
(4) Shirt dresses make you feel chic and pared back, and smooth things out nicely
Again, COS is great for these, and TopShop have also had some nice versions (although on the whole I like the thickness of the COS ones more). The work well over skinny jeans in winter, with nice statement necklaces; or as a dress on their own with tights, or without and some wedges in summer, so you can still feel a bit glam and dressed up as you expand.
[COS white shirt dress - in the sale]
(5) Long waistcoast and duster jackets give your figure structure & your outfit a bit of interest
I already owned a great long line grey waistcoat that I got from Topshop, that looks great with skinny jeans and a long T-shirt; or with skinny leather trousers.
You can't get this exact one anymore, but I've found some alternatives below:
[Karen Millen Tweed Waistcoat]
[Topshop sleeveless jacket - they also do this in grey]
For duster jackets, TopShop again is great; as is COS, examples below. I had an amazing pink one from Topshop, and a bronze one from COS, but I've found alternatives that are available now.
[The Topshop beauty I've had for an age - alternatives below]
[Topshop duster jacket - in sale]
For later in the pregnancy, I’ve seen these belted above the bump, which can look lovely and accentuate your smaller size above the belly.
(6) If you’re pregnant in winter, a coat that is open; and allows you to layer is crucial
I like wearing blazers with a T-shirt & jeans or leather trousers for work, and this look is great for pregnancy, but as you get bigger, coats that used to go over these kind of items nicely suddenly make you look like your boobs are the size of your head (which they might well be). It’s just not flattering.
I’ve found that capes work brilliantly – Zara does lovely ones, and if you’re really wanting to splash out (and I’m promising myself this kind of item at some point), you can gaze ardently at items like this Missoni cape, most definitely a life investment.
[The more manageable cost option! One of Zara's lovely capes - worth checking out their full range]
[The lifetime investment - The Missoni Cape - on sale at the moment]
Cocoon coats are also great. They’re big, roomy, yet structured with a ‘fashion shape’. My most recent discovery is a brand called Paper London – they sell online, but they also have a pop up on Tottenham Court Road. Their coats are lovely, although I defy you to go in and not shed a little tear about their amazing jumpsuits that are most definitely not pregnancy friendly.
[Paper London Micro coat]
And longer thicker coats in a duster shape are also great. I love Emerson Fry’s coats – and their grey one they did in the last season will be with me for a long time yet, but you do have to ship them in from the US, which ramps the cost up a bit. They have their camel version on sale at the moment.
[Drop Shoulder coat by Emerson Fry]
COS are also worth checking out as they do similar items.
(7) Embrace the trainer / brogue / loafer
Now, I’m not saying you’re going to give up heels in pregnancy, I’m most certainly not. But, in the mind-set of buying things that will see you into the post-baby period, the first thing I decided was that this was the opportunity to become pretty excited about the opportunity to expand my trainer collection.
Adidas Stan Smith’s are always a classic, go with everything (as do white / grey converse), and I think are a steal for how good they look.
[The classic - The Stan Smith]
I think everyone has to have their ‘lust’ trainer – for me they often get released by Saint Laurent – I treated myself to their silver pair a couple of years ago, and this year my amazing husband bought me these bad boys. I knew there was a reason we got married….
[Saint Laurent Beauty's - the high tops with blue & red are also amazing]
For brogues / loafers / ballet shoes – whatever your flat shoe of choice is, I always think Zara / COS / Topshop are worth checking out. I have some nude brogues I wear to death from Zara, and I’ve had them for about 3 years. I have nude ballet shoes that I buy repeatedly from Topshop as soon as my pair becomes grubby and a bit battered (translate – start to let water in) as they’re literally about a tenner. COS always seem to have crisp, lovely scandi-style shoes. I bought a white slip on pair from them last year, and they go with everything and are some of the comfiest shoes I’ve ever owned, yet people always ask me if they’re from far more expensive places. They’re great for Chelsea boots / brogues / loafers too – although if you want investment pieces then Church or Grenson are worth looking into, and they’ll last you well.
[The COS shoes that I own several pairs of, and literally go with everything]
(7) A leather biker jacket will still make you feel cool when your body is increasingly not…
Particularly as you expand and the clothes perhaps have to become that bit more floaty, chucking your leather jacket on top immediately makes it feel just that bit more ‘you’. And if you’ve purchased your nice open winter coat, you can layer up nicely too. Mine was a steal from All Saints of all places, and I have worn it to death, and continue to do so.
[All Saints Leather Jacket]
(8) Leather trousers have a very similar role….
I’m still working on this one after the demise of mine! I tried some leather leggings (well faux leather) from ASOS which arrived this morning, and are not good (they’re geared to someone far more pregnant and have the huge material panel at the front). My big issue with the maternity leather trousers that I've found is that either (1) they're made for much later on in pregnancy when you have a huge panel to cover the whole belly, or (2) they're so crazy expensive (£500 +) I just can't justify them for pregnancy, or (3) they weirdly have a leather panel at the front, but not at the back - why???
After SO much searching, I have this pair on order...I'll report back...
[Citizens of Humanity Skinny Racer Maternity Jeans]
If you want a good overview of leather trousers for post pregnancy and beyond, check out the brilliant www.instagram.com/dresslikeamum site as she's done a great review of them this week: http://www.dresslikeamum.com/blog/2016/1/16/leather-trousers
(3) Jumpsuits and dungarees are brilliant pre-baby and post baby
The caveat here is that I’m obviously not talking about the form fitting kind. I have a load of these, and I love them, but after a little trying on session the other night, I’ve quickly realised that these have to be relegated to the back of the cupboard until (hopefully) later this year – expanding in your middle area is not good for getting the zip up!
However, the kind that are looser, and probably fall into what my husband (affectionately I hope) calls my painter / workman / petrol-station outfits work really well. Just roll up the sleeves and the legs so the thinner parts of you still show, and add a good necklace, and you’re golden. My favourites are from Citizens of Humanity, Topshop, and COS and infact I got my leather (look) dungarees from M&S of all places! You can't get my exact ones for the most part now, but similar styles are available. All worth checking out – and outfits that will also work when you have to discreetly feed a baby.
[My COS ones are still available and in the sale - but just in a few sizes]
(8) Get something you love to brighten up your outfit
Some of my family got me Net a Porter vouchers for Christmas (which I love them for dearly). Now, whilst I could have either saved these for post baby (NAP don’t do maternity wear), or scoured their site for something that fits into one of the categories above, what I actually bought was this amazing Shearling waistcoat from Theory.
[Theory Shearling Vest]
I’m in love with it. It feels a bit glam and fun over jeans or leather trousers; it layers well over my leather jacket (ticks the same box as the open coat on that front) and makes me feel like a bit of a rock star. Maybe I’ll look ridiculous in the third trimester with it, but I’m willing to give it a whirl.
Likewise, accessorising with scarves that you love to brighten up simple tops, or bigger statement necklaces to draw the eye up and away from the bump, or amazing shoes because, well, there is no real reason you have to have to buy amazing shoes…just buy some stuff that makes you happy. I’ve decided that now is the time to splurge, because post baby a whole host of other costs are going to come our way, and having a wardrobe that will look good now, when I’m still getting back into shape and beyond will undoubtedly make me feel good during that time. Happy mum equals happy baby, equals online shopping. Perfect equation.
If you have any maternity dressing tips of your own, let me know! In the meantime, I’m collecting any good stuff I find on this pinterest board https://uk.pinterest.com/cdowsett/dressing-the-bump/, so do check it out if you want some inspiration.