As I am now in my 20th week of pregnancy, I thought I would track how I am dressing my growing belly. My goal with this pregnancy, my first one which is exciting is to keep it as low cost and low waste as possible. Of course, I am not sacrificing my overall health or the baby’s health, but I am being mindful with how and where we spend money. It’s so easy to get caught up buying the latest maternity wear and being on trend, but it’s not necessarily the most sustainable on the wallet or the planet. After all, pregnancy really only lasts a few months and some items will get as much as a few weeks to a few months wear so putting in loads of money and buying all new stuff doesn’t seem like a good sustainable practice. New stuff also always means excess packaging and exposure to chemicals due to the manufacture of the clothing so the less exposure the better. So with some research and some out-of-the-box thinking, here’s how I’ve been managing my maternity wear. Of course, I will update this as my belly grows and my body changes to see what other resources I am tapping into.
Shop Your Closet
Before I bought anything new, I literally went into my closet and figured out what I had and could fit. My biggest challenge is actually pants. I tend to wear loose fitting clothing so tops and dresses I had plenty of, but since it’s the middle of winter here in New Jersey, pants are most ideal to keep warm and comfy. I had just bought a new pair of Everlane Skinny Jeans and was sad that I couldn’t fit them anymore, but I found a solution to extend their use as my belly continues to grow. I list that solution below.
We would all be surprised to find what is hidden in our closets. Although I’ve done a few rounds of Project333, I still have a suitcase of clothes that I rotate through as the seasons change and by getting creative and clever, you can certainly use the same clothing all year round. I think the best learning experience from doing Project333 or doing a capsule wardrobe is that you don’t necessarily need specific clothing for specific seasons. By layering and being creative, you can use a lot of what you already have.
Ask Friends & Family
Luckily for me, I have sisters and we are all around the same size so of course I went to them to see if they had any clothes that they no longer wanted to wear or were just a bit too big for them to use. I figure I could get some use out of these clothes that they aren’t using anyways. Don’t forget that your husband’s clothes might be good for a temporary stop gap on days when you just want something loose. My husband is slim so I probably only have a few week’s before I won’t be able to fit into some of his shirts, but my dad was giving away some of this shirts and these were just a bit oversize and fit well. Don’t discount what your friends and family have that you can style and make your own. Again, you’ll only be wearing a few items for a few weeks so it may not be worth spending a fortune on new maternity clothing.
Use Your Activewear
The reality is that sometimes that we don’t really use our activewear as much as we think we do for hard core workouts. At least, that’s how it worked for me. After I stopped going to Crossfit, I was only doing walks and runs and wasn’t nearly exerting as much use out of my activewear. I’ve also learned that the best way to keep your activewear from losing it’s functionality quickly is to dry them after each use and lengthen the time between washing. Find tips here on how to do this and you’ll also help reduce microplastics from synthetic activewear from entering the water system.
My Girfriend Collective compressive high-rise legging (which I got when when they were first doing their FREE promo and have held up since then, from 2017 y’all) have been a go-to in the past few months. The high-rise has been excellent for my growing belly and the compression has helped my legs. It’s stretchy and comfortable so it’s a win and a great transition and multi-use piece.
When my breasts started to change over the course of the few months, my old sports bras were not cutting it anymore. So I opted to instead invest in new sports bras and move my old bras to daily and sleep wear. This was very helpful overall with the new bras giving me the necessary support for more intense activities (I went back to the gym to ensure I was moving as the baby was growing inside me ) and the old sports bras still provided the necessary day-to-day support.
These are basically pieces of clothing that can allow you to wear something as you transition from pregnancy to post-partum and back to “normal” wear. I guess normal will be relative then.
The Belly Band or Tummy Sleeve
OK, I have never heard of this before, but as with the magic of the internet and all things searches, this came up in my search. They are basically stretchable fabric that go around your belly to help lift the belly, but also create a covering for pants that you are not able to button. These can be found at Target, Motherhood Maternity and of course Amazon. Since I’m trying to buy items secondhand, I found my pair on eBay. I did check thrift shops in my area, but had no luck. Poshmark has a lot of them on sale too so check that out. Since these are normally worn when you start showing and are worn over clothes, getting them secondhand is fine. You just have to be careful that they aren’t stretched out too much. The ones I eventually purchased from eBay were by Motherhood Maternity and made of 85% nylon and 15% spandex. This particular one was one size fits all and I got a black and white color band for $14.00 with shipping. They are normally $14 each.
As a first time pregnant woman, I wasn’t aware of nursing bras, but now I fully understand their purpose. Nursing bras are something you eventually need, though I don’t think you need to get a lot of them as I am sure a few bras can do a similar function. While I went the sports bra route because it meets my current needs, I’m now also shopping around for a bra that can take me from today to the nursing and the post phase. The good news is that while nursing bras are specially designed for nursing, they can be used on a daily basis so invest in good quality ones because they will get a lot of use.
Because the maternity period is fairly short, I’m also opting to source anything that I may need secondhand. This helps me reduce cost and is also better for the environment. Poshmark and eBay and my local thrift store have been my local go-tos, but I also just realized that Thredup.com has some maternity clothing and I still have credit with them so they can be a good source of clothing. For now, with the exception of the belly bands which I found on eBay and a nursing bra I found on Poshmark, both in still excellent condition, my secondhand buys have been limited, but I doing your research early on can help you figure out what you really need.
The big learning curve for me was understanding what maternity brands are out there. Knowing this and knowing your size can make searching easier. For example, I scoped out Target to see what the maternity brand they sell and tried on a couple of the jeans and dresses there so I could get a feel for the size and style that I want. They normally recommend getting your usual size for maternity clothes, but this could vary depending on weight gain. So far, my weight gain has purely been in my belly so my regular size still works. As I am not ready to purchase these items yet, I’ve just been bookmarking them on Poshmark or watching them on eBay for when I am ready. Same thing for Gap and Motherhood Maternity.
Rent or Borrow for Special Occasions
Inevitably, you will get an invite for a special occasion and instead of buying something new for one time wear, consider renting or borrowing a special occasion dress. Rent-the-Runway has a large variety of dresses and they offer you to select multiple sizes. Look out for fabrics that are stretchy or designs that can accommodate your growing belly like a loose empire waist. Ask to borrow as well from family and friends.
Make it Yourself
If you are crafty, (unfortunately I am not and I have yet fixed a sewing machine that was supposed to help me learn to sew), you can make your own belly band or tummy sleeve and even nursing shirts. Here’s a sewing pattern for the belly band/tummy sleeve. A clever hack for a nursing shirt was to combine a crop top and a tube top which allows you to easily access the boob. Someone also made a tummy sleeve out of leftover jersey fabric they had. It’s basically just a band anyways so can be easy to sew.
Sustainable Maternity Brands
Lastly, if sourcing your own closet, friends or secondhand shops don’t result in much success, consider these brands. While I don’t have personal experience with some of these brands, they seem to provide sustainable options.
Everlane is my go-to basic brand
I think if you purchase the right item, you can make it last from pregnancy and beyond. Everlane also has a great re-sell value if you end up not wanting the item after pregnancy.
I still own one of their chambray and silk dresses and that fits me perfectly as my bump is growing, but it’s also something I have worn and owned without a bump.
First, I was surprised to learn that Athleta (not Gap, it’s parent company) is a B Corp company and is committed to better welfare for people and planet.
It’s moving towards more responsibly sourced and eco-friendly fabrics, even using recycled plastic for their athletic pants
While they don’t have a maternity specific line, you can certainly use many of their pieces with a growing bump. I’m shopping around for supportive activewear that I can wear during and after pregnancy and I figured this is the right brand to look into.
Can be a good source to make hand made items made local to you. You an easily commission someone to make a belly band/tummy sleeve in any color/size you want.
Get a custom bra/tank created
Get a pants extender
Creates staples (not trends) so that pieces can last as you move through all pregnancy and post phases
Pieces look classic enough and can be worn multiple times
Manufactures in US and China
Uses eco-friendly or natural fibers when possible
Partners with Homeless Prenatal Program of San Francisco to recycle maternity wear
Creates loose and modern house dresses for pregnant, nursing and after
Handcrafted in the U.S.
Some items made in the U.S.
A little pricey
Love that they have a Bump Slider which allows you to see how the piece will look with and without a bump allowing you to truly decide on a long lasting piece
Offers plant-based beauty items for pregnant mamas
So far my strategy is working. I’m definitely not purchasing as much clothing which keeps my wallet sane and reduces the amount in my closet. As my bump grows, I'll be sure to update this over time and see what other tips and tricks I find. I’m also looking forward to warmer weather here in NJ. While I’ve loved hiding in large sweaters, I’m getting tired of them and I need some warm, Vitamin D.
What other hacks have you used to save money on materntiy wear? Let me know in the comments.