Pregnancy Journal: Maternity Wear — and Not to Wear

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Today is my birthday.

It is my tradition to wear my favorite outfit on my birthday, something that is fun yet practical, comfortable yet chic.

When I was in the shower this morning, I mentally sorted through my clothes to see what I might don to make today sparkle.

Then I remembered: I’m pregnant. I have about five outfits that both fit and look stylish right now. And I’ve worn them nonstop for the last four weeks. (I did wash the sweater that got cookie dough on it. I think.)

Welcome to the wonderful world of maternity clothes.

To be fair, I know we’ve come a looonnnnggg way in the last decade. When I was pregnant with my first, in 2001, designers were just discovering the maternity market. My pregnancy books (most notably, “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy”) lamented that the only options for expecting moms were tent-like dresses with sailor collars, flowing, hippie-like dresses covered with Laura Ashley flowers or leggings and your husband’s shirts.

Compared to the days of yore, we are living large in 2010. Not only do we have innumerable choices, but designers and celebrities alike have made maternity wear stylish and hip. Heidi Klum just announced she’s releasing her own line of maternity clothes, and there are whole websites devoted to what pregnant movie stars are wearing.

Still, for mere mortals like myself, maternity dressing can prove a challenge. So because I like lists, here are a few of the best and the worst about maternity wear, according to me.

Best Development – the Bella Band
For the uninitiated, the Bella Band is a super-soft band of stretchy nylon and spandex, designed to hold up your pants and/or cover your bulging belly through the entire course of your pregnancy.

I bought my first Bella Band in 2007, when I was about 34 weeks pregnant with my third baby.

And I haven’t taken it off since. (Not really. But close.) Best invention ever.

Best Style for Cheap – Liz Lange Maternity
Almost all the maternity clothes I’ve bought this time around have been from Target. They are cute, comfortable and – most importantly – inexpensive. I can’t stand paying $45 for a sweater that I know I will only wear for a few months. (More about that in a minute.) The Liz Lange line at Target doesn’t always fit my personal style. But it does preach that you don’t have to look maternal when you’re pregnant. I love that.

Worst Store – Motherhood Maternity
I’ve tried to shop at Motherhood Maternity. I have. And I do like their cloth tummies that allow you to see what you might look like later in pregnancy.

But every time I walk through their doors, I am accosted by their return policy – which is: No matter what, you will never get your money back. Even if the clothing falls apart after its first wash, you will only be offered an exchange or a refund in the form of store credit. And no returns or exchanges at all after 45 days.

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time making up my mind about clothes even when I’m not pregnant. I buy everything I like in the stores, take it home, try it on, think about it for days and then return what I don’t want.

When I’m in the throes of pregnancy hormones? There’s no way I can make the kind of commitment that Motherhood Maternity requires.

Not to mention that Motherhood has some of the most expensive clothing outside of actual designer labels. To be a store that supposedly caters to pregnant women, they do everything they can to ostracize their audience.

Worst Maternity Style – Pregnancy Overalls
Do I really need to say more?

(OK. Maybe one more thing: maternity overall shorts. I mean – really?!?)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Join in, fellow moms. What have you found to be the best and worst about maternity wear?

Kelly didn’t get paid to write any of the reviews above; she just has strong opinions on maternity clothes now that she’s halfway through her fourth pregnancy. She blogs at Love Well.

41 Responses to Pregnancy Journal: Maternity Wear — and Not to Wear
  1. Sarah
    January 13, 2010 | 2:45 pm

    What I dislike most about Motherhood is the fifteen different questions they ask you while you are checking out.

    No, I don’t need a bra. No, I don’t need any stretch mark cream. No, you may not have my phone number or email address.

    Unfortunately, there is a sad shortage of maternity clothes stores around here and they do have some cute styles. So I just had to suffer through all the questions.

  2. AllisonO
    January 13, 2010 | 3:04 pm

    First and foremost: I’m sure you look adorable today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRIEND!

    I too tested Motherhood Maternity and found it lacking. I did buy a couple of things there over the summer from a pure lack of anyone else carrying shorts that would make it up and around muh belly, but nothing else.

    Much to my surprise, the nursing bras I have fallen in love with (that I found at Macy’s) are Motherhood brand and ONLY FIFTEEN DOLLARS. So, turns out they’re not a total loss.

  3. Erin
    January 13, 2010 | 3:07 pm

    With my last pregnancy, I was a huge fan of buying clothes in the Juniors section in a size or two larger. This is helpful post-partum because then you can convince yourself that you went straight back into regular, non-maternity clothes when the baby was born.
    I also detest Motherhood, but shopped there out of necessity a few months ago. I’m certain they’re responsible for the barrage of formula samples I’m now receiving.

  4. Kelly
    January 13, 2010 | 3:21 pm

    I’m glad to get some not-so-negative viewpoints about Motherhood on here. I knew they couldn’t be the Devil Wears Maternity, since they are EVERYWHERE.

    And yes, like most of the commenters so far, I have bought a few wardrobe staples from them that weren’t available anywhere else. So even I have caved to the lure of necessity.

    OK. Carry on.

  5. Amy from Occupation: Mommy
    January 13, 2010 | 3:23 pm

    I have resolved not to buy ANY maternity clothes for this pregnancy. So far, so good. Although my mom bought me four shirts and a dress, and my friend brought me a tub of clothes over on Monday. But still. No money has left our home for maternity clothes.

    In other news, we had our ultrasound on Monday. Sorry, but I can’t resist just leaving the link…

    And happy birthday!

  6. Nicole
    January 13, 2010 | 4:37 pm

    No overalls!? I was just looking through my maternity clothes and realized that one staple of my summer wardrobe is overalls. Shorts, in fact. They’re probably circa ’98 or ’99 from my cousin’s 1st pregnancy. I’m in trouble, aren’t I!?

    Motherhood is such a mixed bag. Most of the stuff I got from there I’ve hated, but I have 2 pairs of pants I got there that are my favs. I’ve yet to buy anything this pregnancy but will check Target once those maternity overall shorts stop working out :p

  7. Louise
    January 13, 2010 | 5:07 pm

    Ahem. *whispers* I liked Motherhood Maternity. But that’s probably because I loathe returning things, so I only EVER buy clothing if I am absolutely positive I will love it and wear it. Plus I was able to get a dress from them for really cheap–clearance plus an extra discount–for my friend’s wedding when I was eight months pregnant, and it didn’t make me look like a whale.

    I pretty much lived in my larger size yoga pants for both pregnancies. They stretched enough to accommodate my growing belly, and were really soft and comfortable. And I could continue to wear them in the first month after the baby, when the thought of “real” clothes was painful, and the thought of maternity clothes was sickening.

  8. gretchen from lifenut
    January 13, 2010 | 5:10 pm

    Happy Birthday, Kelly!

    I cannot stand Motherhood Maternity. They are nosy, the quality is shoddy, the return policy is impossible.

    I always like Target’s maternity clothes— the quality and price are especially good. Old Navy has super cute maternity clothes. The danger with them is they run really big, so if you adjust the sizing accordingly you’ll be okay.

    I was pregnant with my first in 1996-97. The maternity fashions were dismal. My favorite shirt at the time (and this will give you a clue how bad maternity design used to be) was a black top with white polkadots. It had billowy sleeves, a tie-back, and a BIG FLOPPY BOW that sat right on my chest. That was the best I could do at the time. Another late-90s favorite was my denim jumper dress, light blue, with buttons down the front.

    So bad. So very bad. This is the golden age of maternity fashion. Enjoy.

  9. Beth B.
    January 13, 2010 | 5:50 pm

    I liked GAP Maternity stuff – you could order online and return in the stores (even if they didn’t carry the maternity line). So i’d order multiple sizes and return what didn’t work. I got a lot of good basic work staples there – nice brown pants and a couple sweater sets that carried me a long way. Also as someone else mentioned, Old Navy and of course Target!

    Happy Birthday!

  10. Megan
    January 13, 2010 | 6:06 pm

    Like Allison, I did like the MM nursing bras. But yeah – what is UP with that return policy? It is all kinds of nonsense.

    I have to say that I have loved, loved, loved Old Navy maternity. Now mind you, it’s been 2+ years since the last time I shopped there, and you never know about Old Navy . . . they can totally up and change on you. But I have a ton of things from there I loved. Also Gap Maternity which I only bought at outlets.

    I bet you looked PRECIOUS today, no matter what you chose!

  11. edj
    January 13, 2010 | 6:28 pm

    I have not been pregnant for a long time, but I just want to share a horror story with you.
    I was pregnant with twins, and my mother in law bought me a tshirt with a picture of twins in utero that said, “We’re womb-mates!” or something horrible like that.
    I was appalled, naturally, but i thought maybe i could at least wear it to sleep in, so no one would see it. But it wasn’t even 100% cotton, and I had this horrible pregnancy rash and my skin was unusually sensative. So, darn, I was NEVER able to advertise to the world my MIL’s bad taste in punny tshirts.

  12. Kelly
    January 13, 2010 | 6:33 pm

    So I have to chime in once again and say I used to LOVE Old Navy Maternity.

    The last two pregnancies, I lived in the country, so without Old Navy’s online maternity store, I would have been up a creek. My favorite thing about Old Navy Maternity was that 1. you didn’t pay shipping (as long as your order was $100 or more, which was easy to do), 2. they would exchange sizes with no cost to you, and 3. you could either return your unwanted items to an Old Navy store OR send it back using their free shipping label.

    I wanted to include them in this article, since I think they are all kinds of awesome. But Old Navy/Gap seriously curtailed their return policy late last year. Basically, stores no longer accept maternity returns, so you’ll have to pay shipping to send stuff back. Also, no returns are allowed after 45 days (which is a long time but still).

    I haven’t bought anything from Old Navy this time only because their styles didn’t strike my fancy. But I do agree they are economical and cute and customer-friendly.

  13. Krista
    January 13, 2010 | 6:38 pm

    My personal pet peeve about maternity clothes? All the cross over low cut tops. Do they not realize that women get BIGGER when they are pregnant? Especially those of us who are already well endowed? To make matters worse I have a long torso and I have just about given up ever finding a top with an empire waist that doesn’t hit me about mid-boob. Which severely limits my choices because about 90% of all cute maternity tops are made this way. 🙁 I want to be comfortable and not flash the whole world!

    I have actually found a few articles of clothing at Motherhood Maternity, but only because I was shopping at an outlet mall and they were on the clearance rack! I also really like their underwire nursing bras (which are reasonable priced believe it or not!). But yeah, they are ridiculously overpriced for the most part and their return policy is obnoxious.

    My problem is that I live in a small town where the only place to buy maternity clothes is Target (see above complaint about tops) so I’m pretty well stuck since I hate buying stuff without trying it on – online, etc.

  14. Melissa
    January 13, 2010 | 7:22 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad some other moms said they didn’t detest MM stores and product! I was feeling bad for disagreeing with you. Now, I can’t disagree on the dislike of the return policy, and the barrage of questions upon checkout, but there is one thing I love about them.
    The Secret Fit Belly pants/jeans.
    Yes, it’s a Hah-YUGE panel that comes up to the boobs, but it’s an incredibly comfortable panel that actually supported and uplifted my aching belly parts when I was pregnant the first time. And while I don’t like the idea of spending $35+ on a pair of jeans I’ll only wear a few months, I’m going to do it because (a) I wear jeans ALL the time, and (b) they STAY UP!! Which, I cannot say for the Liz Lange maternity jeans. And, I’m sorry, but walking around hiking up my jeans is NOT a pretty sight! :o)
    I also have to disagree with you on the Bella Band. It did nothing – NO.THING. – to hold my pants up. Bend over in the store one time to get that jar of mayo off the bottom shelf, and you leave your pants on the floor. Not pretty. :o) That was a waste of $30 for me.
    I’ve been fortunate to live near other moms, and have inherited boxes full of maternity clothes, so I really don’t have to buy anything new for this baby…except for one pair of Secret Fit Belly jeans. Mmmmm…can’t wait! :o)

  15. Sarah
    January 13, 2010 | 8:03 pm

    Let me rant:

    The jeans that go over my belly make my belly itch. The jeans that go below make me have a plumber-butt. I am annoyed to no end.

    Very annoyed.

    I do love Gap maternity stuff.

    And I think you’re adorable.

  16. Minnesotamom
    January 13, 2010 | 8:14 pm

    Favorite jeans are from Target.
    Favorite tops have been from Kohl’s, Target and Old Navy.
    My favorite thing to look forward to is being able to fit into my normal wardrobe again and have it all feel brand new!!!

  17. Heather of the EO
    January 13, 2010 | 8:52 pm

    Overalls. No. No. No one let a pregnant woman wear them. No.

    I heart Gap maternity too. Too much. Except I’m not pregnant so I guess there’s no too much in that 🙂

  18. Michele
    January 13, 2010 | 9:09 pm

    I HATE that maternity tops are SOOOO low cut!!! It drives me crazy! Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you want to show off your now *much bigger* chest! So, to fix the problem, I usually have to have numerous tank tops or under shirts to layer. Thank goodness for Old Navy’s maternity tank tops!! Happy Birthday!!!!
    Oh yeah, I almost forgot, last pregnancy I found a WONDERFUL pair of jeans, they were the “Secret Belly” fit, and they were actually comfy and stayed up. A Miracle. 🙂

  19. Elaine
    January 13, 2010 | 9:53 pm

    Sarah – totally agree with you re the over/under waistline issue. It drove me crazy and I never did figure out a solution. I tried a product (can’t remember the name now, sorry) which was a length of wide elastic to extend from your button to the buttonhole. Comes in 3 lengths and with a few panels to hang from the elastic, to hide your gaping fly. It was pretty good except that everyone would stare at my crotch – not sure what they were seeing – even if I wore a tunic to sort of cover the area.

    I never tried overalls because I figured they would look dopey, but overall shorts sound cute to me!

    I ended up mostly wearing lycra dresses — normal ones that I still am wearing these days now that I am no longer pregnant (been 2-1/2 years now!)

  20. Elaine
    January 13, 2010 | 9:54 pm

    p.s. maybe some kind of secret suspenders attaching your pants to your bra would work?

  21. missy
    January 13, 2010 | 10:03 pm

    After my 3rd was born my friend Christy got pregnant. She had the most fabulous (expensive) maternity wardrobe. I kid you not, part of the reason I wanted to get pregnant again was because I wanted to borrow her clothes. I did and I did.

    After Ike was born it was very disappointing to return to my normal boring non-maternity clothes!

  22. Happy Geek
    January 13, 2010 | 10:26 pm

    Happy Birthday Kelly!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I must disagree with you on Motherhood. When I was pregnant the first time we only really had a few choices in Mat clothes here in Canada, really expensive stuff at Thyme, even more expensive stuff at the Bay and Motherhood which was much cheaper than the other two.

    Compared to the other two, Motherhood (and their sales rack) is AWESOME.

    I did have a few Liz Lange pieces though from a quick cross border shop and I adored them.

    But my favorite mat stuff was the hand-me-downs from some friends. Free clothes really are the best.

  23. Hannah
    January 13, 2010 | 11:20 pm

    You almost make me want to get pregnant again just so I can test drive some maternity clothes and develop some strong opinions. All I can say is, there were things I wore for my first pregnancy (Including overall shorts from — where else? — Motherhood Maternity! that I most certainly did NOT wear for my third pregnancy, when I was shopping at Old Navy maternity or MAYBE Gap if I was shopping for myself at all.

    Happy Birthday! I’m sure that pregnant glow was all you needed to look fabulous.

  24. Anitra
    January 14, 2010 | 12:54 am

    Ugh. I was working at a company with a dress code when I was pregnant with my first (and only). It is SOOO hard to find business-casual maternity wear, especially in larger sizes.

    Oh yeah, did I not mention? I normally wear a size 14-16… all of my recently-pregnant friends are more like a size 6. So I wasn’t able to borrow much from anyone (and what I could borrow, I outgrew by month 6).

    I made sure I saved EVERYTHING. Even if I am still a stay-at-home mom for my next pregnancy, at least I won’t have to drop hundreds of dollars again.

  25. Michael
    January 14, 2010 | 10:56 am

    Happy birthday, Kelly.

    I absolutely should not comment until I get that second X chromosome I ordered from Prescott Pharmaceuticals a few months ago, but…

    1. Women are way too hard on themselves about how they look, doubly so during pregnancy, so I am hereby giving you all permission to cut yourselves some slack.

    You look fantastic and incredibly hot and every man believes you are the most desirable woman to ever grace our planet. It’s the baby, not you, that looks kinda lumpy.

    2. There’s undoubtedly a charity donation opportunity here. IF the clothes are that expensive, they must be unaffordable for many women. Styles, such as they are, will change by the next time you’re expecting, so some of the pregnancy wardrobe won’t be worn again.

    Maybe you’ll like the clothing better if you think of it as a gift you simply haven’t given yet.

    3. Guys should absolutely not comment on any of this, so please ignore everything above.


  26. Babs
    January 14, 2010 | 11:11 am

    I, too, am partial to Target maternity clothes. I have also found a couple of tops at Target in their plus size section.

    I don’t tlike the BellaBand because it rolls up in the back. Too much junk in my trunk, perhaps?

    I have a wedding in a couple of months and I am already starting to stress about finding something cute and fashionable so I don’t stand out like a, well, big pregnant lady.

  27. Beck
    January 14, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    Maternity clothes! My maternity wardrobe is FAR FAR better than my regular wardrobe, thanks to getting other, better-dressed women’s maternity wardrobes each pregnancy. My actual wardrobe? Pajama pants and novelty t-shirts.

    (happy belated birthday!)

  28. Kristen
    January 14, 2010 | 12:02 pm

    I have mixed feelings about MM, some stuff is great, some is crap. But I feel that way about most stores. You have to find a good brand and stick to it. I did LOVE the nursing bras that were MM brand that I bought at Kohls.
    I went shopping with my Bday $$ yesterday (I turned 29+1 Monday) and it was the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I was the only customer in MM and the sales gal made me feel pampered. She wasnt too pushy & she was super helpful. I spent $120 on 4 pieces, but hey, they are staples and all that I will wear for the next 6 months.
    I then hit Target, JCP, and Belks to hit the sales and supplement the wardrobe. We do what we have to do. And if I wear the same pants three times in a week, as long as I havent spilled something on them, they are still clean 🙂
    Happy Birthday Kelly!

  29. melissa aka equidae
    January 14, 2010 | 2:23 pm

    it was my worse nightmare trying to get something when pregnant to wear and i dread the idea of going through it again!

  30. Anita Jo
    January 14, 2010 | 4:10 pm

    I really hate maternity pants. There is no style (under, mid, over-belly) that really fits well. For me, over-belly seem to work the best, but even with many of them, the panel seems to end too high, causing my lower abdomen to be compressed and in agony by the end of the day. Does everyone else’s pregnant belly end much higher up than mine? Maybe it’s because I am very tall and also on the bigger side to begin with. I wish I could wear yoga pants 24-7, but sadly, they do not meet the dress code at my office. Sigh…thankfully, only 4 weeks to go for me! (Happy birthday!)

  31. Andrea
    January 14, 2010 | 11:37 pm

    My biggest problem with MM was that they did not carry my size nursing bra. Because apparently no one has size 34DD milks while nursing. But you can order them online, but you can’t return them if they don’t fit right and you don’t know if they will fit right because they don’t carry them in the store so you can’t try them on.

  32. Emily
    January 15, 2010 | 5:06 pm

    Happy late birthday, Kelly! Hope all is bright today. I’m too cheap to buy maternity clothes. Too short of a time to wear them. So I’m not super knowledgeable. But of the hand-me-down stuff I just made do with, the MM stuff was always on the small side. I would say I’m on the average side, maybe slightly above, but even the large MM didn’t fit during the last months. I found that annoying as usually those were the nicer things in the lot. But of course, I can’t complain too much since that was the route I chose. Maternity clothes are just horrible anyway – even the few things I did buy!

  33. Michelle Burrill
    January 17, 2010 | 2:39 am

    Well, my biggest beef with maternity clothes is that you pay full price for clothes that you are only going to wear for a few months. I never felt good about spending the money. I did find cute things at Old Navy, and also at Target Liz Lange. The Gap Maternity was cute, and so was a Pea in the Pod, but again, who wants to spend over 100.00 on pregnancy jeans?? Ridiculous. Not me.
    I agree that maternity shorts overalls are the worst, and yes, I had them circa 1999 and 2001, as well. (first and 2nd pregnancies.) I think I had ditched them by 2004 and 2006 (3rd and 4th pregnancies) fortunately.
    I’m sure you look cute in whatever you wear. 😉

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