By Judith Rasband

When you’re pregnant, you reflect a special beauty that is unequaled at any other time in your life. Yet pregnancy can be difficult as you anticipate and adjust to changes in your body. Being attractively dressed and groomed will help you look and feel terrific! Use your clothes and cosmetics as an outward expression of the beauty developing inside you.

Your maternity wardrobe needs depend largely on your daily lifestyle. Where you live, where you go, what you do, if you work outside the home—all of these influence clothing requirements that may range from casual to business to dressy.

Many women think maternity dressing is boring, with little variety available. Others assume they have to jump into ruffles, frills or cutesy prints. Not so. Classic and creative, fashionable and functional clothes are available for a variety of personal styles if you know where and what to look for.

First Trimester

Toward the end of your second month of pregnancy, look through your clothes. Stow away anything that might make you uncomfortable or constrict your body. Rely on the unfitted styles in your closet.

  • Unfitted dresses include chemise, shift, wedge, empire, and blouson styles and can be worn for a couple of months.
  • Jumpers and caftans in gathered, flared or A-line styles are also excellent options.
  • Gathers, pleats and tucks on a bodice yoke are growth features worth considering.
  • Deeply cut armholes, raglan sleeves and drop-shoulder styles offer comfort for expanding or tender breasts.
  • Large tops and overblouses are favorites with pregnant women if they don’t pull or gap over the bust.
  • Flared tee and tunic tops are popular now and perfect over pull-on pants.
  • Layer light-weight, longer jackets unbuttoned over dresses and jumpers. The transitional line they create from shoulder to hem is dominant, and the contrasting curve of your tummy becomes subordinate.
  • Unbuttoned big-shirts and cardigan sweaters can double as open jackets.
  • Wrap-around, elastic, or drawstring slacks and skirts can camouflage a tummy bulge. Some women like the fun of wearing overalls.
  • If you have flared swing style coat, cape, or poncho, it will look terrific and keep you warm for months.

Don’t overlook your husband’s closet—if the shirt fits, wear it. His pin-striped
or plaid shirts may look great under a jumper or over slacks. Wear his turtleneck, polo, or T-shirts over jeans. His cardigan sweater or vest can keep you warm. Hold his slacks up with suspenders. When it’ time for bed, his pajamas may fit just fine.

Second Trimester

Following the third or fourth month, you’ll likely find the clothes you’ve been wearing to be uncomfortable or constricting. Your bust may be the first area to expand, requiring loose-fitting tops before you notice the need for larger waistlines. Don’t put off buying the clothes you need. If you wait, body image and self-image often suffer. Waiting is not worth what it costs!

When expecting, do the unexpected. There’s not much in the way of real maternity clothes in maternity shops, so look to other places that carry stylish clothes that accommodate and flatter your fuller figure. In addition to department stores, consider catalogs, resale stores, thrift shops, antique stores, plus-size shops, and lingerie departments. Being selective, you’ll find some exciting options.

Don’t overlook specialty boutiques that carry ethnic clothes. They offer full fashioned Mexican tops, dresses, ponchos and shawls, perfect for maternity wear. You’ll find an assortment of East Indian caftans, African dashikis, Greek shirts, Moroccan djellabas, Japanese kimonos and tunics. These are clothes you can continue to wear long after the baby arrives and reduce your short-term investment.

I know the trend is tight, form-fitted knit clothes during pregnancy, and people pretend it’s pretty. But I’m the one who hears and reads the embarrassed complaints from the people who have to see your belly. Too much information.

You’re smart to choose styles that allow the fabric flow to smoothly over your body—fabric shouldn’t cup under your belly or your bottom. You’ll appear less bulky and better balanced.

Now is the time to draw attention up toward your face, away from the so-called “baby bump.” Of course you’re proud of your pregnancy and you aren’t trying to hide your pregnancy—that’s not the intent. But if all eyes are focused on your belly, they won’t be focused on your face! It get’s in the way of effective communication. So be creative with your clothes.

Interesting necklines and collars, vertical front closures, tucks, pleats, and shoulder tabs lift viewer attention upward, frame your face, and can enhance the simple elegance of a dress. At that point, a colorful scarf, tie, jabot, or eye-catching jewelry can hold attention near your face. Subordinate points of interest may be located at shoulders, sleeves, and hems, but keep the dominant focal point up near your face. You’ll like the way you look and others will quietly cheer.

Third Trimester

Many women simply relax and enjoy this final stage of pregnancy. Many are said to radiate a glowing beauty that comes only with pregnancy. And, you only need to know a few points about maternity clothes.

  • You may be so big during the third trimester that you’re uncomfortable wearing slacks or a skirt. You’ll be more comfortable in dresses and jumpers.
  • Double check the fit of your dresses, jumpers, and tops. See if they pull from the back or flare awkwardly out in front.
  • Decide if you’re too big for blouson styles, and determine if hems are pulled up in front.
  • If your budget allows, this is the time to treat yourself to a new dress to keep your spirits high.
  • If your legs tend to swell, put on support-pantyhose early in the day.
  • If the weight of your baby causes pain in your groin, put on a maternity girdle having a support panel under your abdomen—a few hours on, a few hours off. It helps.
  • Tying your shoes can be a problem when your abdomen gets so big that it gets in your way. Slip-on shoes are easier to put on.

Defensive Dressing

After your baby is born, don’t rush to get back into form-fitting clothes. It’s depressing when you can’t zip up your pants. Check out the clothes you wore early in your pregnancy. Colorful, comfortable, and flattering, they’ll be a welcome change. It’s fashion therapy to counter any postpartum depression.

If you nurse, wear tops that have gathers or released tucks at the shoulders.
Wear unstructured jackets and vests open for a free flowing line from bust to hem. T-shirts may be easy to lift for nursing, but look in the mirror before wearing them. They can make you look dowdy and dumpy.

Wait until your milk flow and breast size stabilize before buying nursing bras. Buy a nursing bra that is elastic and adjustable to allow for changes in breast size between feeding and filling.

It doesn’t take long to discover your baby can make a mess of you. Baby boys or one good burp can send you off to change sooner than you’d planned. Defend yourself with easy-care clothes made of wash-and-wear fabrics. Medium- to light-colored small prints and plaids camouflage lint from baby’s clothes and spit-up spots until you can wash them out. Dark, solid colors show spots and lint from baby’s clothes.

If you still don’t have a casual pair of elastic or drawstring slacks, buy some. They’re wonderful to wear at home, topped with unusual, full-style ethnic tops for fun in the evening—as life goes on.

Remember that this is an amazing time in your life. While pregnancy stresses the limits of your endurance, you’re in for some equally amazing and eye-opening experiences ahead—including a few sleepless nights. The time will, however, be punctuated with memorable high points, lots of learning, and laughs you won’t want to trade.

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Judith Rasband
Judith Rasband MS, AICI, CIM is CEO of the Conselle Institute of Image Management (Conselle.com), residing in Orem, Utah. She works with the influence and expressive effects of dress and image on wellness and successful living.
Judith Rasband

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