Maternity clothes say: "I’m not a cool person anymore, I’m a mum." Some pregnant women veer towards the Kate Middleton look – a floral wrap dress and a pair of comfy flats – while others strive to be in clothing as close to pyjamas as possible at all times. If that's not for you, and you don't fancy a bodycon dress either, then maternity wear can be a pain. Most expectant mums, like me, want to be able to dress as close to normal as possible, just with more comfort and without having to shell out too much on temporary items.
When it's expensive to buy clothes that will fit you for literally two months, should expectant mums ditch maternity wear altogether? Fashion blogger and new mum Susie Lau, aka Susie Bubble, says 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," she tells me. "I just adapted what I would normally wear to my new size. I was never one for the bodycon dresses and super-tight clothes anyway so the loose trapeze shapes and empire lines were fine by me,” she says. “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 maternity wear is that high street ranges tend to be limited, expensive or only available online, and many fashion designers just don't bother with maternity dressing. For instance, if you type 'maternity' into the search box on Net-A-Porter you get a few items from the label Hatch and the odd beauty product. In addition to a perceived lack of glamour, many brands are reluctant to invest in maternity ranges, knowing full well that most women won’t spend much on clothes they will only wear for a short period of time. Instead, brands like Seraphine and JoJo Maman Bébé tend to dominate the market.
Susie suggests buying a good pair of trousers with a comfortable elasticated waistband. “I loved my J Brand leather trousers that had a really forgiving elasticated waistband. I also recommend fun and OTT dresses that slip on and off easily over the bump and remind you of the times when you went out partying and were allowed to drink. I wore a lot of Molly Goddard dresses because they were bump-friendly and weren't necessarily typical maternity wear.”
Although some resort to wearing their favourite trousers half-unzipped just to avoid buying maternity wear, industry experts say you can embrace your body's changes without completely altering your look or ignoring fashion trends altogether. Tara Allison, Head of Design at ASOS recommends buying bigger-sized and baggy items that will last beyond the pregnancy. She suggests investing in a tea dress that can be worn over jeans or with your favourite trainers. "It's all about oversized and voluminous proportions looking sexy and feminine. The oversized trapeze dress or T is great when worn over the bump. Key asymmetrical details, cut-outs and ruffle placements all make this look new."
Topshop’s Head of Design, Holly Wright, has a similar approach but thinks key maternity items are a good investment. “Being pregnant myself, I’ve avoided trying to adapt my wardrobe to fit with current trends,” she says. “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. I always wear a skinny jean, so Topshop’s Maternity Jamie jeans are my current go-to shape, paired with a chic oversized white shirt, or a maternity Breton jersey top.”
Jennie Wright, a dance teacher and mother of one, agrees with this approach. She didn't want to change her look too much so 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. 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.”
Although you may be shut out from certain current trends such as high-waisted jeans, one good thing about maternity dressing is that you appreciate your old clothes again. For Susie, this was her normal trousers and skirts with zippers and buttons. “It took me longer than I thought to get back into my old clothes. 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 once I couldn't see my feet.”
Emily James, a mother of two, agrees, but points out that nursing clothes should be avoided too, and most normal clothes can be worn instead. “Breastfeeding clothes are even worse, really nannyish, like Mrs Doubtfire! Many of the brands are overpriced, Kate Middleton-style clothes,” she says. “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.”
Ultimately, being pregnant is such a positive thing and women should try and enjoy the changes. Plus it’s often the one time you will be happy to accept you're getting wider and your stomach is getting bigger. Quite rightly, Susie says we should embrace this. “I have nothing against stripes per se but I do wonder why the majority of maternity wear revolves around stretchy striped tops and dresses. It's very unimaginative," she says. "I just think women don't necessarily need to blandify their dress sense when they're pregnant.”