Maternity Clothes: A Trimester-by-Trimester Shopping Guide
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
One of the topics I am most frequently asked about by newly pregnant friends is maternity clothes.
Where to shop and what to buy can be wildly overwhelming, especially in the first and early second trimesters when you're not quite sure what to expect from your growing body. Now that I'm expecting baby No. 2, I'm pulling out some of my maternity clothes from the first time around -- but I'm shopping smarter when it comes to new items.
Here's what I've learned!
We'll start with a few overarching points, then I'll break down what types of items you may want to be looking for (including photos of and links to my faves) based on each trimester.
During my first pregnancy, I was still working for Entertainment Tonight. I needed chic and professional clothing -- and to not wear the same thing to the office every day. I was pleased to find that my Rent the Runway Unlimited Subscription transitioned seamlessly into a maternity option. I just entered my due date, and it was able to curate looks for me based on each trimester.
Even though I'm not working now, I still keep my subscription up to date for rotating everyday and special occasion options. It's truly been a lifesaver!
If you'd like to try a RTR subscription for yourself, take 50 percent off your first month by using my code, "SSCHILLACI50".
If you're looking for more options, Le Tote also offers many maternity styles via rental subscription.
If you're like me, you may not want to spend much money or devote closet space to clothes with a literal shelf life. That said, you will probably want to own a certain amount of pregnancy and postpartum-friendly options.
Here are some brands that I like:
Their dresses are gorgeous for baby showers, photo shoots and weddings, plus they have great stretchy dresses that can get you through your day-to-day.
I also shopped a delivery robe (on clearance!) which carried me through my hospital stay with Everly and the fourth trimester. I will definitely be buying another one this time around.
Basics, workwear, special occasion, intimates, outerwear, swimwear... you name it, ASOS has it. Order everything -- and order it in a few different sizes. Try it all on at home and throw everything you don't want to keep back in the bag with the pre-paid label to ship back. Returns really are that easy.
When I say order everything in a few sizes, I mean it. That's the thing about ASOS -- their sizing can vary wildly between items.
I would often order double the amount of merchandise that I intended to keep, returning whatever didn't fit next day. A refund was always promptly issued to my account, no problems.
Target coming in clutch, as usual.
My favorite maternity piece of all time was a version of this little $22.99 number, which can be dressed up or down and fit like a glove even as my belly doubled in size. In fact, most dresses from this brand can. carry you through multiple trimesters. (Their jeans, though -- honestly not my fave.)
Motherhood Maternity/A Pea in the Pod:
I avoided these mall stores like the plague through most of my pregnancy. Why? I'm not even sure. I guess I thought it was lame.
By my third trimester, I caved and realized what I'd been missing. Their basics really can't be beat. I bought a pair of shorts that I still prefer to my pre-pregnancy options. (Their "Secret Fit" denim options are so comfy for every stage of pregnancy.) They also offer plenty of styles to carry you through to postpartum and nursing.
I recently stocked up on some new goodies, including a pair of Joe's Denim that I love and lots of nursing bras.
Their maternity leggings are my favorite of all the (many) brands I've tried. Good fit and quality material.
Their comfy, bump-hugging t-shirts and basics are so easy to wear and wear and wear -- and everything is easy on the wallet. I recommend them primarily for third (and fourth) trimester.
Congratulations! You probably feel bloated, uncomfortable and sick, but no one can tell you're pregnant yet... FUN!
Thankfully, boho, oversized dresses are in fashion. But be warned: Anything short (above the knee) is only going to get shorter as your belly grows, so you may not get as much mileage out of those as you'd expect. If you're going to buy, opt for maxi or tea-length dresses with some stretch to last you into the following trimesters.
I rented this dress in numerous colors during my first trimester. Comfy, chic, and camouflaging.
Are you picking up on this theme? Luckily, you probably have a few flowy tops already hanging in your closet. If you're going to buy more, look for length, which will help cover your waistband and let you stay in your jeans just a little while longer.
By now, I hope someone has clued you into the hair-tie trick.
But if you're looking for a bit more support to hold up your non-maternity jeans (which you can probably still slip into, but maybe can't button) these belly bands will hold everything together and look like a long cami underneath your shirt.
Pro tip: Buy black. The white or nude can be see through and defeat the whole purpose.
I had been living in my (non-maternity) Gap relaxed denim overalls. They hid my "burrito baby" for quite a while and give me plenty of room to move.
Midway through your second trimester is a good time to invest in pieces that will carry over into postpartum. I'm talking over-the-belly leggings, denim and oversized button-up or nursing-friendly shirts, if you plan to breastfeed.
You'll likely be about this size again (3-5 months pregnant) through the weeks and months after giving birth.
Layers, Layers, Layers:
As your mid-section becomes fuller, if you're not quite ready to share the news with the world, fun layers can be a wonderful disguise.
I rocked this faux fur vest in Las Vegas at about 18 weeks pregnant (the first time).
Tiered skirts, strategically placed bows and ruffles can all do the same trick.
I like these kind with the side paneling, which will also likely fit during postpartum. But you really can't go wrong with these over-the-belly, if you find it more comfortable. (Not all "over the belly" is created equal, so you'll really want to try these on in person.) Your preference may change as your belly grows.
STRETCHY Dresses (with side ruching):
If you're ready to flaunt that growing bump (20-30 weeks is just the cutest!), form-fitting dresses with ruching will hug and flatter you in all the right ways.
Again, this tank dress from Ingrid Maternity at Target was my pregnancy MVP. I wore it through multiple trimesters, and dressed it up or down.
I also loved this rental from Monrow. I re-ordered it numerous times with my RTR Unlimited subscription -- in both black and blue -- and, again, dressed it up or down. (It's a good deal using Rent the Runway, as the brand is a little pricey for maternity wear.) This one is a t-shirt material, so if you're looking for something a big more dressed up, you can opt for a different material.
Casual and comfortable, you really cant beat this $10 cutie from Old Navy!
Once your belly really pops, an empire waist looks adorable and can really accentuate your bump without clinging to the rest of you. Weather permitting, start investing in these now and prepare to continue growing into them.
Tunics and Leggings:
This time around, my go-to second trimester lewk has definitely been leggings and tunic-length tops -- button-downs or sweaters. Don't be afraid to dip into your husband's closet, or buy your own non-maternity shirts in oversized options. I promise you will continue to wear these after you give birth. (Soft button-ups are the most handy thing to have in your closet if you're planning to breastfeed.)
Now you're hot, you're swollen, you're bumpin' -- big time. It's time for comfort.
Nothing cuter than a big bump in some overalls, in my opinion! These stretchy ones were my go-tos in the final month or two of my first pregnancy.
Did you stock up on maxi dresses yet? If you're due in the warmer months, these are a great option.
Bending down to fasten your shoes is going to be a pretty big hurdle at this stage in the game. And forget heels.
These slip-on Keds were my saving grace through trimester three the first time around. For my second pregnancy, I've already bought a new pair of slip-on Vans in a roomy size. I know my feet are going to get swollen!
This is a good time to stock up on a few nursing bras to get you started. I recommend going up one size from where you are In your final month or two of pregnancy...
So many mamas recommended to me the Medela nursing sleep bra for cluster feeding and hanging around the house -- and they were so right. I also found these at my local Target and bought them in two sizes: Medium for pregnancy and Large for nursing. They're also available on Amazon.
My favorite bra for going out in public was the Motherhood Maternity full-busted seamless bra. Go for a few basic colors, and take advantage of their buy three get one free deal. (I also bought knockoffs on Amazon, and they did NOT hold up to the wear and tear of frequent wearing and washing. Don't cheap out on these.)
With my second baby, I'm really excited to try the Sublime Hands-Free Nursing and Pumping bra from Kindred Braverly. I didn't have it the first time around, but it looks amazing! (If anyone has a real-life review, please let me know!)
SPECIAL OCCASIONS + MATERNITY PHOTOS:
Pro tip: If you're going to schedule a professional maternity shoot, aim for close to the 30-week mark. Typically, that's when the bump is nice and round but before the extra puffiness of third trimester settles in everywhere else.
(Since my bump is already showing up MUCH more quickly on our second rodeo, I'll probably schedule these photos a few weeks earlier this time.)
That said, this is also a good time to rent something. I doubt I'll ever have occasion to wear this dress again.
Happy Shopping! Are there any other must-see maternity shops or brands that you love? Let me know!
Mom Needs Merlot
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