Six Tips for Buying Maternity Clothes

by Tara M. Bloom

ingrid-isabel collectionWhen it comes to buying maternity clothes, take the following information to heart in order to ensure you get the best look, feel and value for your pregnancy and postpartum needs. Whether you're buying maternity clothes online or in stores -- or simply going through the closets of formerly pregnant friends -- knowing what to look for, why to look for it, and considering your changing needs will enable you to create the right wardrobe for flattering you throughout pregnancy.

TIP 1: Size Matters

Women are often told to choose maternity clothes in the same size they wore pre-pregnancy, but it's not as simple as that. First, not all maternity clothes are designed for pre-pregnancy sizes. Most, but not all, of them are, so it pays to do a little research on the brand or to try on the items. If you can, read the labels on maternity clothes to find out if they’re pre-shrunk and how they base their sizing.

Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, your weight may, too. Consider the following three women:

My friend’s wife, let's call her Girlfriend #1, went through her whole pregnancy without gaining any weight but she was 30 pounds overweight to begin with.

Another girlfriend, let's say Girlfriend #2, who was at her ideal weight when she got pregnant, had already gained 20 pounds in her first trimester. She's in her second trimester now and not gaining weight as rapidly.

During my pregnancy, on the other hand, I put on over 50 pounds.

Each of us women will have different needs for buying maternity clothes.

Girlfriend #1, for example, was able to buy maternity clothes based on her pre-pregnancy size, and didn't have to make any maternity purchases until later in her pregnancy when her belly "popped."

Girlfriend #2, on the other hand, had to find maternity pants and bottoms in her first trimester. She's also able to buy maternity clothes based on her pre-pregnancy size, because her weight gain is mostly in her belly.

I was a size 8 when I got pregnant, but went up to a 10 and then a 12 by the time my daughter was born. I have an hourglass body type, so I have full breasts and wide hips. During pregnancy, they both got much larger, and I simply couldn't fit into size 8 maternity clothes. Where my body changed and filled out required me to size up.

TIP 2: The Fit Can Flatter -- or Fail

In an effort to minimize buying maternity clothes, and worrying that what fits them now won't fit them later in pregnancy, many women will make the mistake of buying sizes that are too large, or buying men's clothes or plus-size clothing. Avoid this because you'll end up with maternity clothes that are too loose and baggy and don't have "give" in the right places. Unless you're buying a maxi dress or A-line sheath, loose, baggy maternity clothes are unflattering. Even if you're plus-size before pregnancy, you still want to invest in buying maternity clothes, as opposed to larger plus-sizes, so you can enjoy the specific support, comfort and fit of clothing made for pregnancy.

Choose high-quality, well-made maternity clothes with any of the following features that ensure a flexible, stylish fit:

  • Ruching (gathers): on the side for maternity tops; on the waist for maternity bottoms
  • Patterns or all-solid colors that create a slimming effect
  • Extra length in the torso for shirts, tops and dresses
  • Adjustable waist bands, such as drawstring
  • Extra-long torso to provide complete coverage as your body grows
  • Empire waist tops and dresses

TIP 3: Fabric is Important

When buying maternity clothes that you hope will last through several pregnancy stages, choose high-quality, well-made items. Ideal maternity clothes will be made with strong, stretchy material that will grow with you, so they'll stay snug, flattering and supportive as your body changes.